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Stenographer Training Programs and Education Requirements

Stenographers transcribe live or recorded speech into documents using stenotype machines. The most common type of stenography position is a court reporter, who provides transcription services for courts and legal proceedings. Stenographers can also work for businesses and schools that require transcriptions of events, conferences and meetings.

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Training Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that while training requirements depend on the individual's chosen specialty, all employers require stenographers to have a high school diploma or GED certificate (www.bls.gov). Training programs typically award a stenography or court reporting certificate. The National Court Reporter Association (NCRA) maintains a list of approved court reporting programs. Although most of the schools offer certificates, some may offer associate degrees in court reporting and transcription.

Court reporters earned a median annual income of $48,160 as of May 2012, according to the BLS. Employment is expected to increase by 10% from 2012 to 2022.

Education Options

Court Reporting Certificate

A court reporting certificate program trains court reporters and other stenographers to transcribe speech using various real-time methods. Most programs also provide coursework on secretarial and office skills. Certificate programs vary in length from 1-4 semesters and typically include courses in real-time reporting, captioning, legal terminology and computer use. Some certificates allow students to choose between courses in voice writing or real-time recording theory. Other required courses could include editing legal documents or medical terminology.

Associate Degrees in Court Reporting

Associate degrees in court reporting can take 72-168 credit hours to complete. Required courses include study of machine shorthand, dictation, legal terminology and court reporting procedures. These degree programs include general education classes in English, psychology and history. Students may be allowed to take skill-building courses intended to increase their typing skills and accuracy.

Licenses and Certifications

In most states, court reporters who transcribe legal proceedings must be licensed, which requires passing a state-administered court reporting exam. Some states also require stenographers to be certified court reporters (CCRs). To obtain CCR credentials, stenographers must have formal training, experience and a passing score on state-approved court reporting exam. Additional licensure may be required if stenographers also provide other transcription services, such as voice writing. The National Verbatim Reporters Association provides certification that meets licensure requirements for voice writers.

The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) certifies stenographers and court reporters. Certifications from the NCRA attest to competency and may increase career prospects, the organization notes.

Registered Professional Reporter (RPR)

This certification requires candidates to take two exams, a multiple-choice knowledge test and a three-part skills-based exam. The skills exam includes recording jury instruction at 200 words per minute (WPM), literary recording at 180 wpm and recording of testimony at 225 words per minute. The NCRA notes that candidates do not have a time limit to earn the RPR, although stenographers must earn three continuing education units (CEUs) every three years to maintain RPR certification.

Registered Merit Reporter (RMR)

Certified RPRs can sit for the RMR exam. Candidates must have been certified RPRs for the past three years with current membership in the NRCA. The RMR exam is 105 multiple choice questions and a skills exam in three parts, similar to the RPR skills exam, except that candidates for the RMR must have 95% accuracy to pass.

Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR)

Registered Merit Reporters are eligible to take the RDR exam after six years of membership in the NCRA. This certification requires passage of a 105-question multiple choice test. The RDR is renewed in the same manner as the RPR and RMR, by earning a total of three CEUs every three years.

Certified Real-Time Reporter (CRR)

Individuals who are Registered Professional Reporters may take the CRR certification examination. This exam includes three parts - operation of dictation and recording equipment, 96% accuracy in five minutes of real-time writing at 200 wpm and conversion of the text file to ASCII.

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