What is a Court Reporting Degree?

Court reporters, sometimes referred to as court stenographers, are guardians of the record. Their work protects the legal process. They capture the words spoken by everyone during a court or deposition proceeding and then prepare a verbatim transcript of the proceeding. Their real-time reporting allows attorneys and judges to have immediate access to the transcript and provides a way for the deaf and hard of hearing to participate in the judicial process.

Court reporting programs emphasize real-time writing theory and shorthand, grammar, computer-aided transcription, transcription speed building, legal and medical terminology, and court systems and trial procedures. Many programs offer a curriculum which combines court reporting with captioning, the process of converting audio content into text and displaying the text on a screen monitor or other visual display system.

Program Options

It is important to select an education program approved by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA).

Certificate in Court Reporting – One Year Duration
Certificate programs teach only subjects in the major. They are focused exclusively on the various aspects of court reporting.

Associate Degree in Court Reporting – Two Year Duration
A court reporting associate program combines courses in the major with some general education classes in subjects such as English composition, mathematics, the natural sciences, public speaking, and global perspectives.

Despite the differences described above, both of these programs prepare students for state licensing examinations (where required) and for a career in various court reporting fields. The core curriculum covers these subjects:

  • Real-time Writing Theory (multiple, incrementally more challenging courses) – how to write the spoken word with punctuation by means of a conflict-free* real-time-ready shorthand theory and provide instantaneous translation; use of computer-aided technology; live practice dictation for speed and accuracy; read back and analysis of shorthand notes; timed supervision of steno notes transcription
    (*conflict-free is a system of shorthand writing whereby every word has a unique outline; this is a necessity for real-time writing as using the same outline for more than one word results in a conflict, because the computer does not know which word is correct)
  • Grammar for Court Reporters – students will develop high-level competency in spelling, vocabulary, sentence structure, word choice, capitalization, and punctuation with direct application to business writing and speaking; emphasis on editing and diagnosing fragments, run-on sentences, comma splices, and parallelism errors
  • Computer-Aided Transcription (CAT) – how the computer works with the shorthand writing machine to produce instantaneous script using real-time translation; computer concepts and terminology and basic file management, saving, editing, and printing; integrating computer concepts and English punctuation rules to produce accurate and saleable work product; students will review basic punctuation rules and apply them to transcript production
  • Speed Building for Reporting and Captioning (multiple, incrementally more challenging courses) – students continue their focus on writing, reading, and transcribing the spoken word by means of a conflict-free, real-time-ready shorthand theory; according to NCRA requirements, they must be able to transcribe three five-minute dictations of unfamiliar material in the following areas: 80 words per minute (wpm) on literary material, 100 wpm on jury charge material, and 120 wpm on two-voice material; all speed takes must be transcribed with a minimum of 95 percent accuracy; subsequent courses in speed building follow this same format, increasing the wpm requirements and adding dictation that includes two-voice and multi-voice testimony involving medical and technical material, literary, jury charge, and current events; subsequent courses also require students to perform line-by-line edit / analysis and readback of steno notes
  • Technology for Reporting and Captioning – complementing the course in computer-aided transcription, this course enhances knowledge of computers, hardware, software, and maintenance; material covered for court reporting students will relate to reporting technology, computer operating systems, real-time applications, real-time reporting in the captioning / CART (Communication Access Real-time Translation) environment, litigation, support, video recording, and information on related software packages used by court reporters; material covered for captioning students will relate to captioning technology, computer operating systems, on-line translation systems, basic setup and maintenance of broadcast captioner’s equipment, broadcast news production preparation, verbatim versus word substitutes, finger spelling, history of captioning, and information relating to the deaf and hard-of hearing community
  • Medical and Legal Terminology for Court Reporters – the fundamentals of medical and legal terminology as required by the National Court Reporters Association General Requirements and Minimum Standards (GRMS); students will work with the shorthand writing machine to produce an instantaneous real-time translation of the terminology learned; they will gain knowledge of anatomy and medical terminologies, including root words, prefixes, suffixes, body systems and functions, psychological and physical diseases, drugs, and methods of researching medical information; they will also learn the basics of civil law, criminal law, the judicial system (discovery, trial, and appellate processes), and legal terms
  • Internship and Practicum for Reporters and Captioners – a practicum experience with a qualified courtroom, real-time court reporter, or captioner; to qualify for an internship, students must pass a pre-internship test to ensure that they meet NCRA proficiency standards for reporting or captioning
  • Procedures for Reporters and Captioners – an overview of court and real-time reporting procedures and practices for the court reporter, including professional responsibilities of federal and state court systems, civil and criminal trials, logistics of reporting, reporting techniques, and transcription production; description and discussion of the role of the captioner and CART captioner; simulation of a deposition where the student will assume the role of the reporter and administer the oath, mark exhibits, and perform other responsibilities relevant to transcript production

