Stenographic court reporting is a well-paying job for many stenographers. From outsiders' point of view, it seems to be a very routine and mechanical job that can easily bore anyone. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Many stenographic court reporters find their jobs very satisfying and challenging. Besides, not everybody has the patience and the talent to be a good stenographic reporter.
A stenographic court reporter is basically a person trained in the methods of stenography, which is the art of shorthand or abbreviated writing. Because of the shortened forms used in place of the usual numbers, alphabet, words, word groups, and expressions, stenography makes the transfer of the spoken word onto paper or electronic format much faster than conventional handwriting.
Stenographic court reporters are quite adept in the transcription of official court proceedings, as well as of legal transactions. If you want to become a stenographic court reporter, the tips that follow may be very useful to you.
- Undergo training. Just as in any other kind of training, preparation for stenographic court reporting needs you to be self-motivated and self-disciplined. With perseverance and practice, you can easily achieve the required average writing output of at least 225 WPM (words per minute) which you need to demonstrate so that you can earn your certification. This also implies your deep familiarity of the shorthand writing system taught to you. It will most likely be the Gregg Shorthand system. In addition, you should also increase your keyboarding or typing speed. Try to achieve at least 100 WPM on the normal keyboard or typewriter. The faster you can type, the better. Just make sure that your speed won't sacrifice your accuracy. Another area that you need to be trained in is in the use of the stenotype, otherwise known as the stenographic machine or the "stenographer's typewriter." This is similar to an ordinary typewriter machine, except that the keys are for the stenographic symbols.
- Take your academic classes seriously. You will have courses in legal and medical terminology, business regulations and statutes, and a lot of English and communication courses. There are many universities that offer degree programs for court reporting. Some have special certificate courses only. There are also academic institutions that offer training via distance or online learning. However, depending on the skills track for your program, you may have different methods to choose from. For example, voice writing requires a lot of technical training, especially in speech recognition software and computer-assisted transcription. After your formal training, you will need to practice to further hone your skills. You also need to earn your certification from either the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) from which you can be certified as a Registered Professional Reporter, or the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA) from which you can be certified as a Certified Verbatim Reporter. Both agencies let you take certification exams consisting of practical tests and a written test. If you want to go a step higher, you can aspire for the Certified Real-time Reporter or Certified Real-time Verbatim Reporter certification, both of which will test your competency and speed in the reporting method.
- Develop a flexible outlook and attitude. Your flexibility will pay off when you start working within the court system. Normally, you'd be required to work for eight hours daily. If you're freelancing, you'll also have a variety of stenographic jobs to work on, such as recording the proceedings of meetings, taking depositions, and documenting arbitrations. For freelance stenographers, the time and location of jobs can vary. In some cases, clients can ask for transcriptions at the last minute. So, you will need to be flexible.
- Strive for 100% accuracy. A misspelling can cost you your job. So can a misplaced comma, or a missing decimal point. Good stenographic reporters are fond of verbatim recording. It is important for you to be accurate not just with facts but also with spelling, mechanics, punctuation, and syntax. If you are working on medical or some other specialized cases, you may need to do some bit of research to ensure that the spelling of the technical terms is accurate.
Stenographic court reporting is not a difficult career path to pursue. But, you will have to persevere and to discipline yourself so that you can undergo the required training and complete it satisfactorily.