Court reporting is one of the most overlooked jobs in the legal system, but it’s absolutely critical. Courts can’t function without an accurate record of the everything said in the courtroom. Court reporters are also present during depositions that happen outside the courtroom.

It’s a fast-paced career that always requires you to be on your toes. But if you don’t know much about it, you’re probably wondering if court reporting requires a formal degree. Here’s what you should know about the education required to serve as a court reporter.

Requirements for Court Reporting

You don’t go to college and major in court reporting. But you should have at least a high school education before you start training to enter the field. According to the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, entry-level court reporters should have a “postsecondary nondegree award.” That means you’ll complete a series of courses that get you certified in court reporting, but you won’t walk across the stage and get a diploma.

However, the requirements vary depending on what state you’re in. If you’re looking at job postings in another state, you should take note of what, if any, additional things you’ll have to do. You will have to take a test specific to your state, and that test could cost a few hundred dollars. Court reporters in Fort Lauderdale are held to a slightly different standard than court reporters across the state line in Atlanta, for instance.

If that seems impossible, it’s not. Court reporters are sometimes known as stenographers because they use a stenography machine. A stenography machine lets court reporters type words and phrases in fewer strokes than a typical keyboard that you use on a laptop or desktop. Some states also allow court reporters to talk into a mouthpiece and record themselves, then transcribe that recording later.

Court Reporting Trends

There aren’t a lot of young people in the court reporting game. The NCRA boasts more than 16,000 members with an average age of 53. It also reports that nearly 90 percent of members are female.

The court reporting job market isn’t booming like some other industries, but it’s steady work if you can get it. Every courthouse needs to bring in court reporters. Some are employees of the local government, while others are considered freelancers. If you decide you want to get trained as a court reporter, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions.

First of all, are you already a pretty fast typist? You can’t be a “hunt and peck” typist who barely gets by. You should also be able to pay very close attention for long periods of time. You won’t always be present at high-profile criminal cases — even if you are, there are still less interesting parts that must be recorded accurately.

It attracts people from a variety of backgrounds. Someone with an online liberal arts associates degree could do well in this field, but so could someone with a bachelor’s degree in economics. All in all, court reporting is a good job for people who are curious about how both the criminal and civil justice systems work.