Choosing a career in court reporting can be very exciting, lucrative, and rewarding. However, it takes commitment, determination and the willingness to practice, practice, practice, and practice. Did you know that the average person verbally communicates at the speed of 180 words per minute? That may sound pretty fast. But a court reporter can actually type 225 words per minute upon completion of his or her career training. Subsequently, some are faster averaging close to 300 words per minute and more.
There are plenty of schools that offer court reporting. Make sure the school of your choice is a reputable school, where all of your credits will be transferred to a college or university, should you choose to further your career. Once you’ve located your school of choice, see what other classes are offered. Some schools also offer paralegal studies and private investigator classes as well. This is good to know, as you may want to begin establishing contacts.
Your first day of class will be somewhat scary. In front of you stands this small machine with 22 letter keys. This is where you will formulate your words along with ten number keys and one asterisk key. The goal in your first quarter is to reach 40 words per minute. After you’ve been in school a while you may have a holding point in which you stay at a certain speed longer than you had anticipated, say for instance 160 words per minute, and this is okay. So don’t worry, this happens to a lot of reporters.
While you’re still in school join the National Association of Court Reporters this is needed in order to take your licensing exam at a discount; however, some states such as Florida, do not require a license. Also, become a Notary Public in the state in which you plan to work. This will allow you to swear in the witness or witnesses and notarize all necessary documents.
Congratulations! You’ve past your last exam. Now, it’s time for the easy part-finding a job. You will probably begin as a Freelance Court Reporter. Most freelance firms will gladly work with beginners. You won’t get the big court trials as of yet, but you’ll get your feet in the door. So don’t expect to make $2500 on your first pay check which would be somewhere between $350 -$500, which is still good for a beginner. Once you’ve been working about four months and perfecting your style, the $2500 – $4000 bi-weekly checks may soon follow, but don’t rush it. Moreover, don’t get discouraged if you aren’t at this stage yet.
For those of you who choose to have a set schedule and work for a particular judge. You can apply at any courthouse. This is known as an Official Court Reporter. If this is an opportunity that you prefer, as you complete your internship, work in a courthouse. You’ll gain lots of experience with jury charge, jury selection, dockets, roll call, motions, pleas, verdicts, the many attorneys and more. Cases move rather quickly, so try to stay focused. Official Court Reporters can earn $30,000 – $100,000 annually, depending on the city and state.
Good luck! Remember, practice, practice, practice and practice.