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How To Become a Court Reporter: Schooling and Start Up Costs

Court Reporters Aren't Just In Court

  • What do Court Reporters Do?
    Considering court reporting as a career but not sure exactly what a reporter does? Not all court reporters are in the courtroom. Learn what other career options are available.

Hey, I Want To Be That Person Up Front!

Ah, court reporting. I remember back in high school thinking about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. There were no schools near me that I knew of, and the internet just wasn't what it is now. Court reporting just sounded fun to me. I didn't like being in the same room day in and day out while I watched the world go by outside my window. I also had a young son, and a regular 9 to 5 job just didn't fit with his schedule. I also wanted financial indepence. I didn't want to depend on child support or just managing to scrape by. I didn't want my world to fall in if I didn't get child support.

I had a couple small jobs until I was about 25 and saw an advertisement in the paper for The Stenotype Institute in Jacksonville, Florida. At first I thought I was too old to go back to school. (yes, I know, but when you're 25 all you can see is 30.) But because of reasons listed above I figured why the heck not and went for it.

Stenotype Institute of Jacksonville

So What Is Court Reporting School Like?

At my court reporting school, they told me that depending on you, you could expect to be in the program from 2-5 years. After I signed all financial documents, I was going to make sure I didn't stay past two. It is expensive, but what you get in return if you stick with it and graduate is worth it.

The first year basically you are doing academic subjects such as English, medical terminolgy and legal terminolgy. There is also a class that teaches you theory on the steno machine. At the Stenotype Instiute they teach Phoenix Theory, which is a realtime theory which allows you to write with no conflicts.

The steno machine that you will be learning on looks nothing like a typewriter. Most people are amazed and shocked that there are no letters printed on the keys. You will be taught to do drills doing exercises over and over. This is building what is called muscle memory. You keep doing it until you're doing it and not realizing it. Believe it or not I can now write and think about what I'm going to do tomorrow at the same time.

After your first year, then you move on to speed. To graduate you must write at least 225 words a minute. I know, I know, it sounds fast. But in comparison to when you get out and start working, that really is slow.

This Is First On Your Shopping List

A Typical Steno Machine

A Typical Steno Machine

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How Do I Get a Job as a Court Reporter?

After you have sweated and cried and finally graduated, it's time to find a job! Most schools require you to do an internship either in the court system or at a court reporting office. This is how I found the freelance job I am currently in. You can read more about my interning experience HERE.

But wait, you just can't start working with no equipment. You will be responsible for buying your new equipment that will provide you (hopefully) with years of income. Think about that before I tell you prices and you fall over from sticker shock. I'm just telling you these expenses because no one told me before I made a decision to become a court reporter. I want to make sure people have all the information before they make a decision.

You will need:

  1. A steno writer. These can be quite pricey. A new Diamante by Stenograph costs $5,095. If you look around you can find used ones for about half that.
  2. A laptop. I recommend getting a mid-range laptop. I paid about $800 for mine.
  3. A Laser Printer. You are going to be printing out the majority of your jobs. Spend the extra money and buy a laser printer. I made the mistake of buying an inkjet first. Yeah, don't try that.
  4. CAT software. You must have this to load on your brand new laptop so you can make your transcripts. There are different software companies out there and prices vary. I recommend Eclipse. The initial upfront cost of that is $5,590. There is also a yearly fee of $500 that you must pay.
  5. Paper, stamps, laser ink cartriges. Firms usually only furnish transcript covers. You will be responsible for buying all other supplies. Depending on your work load, this can run $200-$300 a month.
  6. Become a notary. In Florida, you must become a notary to be a court reporter. It's not that hard, you pay a small fee to take an online test. Once you are a notary, you have to pay about $100 every four years to renew.
  7. Obtain your RPR certificate. In some states it's required to have certification before you're able to work. A skills test and a written exam make up the test. The cost is around $200 for each portion of the exam.

Is It Worth It?

All things considered, I wouldn't take back my decision to become a court reporter. It was hard work to get to where I am today, but it has definitely been worth it. I have made enough money so that I have not had to depend on anyone to raise my son. Being a reporter has given me the flexibility that allowed me to go on field trips with him. I am somewhere different everyday, sometimes in different cities. I hear about interesting events and people. If you're considering becoming a court reporter, I say go for it!

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