Although “court reporting” is often used to describe all transcribing jobs, there are actually a number of careers within the field. People who are labelled as court reporters sometimes use microphones and other times specialized keyboards to record audio. And still other times court reporters don’t do the transcribing at all, but rather focus on editing and proofreading. It might be a good idea to try to narrow your focus early in your education so that you can find the program that will focus specifically on the area of court reporting in which you want to work.
“Scoping” is a term that refers to the editing and proofreading process that court reporters go through after they complete the initial recording of a conversation, meeting, conference, or court trial. Their services are sometimes compared to that of a paralegal or attorney (if they work in a judicial setting). Sometimes court reporters are specifically prepared in scoping so that they can edit and proofread their own work. Other times, this is a separate certificate court reporters can get. If you only have a scoping certificate, you can assist court reporters in the editing process or take over that step entirely, freeing up their time to engage in leisure activities or complete more transcriptions. Using a scopist often means that scripts are returned to clients with a shorter turnaround time, to everyone’s satisfaction.
A stenomask is a machine that is equivalent to a covered microphone hooked up to a computer, allowing the court reporter to speak into the machine and have the computer record their voice. Because the microphone is covered, others in the room cannot hear what he or she is saying. Computerized software converts the vocals into text that the court reporter can then edit for accuracy and legibility. Students who complete a stenomask program are typically prepared to work in any field that allows for use of a stenomask, such as broadcast captioning or court reporting. School programs often train students in the same subjects that stenotype programs do, such as medical and legal terminology, English, literacy, vocabulary, and speed building. You may take stenomask classes as a part of another court reporting program, or you may complete an individual stenomask curriculum.
Court reporters who are trained in stenotype use special keyboards hooked up to computers to quickly transcribe conversations, events, or conferences. Such typists are often so skilled that they can transcribe at a rate of 225 words per minute or higher. This is necessary so that they can keep up with conversations people are having, speeches that are being read, or TV broadcasts that are being announced. Programs that focus on stenotype often heavily center on building up your speed as a stenotypist. You will likely take a number of classes related to steno theory, as well as learn about medical and legal terminology, Basic English, typing shorthand, computer-aided transcription, and court procedures. Sometimes you can find stenotype programs that also prepare you in CART/captioning, and other times you will find separate CART degree paths.