Are you deciding what you’re going to do for a career? Perhaps you’re dissatisfied with your current job and are looking to make a switch. If you’re a speedy typist and you possess a great level of attention to detail, consider diving into a career in court reporting. It’s well-paid, offers solid job security, and top talent is frequently in demand, making it well worth exploring the field. Plus, it’s a great way to be involved in the judicial process without having to spend years studying law. So how do you get started?
The basics of court reporting
Court reporters, also known as stenographers, are a foundational part of the courtroom process. At their core, court reporters are responsible for accurately and fairly transcribing the goings on during a trial, hearing, or other legal process and establishing a record of the events for later review. These typists use specialized stenotype machines to make sure they’re able to keep up with the fast pace of courtroom dialogue. They transcribe not only witness testimony but all verbal communications, including those of the judge and legal counsel.
Commonly, court reporters are employed by local governments, though there are many opportunities for those seeking employment at the state and federal levels. While a vast majority of these positions are full-time, there are numerous court reporters that make a living working part-time, as well as those who are strictly self-employed, freelance reporters. This offers more flexibility when it comes to personal career management, but it’s often difficult to sustain for prolonged periods as many courthouses prefer in-house stenographers and only rely on freelancers on an as-needed basis.
Steps to becoming a court reporter
The requirements for holding a position as a court reporter vary by state. While there are some pockets of the United States with more lax requirements, Florida courts set a higher bar for prospective employers. If you’re ready to begin your path to court reporting, it’s important to start with the right educational courses. There are both certificate and associate’s degree programs (which are a must for court typists) available, and your choice will differ based on your overall career goals and the qualifications of the positions that interest you.
Keep in mind that to graduate from one of these programs, you need to meet certain speed and accuracy markers. As you work through a course, these two skills should be your top priorities. These courses also frequently teach subjects such as machine shorthand theory, transcription best practices, and reporting techniques to help students enter the workforce upon completion.
Many professors and professionals advise that students partake in court reporting internships concurrently with their schooling. That way, they’re a more competitive candidate for courthouse positions. Depending on your selected course, it might offer an internship or help place students. Your ideal job will inform your internship selection. Interested in reporting depositions? Try to intern at a law firm. Do jury trials excite you? Intern at a courthouse.
Once you’ve completed a program and an internship, it’s time to get certified. If you want to be employed with any of the top court reporting companies in Miami, you need to acquire and maintain a Florida Professional Reporters Certification from the Florida Court Reporters Association. This entails a one-day Florida Rules and Ethics Seminar, at the end of which you’ll have the option to take your certification exam. The exam requires a score of 80 or above to pass, so you’ll need to make sure you’ve devoted adequate time to studying.
Once you’ve completed an educational program and secured your certification, you’re ready to begin working. Luckily, Florida is full of courthouses and law firms looking for top talent. As an added plus, your court reporting skills can easily translate to positions in data entry, closed captioning for television and film, and webcasting.