Subsequent to completing their education in the field, court reporters who become members of the National Court Reporters Association can, at various stages of their career, sit for examinations leading to these voluntary certifications offered by the NCRA:

  • Registered Skilled Reporter (RSR) – this designation recognizes stenographic professionals who are looking to validate their beginning level of competency
  • Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) – this foundational certification is designed for entry-level freelance and official reporters, those seeking a salary increase, and those who need to fulfill a licensing requirement
  • Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) – this certification is designed for legal videographers to showcase proficiency in video deposition practices
  • Registered Merit Reporter (RMR) – this certification is designed for mid-career court reporters, those seeking greater networking opportunities, and those seeking a potential salary increase
  • Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR) – this is the NCRA’s highest level certification, designed for elite reporters who wish to join an exclusive club of reporting excellence
  • Certified Real-time Reporter (CRR) – this is the NCTA’s real-time proficiency certification designed for those who want to demonstrate real-time competency, those looking for an additional salary increase, and those who wish to further market themselves
  • Certified Real-time Captioner (CRC) – this the NCRA’s foundational certification designed for entry-level captioners who would like to begin working in the broadcast or CART captioning fields
  • Certified Reporting Instructor (CRI) – this program for teachers of court reporting encourages excellence in court reporting educational programs

Degrees Similar to Court Reporting

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Criminal Justice
Criminal justice is concerned with society’s response to crime. Degree programs in the field teach students about the agencies and processes that governments have created to control crime and punish those who violate laws. At the heart of training are the five components that make up the criminal justice system: law enforcement, prosecution, defense, courts, and corrections.

Legal Administration
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Students learn about the history of translation, the sociology of translation, media and translation, and how to use translation memory software and specialized dictionaries.

Skills You’ll Learn

While students of court reporting learn very specialized skills, they also develop a valuable set of soft, transferable skills:

  • Punctuality – arriving late to a court session wastes the time of lawyers, judges, witnesses, and all in involved in the court proceeding
  • Confidentiality – court reporters are privy to confidential and sensitive information, which is not to be repeated or shared in any other settings
  • Neutrality – it is not the place of court reporters to share their opinions about the cases on which they work; their job is to record what is spoken in the courtroom and to remain neutral
  • Business Etiquette – appropriate dress, appropriate manners, and general etiquette are vital in the court reporting role
  • Grammar, Punctuation, and Proofreading – the written transcripts produced by court reporters need to be free of errors, typos, or misplaced punctuation; court reporters must therefore be able to apply grammar and punctuation rules to the spoken word they hear
  • Assertiveness – although court reporters are not an active part of the proceedings they are responsible for recording, there are times when in order to produce an accurate transcript they need stop a proceeding to ask a witness to speak louder or to ask for spellings of names, cities, or streets mentioned in the proceeding
  • Organization and time management skills – these skills are essential to managing witnesses and exhibits and producing a timely transcript
  • Customer service – commitment to providing efficient service and accurate transcripts builds positive relationships with clients
  • Shorthand writing with speed and accuracy – this highly technical skill is a foundation of the court reporting role

What Can You Do with a Court Reporting Degree?

Because court reporting is so specialized, its graduates tend to be employed directly in the field, as one of the two types of court reporters.

Freelance court reporters are contractors who work alone or with agencies to provide accurate, complete, and secure records of pretrial depositions, arbitrations, board of director meetings, stockholder meetings, convention business sessions, and other court reporting services to law firms, corporations, unions, associations, and individuals and groups.

Official court reporters or judicial reporters work at all levels of the United States judicial system and are appointed by the court. They are responsible for converting the spoken word into text during courtroom proceedings and producing official transcripts to be used by attorneys, judges, and litigants. According to the National Court Reporters Association, 70 percent of court reporters in the US work outside of the court.

Here are some more specific and other career options available to graduates of court reporting education programs:

  • Legislative Court Reporter – transcribes proceedings in the United States Congress and in state legislatures throughout the country
  • Scopist – is a professional editor of court reporting transcripts; a scopist compares a court reporter’s shorthand to the finished transcript and ‘scopes’ out transcription errors
  • Proofreader –receives the transcript from the scopist; looks for typos, incorrect punctuation, incorrect / missing words and anything else that the scopist might have missed; produces the final version of the transcript
  • Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) Provider – provides instant translation of spoken of word into text as an event takes place; CART is often used to caption congressional or council meetings, news programs, non-broadcast meetings such as those of professional associations, and college lectures for students who may benefit from this technology, such as those who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Broadcast Captioner – provides captions for live public events (where listening may be more difficult), TV shows, webcasts, and Internet news shows, allowing viewers to read the dialogue


Find out what graduates typically earn.

Read about Salary