how to become a court reporter
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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, 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 $41,000 - $51,000 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. (The FIRST STEPS classes are informational classes only and not required to enroll in a school/program - You can enroll at any time.) The FIRST STEPS classes will provide you with the information on what it takes to be a court reporter, let you get your hands on the court reporting equipment, 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.
How do I sign up for a FIRST STEPS class?
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are unable to hold in-person classes at this time. Alternatively, we have created this page full of information to take the place of our live classes and have included a link to our video class for you to view in the safety and comfort of your own home. Until we can hold classes again, please fill out the contact form below 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 school 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 does a FIRST STEPS class include?
The class is completely FREE. If we were able to meet in person, it would be one night a week for three weeks, lasting about an hour and a half each class. Classes will be held in the evenings as they are lead by working Judicial/Official Court Reporters. You will be provided a workbook, an online introductory lesson to court reporting, and be able to get your hands on a steno machine. You will also take personal assessments to be able to discuss strengths and weaknesses for someone going into court reporting. Assessments include subjects of technology, grammar, typing, and personality traits. The class will conclude with a one-on-one meeting with a class leader to discuss if you want to pursue court reporting further and to answer any lingering questions you might have. 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 or program to receive your official training. The FIRST STEPS classes are 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. The FIRST STEPS classes are not required - You can enroll in a school or program when YOU are ready.
Until FIRST STEPS classes are held again, where can I go to get this information?
This page! We have loaded this page with as much as we can to take place of the live class, with the exception, of course, of the hands-on portion of the steno machine. You will be able to request and view a theory lesson FREE OF CHARGE, just without the benefit of a real steno machine. Alternatively, we will supply you with a printable keyboard layout to use to simulate the keyboard and writing experience.
What do I do after the FIRST STEPS introductory class?
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 just have to attain the knowledge and speed to pass the state's licensing exam. 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 online courses to work at your own pace mainly from home. Court Reporting at Home is an online school we have partnered with to help you continue your education. If a traditional classroom is more your style, there are court reporting schools in Illinois. Check out the list of schools below.
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!
Here is 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.
Court reporters are in HIGH DEMAND! Find out if you are a good fit for court reporting and get all your questions answered by exploring the information on this page.
***If you are ready to enroll and get your training started, you can enroll at any time. See our school listing below.***
Had we not found ourselves in a pandemic, we would be holding our FIRST STEPS classes in-person. As an alternative to attending live, the video linked below is a very condensed version of our class. We are calling it our video class. It is a 40-minute video with the basic information provided in our classes. It is not the same as attending live since the hands-on and interactive portions are missing, but if you would like to get the general information and get on the road to training as a court reporter, this video could be a good start for you.
view our video class
try a theory lesson... free!
After viewing our video class, if you would like to try a FREE theory lesson, email us!
Court Reporting at Home has offered to provide our FIRST STEPS registrants with a unique opportunity to try out a theory lesson FREE OF CHARGE in the safety and comfort of their own home. This will allow an inside glimpse of what schooling would be like.
Since we cannot supply you with a steno writer for a hands-on experience, we will supply you with a printable keyboard layout to use while viewing the lesson to simulate your writing experience.
court reporting schools
Court Reporting & Captioning at Home (online courses)
College of Court Reporting - Hobart, IN (online courses)
MacCormac College - Chicago, IL (online and in person courses)
South Suburban College - Oak Forest, IL (in person/online during pandemic)
Mark Kislingbury's Academy Of Court Reporting (online and in person courses)
PAF Training Programs, LLC (online courses)
Lake Land College - Mattoon, IL (course format tbd)
Click on the box for quick-reference details for schools, steno machines, and scholarships.
top 5 reasons to consider a career as an illinois official court reporter
court reporting in the news
Visit our NEWS page to read the many articles relating to court reporting and the demand for court reporters.
a SHOUT OUT to Court Reporters
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Guinness world record @ 360 words per minute!
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testimonials for the first steps program
As a member of the original First Steps program, I feel obligated to encourage anyone interested in court reporting or even those who know nothing about the career path to take the time to join this program. It truly opened my eyes to a whole new adventure. I knew very little about court reporting before joining First Steps. During the few short weeks of this class, I learned enough that I knew I wanted to start my journey of court reporting school as soon as I could. I have been happily in school for a little over a year now and am looking forward to obtaining my certification in the next year. I highly recommend it if you are even curious about what court reporting is all about. It opened my eyes to a great future!
- Megan Gooch
I came across the First Steps program as my introduction to court reporting and it got me hooked! I wasn't sure what court reporting was all about until I reached out to get information about how to proceed with the program in light of COVID restrictions. Melissa was quick to respond and incredibly helpful in getting me started from home! I quickly fell in love with the career and feel that it is just what I have been searching for and wish I had come across it sooner. However, if it was not for the First Steps program, I would have had a much more difficult time getting started since there are no institutions around me that offer courses in court reporting so I must do it all online. With this program, I've felt supported, encouraged, and in good company. Melissa's helped me every step of the way and I'm excited to begin my court reporting school journey!
– Amy Cantrall
If you are looking for a career in a cutting edge technology profession, you need to check out the First Steps program! This program opened my eyes to the wonderful world of Court Reporting. It was very informative to hear from working Judicial/ Official Court Reporters who were so friendly and took the time to answer all of my questions. I appreciate everyone who helped me get started on my journey. You never know until you roll up your sleeves and try it!
– Jade Street
Court reporting first caught my fascination when I chaperoned an eighth grade field trip to a career fair at Lakeland College. I was quite impressed with the display the court reporters gave at their booth, and they were so helpful and excited to talk to me, that I never forgot it. In the winter of 2019-2020, I started considering changing careers from being an English teacher. When I learned about the First Steps program, I eagerly looked for a seminar in my area and was super excited to see a meeting was coming up soon, so I signed up. I started to think the seminar would be the deciding point in whether or not I would transition out of teaching. I had a lot of questions, and the seminars were supposed to let you try the steno writer. Unfortunately, the March seminar was cancelled because of Covid concerns. However, I reached out to Melissa, and she responded to all my questions with such enthusiasm that the matter was settled in my mind. I took advantage of the Spring Quarantine and signed up for the Court Reporting at Home program. Eventually, First Steps had a webinar that I attended online, and it just helped solidify that court reporting was something I wanted to do. After getting a decent start in the Court Reporting at Home program, I decided to devote my time to my studies and resigned from my teaching job at the end of the school year. I am now almost one year into the program, and I am working on building my speed at 120 wpm. I'm very excited about the road ahead, and this program was just the change I was looking for.
- Beth Sullivan