Arts & Humanities
Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Court Reporting
Freelance reporter for two court reporting firms
Tess Stephenson is a freelance reporter for two court reporting firms. Stephenson also provides onsite/remote CART — Computer Assisted Realtime Translation — for the deaf and hard of hearing. She attended the Court Reporting Institute of Dallas, earning an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Court Reporting. The degree took two and a half years to complete.
Why did you choose court reporting as a major?
I had worked in the criminal justice field for a while as a dispatcher, file clerk, and probation officer. After eight months of the probation job, I decided it wasn’t a good fit and that I needed to go back to school. I read an article on Yahoo! about court reporting. I thought it sounded interesting, and it would still keep me in the criminal justice field. After some research, I talked with a court reporter about her job experience. She would never discourage anyone from this career path. Now that I am a court reporter, I can say the same. It’s a perfect fit for me!
What was the best and worst part about the court reporting major?
The best part about majoring in court reporting is learning this whole other language. It’s really interesting. It becomes almost like a game when you start speed building. How fast can I go? The worst part is you can hit plateaus with speed building. You have to really stay motivated and persevere. Practice, practice, practice. There is not a set time when everyone finishes. It is different for each person.
Could you explain what speed building is and what is entailed in it?
After learning the language, which we call theory, the curriculum is set up with speed classes. In order to progress to the next speed, you have to pass a certain number of tests at the specified words per minute at a certain accuracy. It usually starts at 60 words per minute and goes to 225 words per minute, therefore you are speed building.
How has the education you received in court reporting influenced your career?
There is no limit to what you can do with this skill. It has led me to the traditional route of court and depositions, but it has also led me to captioning and CART. There is also plenty of work out there. Once you have this skill, you are in demand. You have the flexibility to work as much as you like.
What skills did you learn during your court reporting education that you still put to use today?
I’ve learned that it is still important to learn shorter ways to write things. You never stop learning in this field. There will always be terminology you are unfamiliar with. Just like in school, some days you don’t write the cleanest. I still have to remind myself of what I have achieved and that everyone has their days. Also, it is important to transcribe tests in school. This helps with editing transcripts when you’re working.
What advice would you give someone who is considering a major in court reporting?
Be prepared to have some ups and downs while in school. Surround yourself with positive people that will support you along the way. Practice, practice, practice. All the work and effort that it takes to complete school will pay off in the end. It is well worth the time and effort. There will be many tests in school of speed. You will fail your way to success. It is important to look at your tests as opportunities to learn from your mistakes in order to improve and pass. I would recommend finding a mentor as well. We’ve all been where you are and can give great advice.