One of the benefits of becoming a court reporter is that you get to choose how long you want to be in school! Options range from six months to four years, and differ mainly in how much you are taught, the diversity of the subject matter, and the careers for which you will qualify after graduation. Keep in mind too that the degree types listed below are only examples of programs. You might find a certificate program that is a year, or an associate’s degree program that could last anywhere from 18 months to three years. Do your research and find what works for you!
If you don’t have a lot of time, you can always sign up for a short certificate program. Many of these only take about six months to complete, and you can work as a court reporter in a limited capacity after being awarded your diploma. For instance, you could work as a scopist or transcriptionist for a doctor’s office or court reporting firm, or you could become an independent contractor. Your other option is to earn your certificate and then move on to a longer program and become certified as in stenotype or CART/captioning. Classes often center on teaching you the ethical standards of the job, how to produce polished transcriptions, the business skills needed to work in a freelance capacity, and how to use various software and tools.
Associate’s degrees typically take about two years to complete, depending on how many classes you take at once and if you go to school over the summer. These programs prepare students for verbatim court reporting, and often include classes in machine shorthand, transcription, legal and court procedures, medical terminology, legal terminology, and computer-aided transcription. Such a degree qualifies graduates to work in any field that requires verbatim recording, including local, state, and federal governments, private industries, and in freelance. Many of these programs often include training in CART (computer assisted realtime translation) and captioning. Sometimes programs have stringent requirements that must be met to earn a diploma, such as typing at a minimum number of words per minute or maintaining a high accuracy. Sometimes these programs also include an internship so that students can get practical experience, and may require students to submit a certain number of pages of transcription done on-the-job or as part of a final project. A lot of time the curriculum also includes a certain number of “general education” classes that will both help in your future career and assist you in meeting graduation requirements. These courses might include English, composition, math, and/or science courses.
If you’re looking for something a little more intense and long-term, you can always opt for obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Such programs typically last about four years and go far beyond the traditional court reporting classes. By enrolling in a four year program, you will be afforded the opportunity to take classes in a wide variety of subjects – which will be the focus for about the first half of your education. The focus of the classes is to provide you with an academic foundation as well as give you the skills you need to pass the licensing exam and become a certified court reporter. Upon graduation you will be qualified for a number of careers, including certified shorthand reporter, official court reporter, freelance reporter, state reporter, and CART reporter.