Dubuque County resident Carrie Nauman has a bit of advice for young people looking at options after graduation — consider a career as a court reporter.
Nauman has been one for 28 years and entered the field at the urging of her parents.
“When I started in 1989, I had plans to go to Kirkwood to become an early childhood educator. My dad had a cousin that was a court reporter and my mom introduced me to her,” Nauman said. “We went and visited a couple of places and I ended up at AIB in Des Moines. It was one of the top schools in the nation and was just a good fit.”
“Now the only place you can get a degree in court reporting in Iowa is at the DMACC campus in Newton. It’s set up to be a two-year program. It’s pretty intense, so not a lot of people make it through in two years. The goal is to write for five minutes at 225 words per minute with 95% accuracy. So, in my world, 94.9% is failing. It’s a very high standard. As soon as you can write 225 words and pass your test, you can graduate.”
Nauman explained there is high demand for court reporters across the country.
“Don’t overlook this. You can make it through in two years and you’ll have no trouble finding a job on day one,” she said. “You’ll have four different job offers before you even leave college. We are short of court reporters in Iowa and nationwide.”
Court reporters play a vital role in the judicial process.
“I prepare the transcript from a trial in a readable form. In the case of an appeal, the court reads our transcripts and makes a decision based on what we have written,” Nauman said. “We write on a steno machine. It has 22 keys and is a very unique machine. It’s a series of letters that are depressed in a certain manner to form words. The trick to getting up to 225 is finding shortcuts to your writing style that keep you caught up in the courtroom.”
“Knowing we are the gold star standard for record-keeping and always being a step ahead is rewarding. We are who the courts rely on.”
Professional opportunities for court reporters can go beyond traditional courtroom duties.
“There are different things you can do as a court reporter. You can work in the courthouse like I do, or you can work from home and be a closed captioner. Anything that’s live has to be closed-captioned,” Nauman explained. “You can be a CART (Communication Across Realtime Translation) writer where you work with a hearing impaired student and follow the student from classroom to classroom. In some cities, stenographers use their machines to translate church services.”
Nauman mentioned there are sometimes questions about the necessity of written records in court proceedings with other forms of technology available.
“The biggest misconception about our profession is that we’re all going to be replaced by tape recorders. We’ve all used voice-to-text on our cell phones and see some of the errors, and that could happen with a court transcript,” Nauman said. “A tape recorder can’t ask a speaker to slow down or repeat something in a courtroom.”
Nauman likes to unwind after a busy day in the courtroom with a camera in her hands. A longtime hobby has turned into a popular photography business. The word is out about the quality of Nauman’s work, and the area surrounding her home provides the perfect setting for pictures.
“When my boys were young, my husband gave me a camera for Christmas. I started taking pictures of my boys at sporting events and started taking pictures of everybody’s kids and sharing them,” said Nauman. “Everybody loves having pictures of their kids. It’s just an easy way for me to give back to the community.”
“We moved to the country and found a nice little slice of heaven. My husband has done some things to make it more photographer-friendly and now I have a place to go without inconveniencing anybody.”
Nauman generally focuses on senior pictures and families but is a frequent presence at Western Dubuque events.
“I do a lot of team and individual sports for Western Dubuque, and again, it’s a way of giving back to the community. It’s an easy way to give back.”
“I don’t know that I’ve found the perfect balance between everything, but it’s working. The boys are getting older and my husband is busy, so it’s great that I fell into this hobby that keeps me busy and gives me something to do.”
Nauman is thankful for the support of area residents and enjoys the challenge of capturing the perfect shot.
“I just appreciate everyone that has given me an opportunity and a chance to grow. I’ve been very fortunate with the people that have trusted me,” said Nauman. “There are so many talented people in the area.”
“It’s super exciting when you capture that really good shot. Sometimes it’s not always the action, it’s the reaction.”