What Degree Do You Need to Be a Court Reporter? (With FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 10, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Court reporters are responsible for recording official proceedings accurately. These recordings are the primary source that courts use to verify official information. Learning the answer to "What degree do you need to be a court reporter?" can help you prepare for a role in this field. In this article, we explore the degree you need as a court reporter, review the courses covered when training for the role, explore the work environment of the position, examine where you can use your credentials, highlight the programs you can take, and discover the job duties of a court reporter.

What degree do you need to be a court reporter?

Knowing the answer to, "What degree do you need to be a court reporter?", may help you explore this career path. You don't require an official degree to become a court reporter. The governing body for the role is the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) of Canada, and it's important to receive a certification from an approved school to work in this role. Because court reporters hear and transcribe extensive legal terms, many begin with a legal assistant course and take stenography as a part-time study. You can consider attended a technology institution to get a credential, if possible.

While technology controls a significant portion of the court reporting process, most reputable schools also address shorthand and stenography. To become a court reporter, you require training, certification, and experience. As court reporting is a skill, the certification you gain usually applies nationally, except for provinces with language regulations. Each jurisdiction also expects registration within the province where you plan to work.

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What do the courses cover?

Here's a list of classes that the program usually includes to certify you as a court reporter:

Shorthand

It's extremely challenging to record dictation in real-time without errors, which is why a unique skill of a court reporter is the ability to perform shorthand using available technology. Machine shorthand is the process of using a specific information processor to create a transcript of the proceedings. The reporter interfaces with the technology to generate reliable records. Speed and accuracy are equally essential for court reporters. It's standard to write in shorthand at least 225 words per minute with the use of a machine. Shorthand trains the reporter to input specific phrasing, and the machine converts it.

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Legal terminology

Settings that require a court reporter typically involve a large series of industry-specific terms. Just like the medical field, most of the legal terms derive from Latin. It can help to possess a foundational understanding of the language. The courses also usually cover the different aspects of law to help students understand and practise the applicable vocabulary. Criminal, civil, and martial laws all operate through different systems. In Quebec and New Brunswick, French is usually a requisite language, both for regular communication and record keeping. Different sections of law include:

  • civil litigation

  • criminal proceedings

  • torts

  • traffic court

  • real estate

  • corporate law

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Stenography

The stenographer takes information and translates it into a verbatim record of the court proceedings. Training, focus, and experience contribute to success with manual shorthand. While some schools don't cover this competency, it can help enhance the talents you learn during your training. It also shows prospective employers that you have focus and understand the serious responsibility of the position of a court reporter.

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What is the work environment in this position?

Court reporters work in different work environments, where the ability to keep focus on the task is paramount. These environments may involve contentious litigation in a crowded courtroom or depositions, which usually occur in a boardroom. Court reporters can also work directly with judges by following and recording their professional activities. While court reporters work in various environments, there are typically commonalities among them. Because legal proceedings are time-consuming, it usually requires sitting in one position for long periods. The accuracy of legal records relies on the reporter to perform responsibly and diligently, regardless of the environment.

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Where can I use my credentials?

Court reporters require a valid certification to work in this industry, which means it's mandatory for them to register and get a credential from a provincial or territorial association. You can register in multiple provinces, though many professionals prefer to register only in their province or territory of residence, as this can help them avoid extra fees. After getting your membership from the appropriate association, it's beneficial for you to remain in good standing and pay your fees to be able to work in that area.

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Which programs can you take?

There are two schools that you can attend to earn the credential to become a court reporter. The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) offers a diploma in this program, taught primarily in English. The other institution is the L'ecole de Stenographie judaciare du Quebec, which addresses the same materials in French. The programs take two or three years and offer official credentials. NAIT graduates receive the Captioning and Court Reporting diploma, while the Quebec-based institution offers the Sténographie judiciaire as a degree.

What are the job duties of a court reporter?

A court reporter has a range of specific duties to perform, including:

Attending legal proceedings

A court reporter's job duties typically include arriving at the location of legal proceedings to set up their equipment. For instance, they usually work to ensure proper audio requirements and establish their station for the upcoming meeting. These proceedings are usually hearings, depositions, police interrogations, and witness testimonies.

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Observing and noting physical and oral input

The role of a court reporter is essential as these professionals observe and record each interaction during a proceeding. They watch and record all physical maneuvers, such as witnesses or lawyers nodding or shaking their heads. This gives them significant responsibility because, on review, a nod of ascent compared to a shake of descent can impact an entire proceeding. Reporters note the speaker and any gestures they make during the interaction, adding it to the transcript using the proper shorthand.

Related: An Explanation of Qualitative Observation with Examples

Using advanced stenography technology

A stenographer requires patience and attention to detail. While observing the interactions between participants, the court reporter also types an account of the situation. A court reporter can adequately maintain a record when the person speaking by typing quickly and using various transcription technologies efficiently.

Related: Guidelines on Writing a Proper Interview Transcript

Replay or repeat transcript upon request

During the proceedings, especially when there are several parties involved in the interaction, a lawyer or judge may request a replay of the transcript. Because it's the living record of the proceeding, the reporter can calmly and accurately read back the transcript to the room. While it's uncommon, there are off-the-record situations where the court reporter either exits the room or simply turns off the recording machine. This position includes a high demand for confidentiality, a feature legally required of any court reporter.

Communicate with participants

There are incidences during a proceeding where the reporter themselves are unable to hear or observe a situation clearly. Instead of relying on audio playback, it's the responsibility of the court reporter to ask for clarification. Reporters include this clarification request in the record, and the judge can compel the speaker to repeat themselves. Following these rules ensures that the reporter and the transcript maintain integrity.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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