How To Become a Court Reporter (With Skills and Salary)

Updated 27 April 2023

For every court case, hearing and legal proceeding, the Ministry of Justice requires a professionally executed verbatim transcript to record the session. Because of the significant backlog of cases, this specialist skill set is in high demand. If you're interested in working as an official court reporter, also known as a court transcriber or court stenographer, it's helpful to know the essential skills and qualifications that you require for the job. In this article, we uncover how to become a court reporter, answering essential questions around salaries and offering a step-by-step guide to start your court reporting career.

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How to become a court reporter

If you're interested in learning how to become a court reporter, here are five essential steps to take below:

1. Do your research

It's vital to do your research before deciding to pursue it to ensure that you're suited to the sector. As a court stenographer, it's important to know how the courts operate and what the role of each professional involved entails, including judges, paralegals, court ushers, lawyers, legal secretaries and solicitors. It's also helpful to understand what the job market is like for court reporters in your area.

Assessing your suitability for the role is helpful to determine if it matches your skills. You could contact an accredited court reporter in this initial stage, asking for their advice and finding out about their experiences. They may even agree to mentor you.

Related: Your Guide to Public Sector Jobs

2. Organise an internship

Once you've established your interest in and industry knowledge around court reporting and the legal system, it's time to gain some practical experience. Organising an internship is a fantastic way to get hands-on experience in court reporting with an industry professional. Whether it's a position with a law firm or a day spent shadowing an accredited court reporter, internships offer an invaluable learning opportunity for aspiring professionals.

In completing an internship, you can:

  • gain professional confidence

  • expand your network

  • boost your CV and increase your chances on the job market

  • hone your skills and identify areas for improvement

  • earn some extra cash (dependent on the internship).

Student internship scholarships may be available from The Association for National Court Reporters and Captioners (NCRA). The British Institute of Verbatim Reporters (BIVR) encourages student memberships, creating opportunities for new court reporters to gain experience. If there's a particular organisation or court that you'd like to work with, you can send in a speculative CV and application to see if you can arrange an internship for yourself.

Related: What Is An Internship?

3. Start your training

While there are no formal academic qualifications required for court reporters, accreditation from the BIVR is vital to start your career. As the average typing speed is around 40 words per minute (wpm), it takes practice and dedication to get your typing speed up to the required 160 to 180 wpm for verbatim reporting. It can also be a good idea to learn handwritten shorthand, depending on where you hope to work.

Tips to improve your typing include:

  • start using the touch typing placement to speed up your movement from key to key

  • practise with your hands covered so that you start to type without looking

  • find comfortable implements and equipment, from quality pens to ergonomic keyboards and mice, to help you to work for more extended periods

  • sit with the correct posture to prevent problems such as back issues or repetitive strain injury (RSI)

  • keep practising - the process can feel slow and take lots of time, but the result makes it all worthwhile.

4. Gain some freelance experience

There are number of different courts with varying requirements for verbatim reporting versus audio transcription in different legal institutions. Because of this, many court reporters work on a freelance basis. You can start by approaching your local courthouse for potential work and apply for any positions that you see advertised.

One of the benefits of freelance work is the flexibility it offers, meaning you can fit court reporting around any other obligations. It's worth noting that most courts are in session from Monday to Friday during regular working hours, so a court reporter's work may well fall into these time slots.

Related: Freelance Work: Everything You Need to Know About Freelancing

5. Apply for permanent positions

Once you have the relevant experience and qualifications as a court reporter, you may decide to look for a more permanent position. Alternatively, you may prefer to remain working on a freelance basis so that you can utilise your broader skill set outside the courts. It's worth noting that the Ministry of Justice does sometimes hire permanent court reporters to assist in their day-to-day proceedings. Often these roles link with broader administrative roles that encompass secretarial or clerk work and stenographer roles.

What is a court reporter's job?

The job of court reporters, also known as verbatim reporters or stenographers, is to make word-for-word transcripts of legal proceedings with the Ministry of Justice. The role encompasses creating accurate records to adhere to deadlines for a range of events, including:

  • public enquiries

  • disciplinary hearings

  • tribunals

  • court-martial mandates.

It's important to understand that the role of court reporters has changed significantly in recent years. With the Ministry of Defence introducing Digital Audio Recording Transcription and Storage (DARTS) in 2012, many courts now record the audio in real-time and require a written transcript after the event, rather than a live stenographer. Consequently, the skill set of court reporters is widening to include audio recording transcripts, alongside writing subtitles for TV and assisting the police with their interview processes. As a result, court reporters often choose to freelance, working closely with other professionals like paralegals to keep accurate, timely records.

Related: What Is a Paralegal?

Why is a court reporter's role important?

Court reporters perform an essential role in maintaining an accurate record of events to show who said what and when during legal proceedings. In some cases, stenographers read out passages of recorded dialogue to the court to maintain the record and ensure fair conduct during legal proceedings. They may even work closely with the judge to approve the official record before finalising the transcript.

What is the average court reporter salary?

The national average salary for a court reporter is £27,810 per year. This figure can vary depending on your experience level and location. While these figures sit below the national average salary of £25,000, the job often comes with a lot of flexibility and interesting work, which makes these positions desirable.

What skills are useful to a court reporter?

A court reporter has indispensable expertise that provides an adaptable and professional skill set to the legal sector. Primary responsibilities include attending court sessions on weekdays and carefully recording everything that the participants say in a legal proceeding or other setting. While some use a stenography machine to type critical phrases, many use traditional shorthand techniques to keep up with the live conversation. Following the live event, court reporters type up the shorthand transcript into an official document that is legible for everyone.

Some essential skills that help you to succeed as a court reporter include:

  • ability to work to tight deadlines

  • highly accurate writing and typing skills

  • exceptional standard of written English

  • good IT skills

  • listening skills

  • an interest in the law and knowledge of its technical vocabulary

  • patience and a long attention span

  • proofreading skills for editing and correcting grammar

  • fast typing skills and real-time transcription skills.

Related: 10 Valuable Soft Skills That You Need to Succeed in Your Career

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What qualifications does a court reporter require?

There are no specific qualifications for working as a court reporter. It would help if you had an Accredited Court Reporter (ACR) certificate to work in the courts of England and Wales as a court reporter, administered by the BIVR. To achieve this qualification, it's necessary to have a shorthand speed of 180 wpm and to pass a theory exam set by BIVR. It would help if you also shadowed an accredited member of BIVR to gain your certification. Alongside these qualifications, the BIVR offers accreditation for speech-to-text reporters, scopists and audio transcribers.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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

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