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How to Become a Court Reporter

Many community colleges and technical institutes offer postsecondary certificate programs for court reporters. Many states require court reporters who work in legal settings to be licensed.


Many court reporters receive formal training at community colleges or technical institutes. There are different programs for the different transcription methods. Programs in using steno masks and in digital recording typically last 6 months and lead to a certificate. Programs in stenography, in which students are taught to use stenotype machines, last about 2 to 4 years and often lead to an associate’s degree.

Most programs include courses in English grammar and phonetics, legal procedures, and terminology. Students also practice preparing transcripts to improve speed and accuracy.

Licenses and Certification

Many states require court reporters who work in legal settings to be licensed. License requirements vary by method of court reporting.

The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) offers certification for court reporters and broadcast captioners. Certification as a Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) includes a written test and a skills test, in which court reporters must type at least 225 words per minute.

Currently, 22 states currently accept or use the RPR in place of a state certification or licensing exam.

Digital and voice reporters also may obtain certification.


After completing their formal program, court reporters must complete short-term on-the-job training.

To maintain their certification with the NCRA, court reporters must complete continuing education and online training.

Specific continuing education requirements to maintain state licensure can be found by going to the state association’s website.

Important Qualities

Concentration skills. Court reporters must be able to concentrate for long periods. Even when there are distractions, they must remain focused on the dialogue they are recording.

Detail oriented. Court reporters create a transcript that serves as a legal record, so it must be mistake-free.

Listening skills. Court reporters must give their full attention to the speaker and capture every word that is said.

Writing skills. Court reporters need a good command of grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition