Sitting in the background, typing away furiously on a small typewriter, the court reporter records every word the lawyers, witnesses and judge say during a court case. Movies and television often portray the court reporter as a woman, but both men and women fulfill the role. Because of the importance of a court reporter’s job, those interested in pursuing a career must undergo specialized training. Depending on what state she lives in, she may also have to earn certification to practice.
States Accepting National Certification
Some states accept a national level certification in lieu of a state-level designation. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) sponsors the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification, which several states accept. States that currently accept the RPR designation from the NCRA include Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Arizona, Hawaii and Iowa also allow reciprocity with the RPR certification, but candidates must also pass a state-level written exam along with the RPR exam. The RPR certification exam consists of a 115-question written portion and three skills tests, where reporters must have 95 percent accuracy on each portion to pass. Several states, such as Georgia and Texas, have started to accept other national credentials from organizations like the National Verbatim Reporters Association and the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers.
State Level Certification
Other states do not accept the RPR certification, but rather administer their own certification exams. States that require a state-level certification include Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. One exception is Kansas, where candidates who are RPR certified only need to take the procedures portion of the state exam. Each state exam is different but generally consists of both written and transcription parts. Other requirements for certification include paying a fee, graduating from a court reporter program and having a minimum number of years of experience.
States with No Requirements
The rest of the states have voluntary or no licensing or certification requirements for court reporters. Florida, Indiana, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina and Virginia offer voluntary certification programs. Alaska, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming have no certification requirements.
For states that require it, earning certification does not mean a court reporter’s work is over. The NCRA requires certification holders to renew every three years by earning at least three continuing education credits and maintaining NCRA membership. Some states also require certification holders to re-certify every few years. Connecticut, for example, mandates court reporters renew every three years and earn at least 10 continuing education credits each year between renewal -- for a total of 30 hours.
Lindsey Thompson began her writing career in 2001. Her work has been published in the Cincinnati Art Museum's "Member Magazine" and "The Ohio Journalist." You'll also find her work on websites like Airbnb, Chron.com, and USAToday.com. Thompson holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.