Are you interested in learning about the career of court reporting and how to become a court reporter? Sign up to attend one of our FREE First Steps classes, an introduction to court reporting, where you will learn firsthand from working court reporters in your area. You will also get the chance to write on a real steno machine during class!
Sign up to attend a FREE First Steps class!
Be aware that classes are staggered with other scheduled classes due to the availability of our steno machine resources.
Check out our Getting Started page for more information about court reporting..
What is a court reporter?
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COURT REPORTING AND OUR FIRST STEPS CLASSES
What is court reporting?
Court reporting is a specialized, technology-based profession. The old-fashioned idea of a court reporter (also called a stenographer) taking notes on a steno pad, or a machine with an endless feed of paper, is long gone and replaced by paperless realtime translation technology. With realtime, the spoken word can be displayed on a computer screen almost immediately after it is said. You have probably seen closed-captioning on television before. If you have, you have seen a court reporter's work in action. Court reporters use a steno machine, also called a writer, with 23 keys to take down what is being said in excess of 225 words per minute. They are not typing letters, but taking down phonetic sounds to make words. Those keystrokes are translated by a computer program into English words just seconds after they are spoken.
Is there really a demand for court reporters?
There is a HUGE demand for court reporters, and it is growing every year. Voice-to-text technology cannot do what court reporters do! You've seen what Siri and Alexa come up with, right?! Not good! And that's just one voice talking directly at a device. Imagine how that would NOT work in a noisy courtroom with multiple people, accents, and mumbling. What about speaker identification each time someone speaks? No machine can identify the name of the person speaking. A court reporter CAN! And what about punctuation? Punctuation is very important. For example, imagine this sentence without punctuation: "I want to eat grandma." A court reporter can insert necessary punctuation; "I want to eat, Grandma." As the veteran generation of court reporters are retiring, we are needing to replace 400+ employees in the next 10-15 years in Illinois alone. There are also work-from-home and self-employment routes court reporters can take. If you are a hard worker, there will be work for you. Visit our NEWS page for articles about the profession demand.
Where can court reporters work?
- Courthouses (state and federal)
- Freelance (for a firm and independently)
- Capitol Hill (House and Senate)
- Closed-Captioning (TV stations and independently - all TV shows, including news, weather, ballgames, live events like the Oscars and other award shows, etc.)
- Communication Access Realtime Translation, known as CART (providing realtime translation for the deaf or hard-of-hearing in any setting, even in schools)
- AND MORE!
What makes a good court reporter?
If you have a very good grasp of spelling and grammar (meaning you CLEARLY know the difference between there, their, and they're) and you are fast at typing, texting, or piano...you just might make a good court reporter. You will need to be self-motivated to get through to licensing because you will need to practice. Unlike most other professions, there is a physical component to which you will need to become fluent. As with learning a musical instrument, the more you practice, the better or faster you become.
What is a judicial or official court reporter?
Instead of captioning a television show, judicial reporters (also called officials) are taking down what is said in a courtroom so there can be a written record of the proceedings. In some cases, they can be utilized to assist the hearing impaired in the courtroom by displaying a realtime translation on a computer screen. Judicial court reporters are employed by the State of Illinois with state benefits and work in one of the 102 counties in Illinois. So, chances are, there will be a job near you! The STARTING salary range, once you are licensed, is $43,000 - $53,000 in Illinois, plus additional transcript income. Judicial court reporters are currently paid $4.00 per page for the transcripts they prepare. The salary goes up with more experience, certifications, and years of service.
What is a freelance reporter?
Freelance reporters work for independent reporting firms or own their own business who provide coverage of depositions, statements, or any number of proceedings. Working as a freelance reporter allows more flexibility of hours rather than an 8-to-5 job. The reporters usually are independent contractors. They are paid by the number of pages in a transcript, not a salary. Some reporting firms do provide benefits.
What do I need to do to become a court reporter?
The State of Illinois has launched an introductory program called FIRST STEPS which helps people get started on the path to becoming a court reporter FREE OF CHARGE. We will provide you with the information on what it takes, let you get your hands on a steno machine, and tell you what you need to do to get licensed in Illinois. You will learn how someone can earn up to a six-figure salary in this rewarding career. The demand is so high that as long as you are willing to go to where the current job openings are, you are practically guaranteed a job after passing the licensing exam! People may be calling you before you are even licensed.
What does a FIRST STEPS class include?
The class is completely FREE. The class will be held in the evening or on a weekend, as it is led by working judicial/official court reporters. You will be provided a workbook of the PowerPoint presentation and be able to get your hands on a steno machine to take a real theory lesson. Strengths and weaknesses for someone going into court reporting will also be discussed, covering the subjects of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and typing. The instructors will be able to answer your questions to help you decide whether this would be a good career choice for you. We want to be clear: This class is just the beginning. You will be far from being ready to be a court reporter. You will need to enroll in a court reporting school/program to receive your official training. The FIRST STEPS class is designed only to introduce you to this profession to see if it would be a good fit for you before you commit to tuition fees.
How do I sign up for a FIRST STEPS class?
Our introductory class will meet one evening or weekend for a duration of 2-3 hours, depending on class involvement. Please fill out the contact form by clicking the Sign up button above to let us know where you are located so we can direct you to the next introductory class near you. If you are 16 or 17 years old, you will need your parent's permission to attend. Yes, you can work on court reporting training while you are still in high school, but you will need to have a high school diploma or equivalent in order to take the licensing exam.
What do I do after the FIRST STEPS introductory class?
You may be surprised to learn that you do not need a college degree to become a court reporter. Let me repeat that... You do NOT need a college degree to become a court reporter. You attain the knowledge and speed to pass the state's licensing exam in court reporting school. But do not let that fool you... it is not easy. But it IS worth it! After you have decided that court reporting is a good career fit for you, you could enroll in an online program to work at your own pace mainly from home. If a traditional classroom is more your style, there are many court reporting schools to choose from. Check out our schools page for some of the court reporting programs around.
At what age can I begin my training?
You can begin online training at any age, but you will need to have a high school diploma or equivalent in order to sit for the licensing exam. Think of this exciting scenario... A high school student can train online, take the licensing exam after graduation, and start employment as a court reporter at the age of 18! How cool is that?! We also have students who have made a career change to court reporting!
Requesting a Mentor and our commitment to you...
Regardless of whether you prefer traditional or online classes, we will continue to support you during your education by pairing you with a mentor for check-ins and in-person meetings to answer questions you might have and for accountability. Feel free to request a mentor at any time by clicking here. A motivated student who puts in time to practice each day could be done with licensing in 2 years or less! We even have one very motivated court reporter employed with us who never went to court reporting school. He taught himself court reporting on a borrowed machine while meeting with a mentor regularly. While this continuing education has tuition associated with it, it is extremely reasonable when comparing it to the cost of a semester at traditional college. We also have scholarship opportunities for extremely motivated individuals willing to work for the state upon completion of their licensing.