Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) -- Lesson 2

Well, it took me a little less than a week to complete CRAH Lesson #2.  I have to admit that I'm only practicing about 1/2 to 1 hour per day, but this seems all that I have time for right now.  I had an easy time with the new letters and brief forms.  Here is a basic summary of Lesson #2

Lesson #2:
Initial Side Letters: P  L  N
Final Side Letters:  P  L  N
Vowels: long A
Punctuation: "?"
Brief Forms: are, he, I, is, it, the, you

(For Steno Machine Basics, click here)

What took me so long too complete the lesson were the practice words (about 45) and the practice sentences (about 16).  I could do them slowly, but I could not keep up with the dictation CD.  The Lesson Manual said to practice the words and sentences 5 time each.  I recommend at least 10 times each, and it probably took me about 20 times each before I was able to follow along with the dictation CD.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) -- Lesson 1

I started the Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) program on about May 7, 2011.

I watch the DVD lesson and read through Lesson 1 in the manual.  The lesson basically covers some initial and final letter and the short vowels.  Here is an outline of Lesson #1:

Lesson #1
Initial Side Letter: S  T  R 
Final Side Letters:  S  T  R
Vowels Sounds: short A, short O, short E, short U, short I (press E & U)
Punctuation: "."
Brief Forms: None

Because I had already completed several lessons in the Phoenix Theory manual, I was able to complete the Lesson within an hour or two.

A Note on Vowel sounds:
Vowels sounds are either long or short.  All long vowels sound like the letter.   Short vowel sounds do NOT sound like the letter and the pronunciation sound is like adding an "h" to the letter.  Examples:

kit = short I (sounds like "ih")
kite = long I (sounds like the letter "I")
back = short A (sounds like "ah")
bake = long A (sounds like "A")
net = short E (sounds like "eh")
neat = long E (sounds like "E")
not = short O (sounds like "oh")
note = long O (sounds like "O")
nut = short U (sounds like "uh")
cute = long U (sounds like "U")

Monday, May 23, 2011

What I don't Recommend for Learning the Steno Machine

Before I purchased the Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) program.  I figured that I would buy some text books and a steno machine and teach myself.  While I don't doubt that I could have succeeded, I now realize that this could have been a long, hard road.

Recommended: A developed program of study.  Either through a vocational school (very expensive) or a home study program (much less expensive).

Not Recommended: Buying the text (theory) books and steno machine yourself and being purely self taught.

Before CRAH:
Steno Theory:
I discovered that there were several Steno machine theories:  Phoenix; Sten Ed; Roberts, Walsh, and Gonzalez; Stenomaster; etc.  Theory is fundamentally how to write on the steno machine but also includes how to write on the steno machine so that court reporting software can translate your typing in realtime into English so that everyone can read it.

I became partial to the Phoenix theory and bought 2 theory used books on eBay for about $20.

Steno Machine:
I also read about Steno Machines, and my conclusion was that I should buy either a Stentura 500, a Stentura 400 SRT, and elan Cybra (Student model by Stenograph), or a Stentura 200 SRT.  All these models can connect to a computer--indicated by the SRT on the Stentura models.  The elan Cybra is a more expensive "paperless" writer (saving you money in paper and ink but costs more and but to be connected to a computer).

I bought a used Stenura 400 SRT on eBay for about $600.

Dictation CDs:
In the Phoenix theory books I noticed dictation exercises which I did not have.  I soon realized that these were important if I wanted to learn the steno machine and increase my speed.  So I bought the exercise CD and some other related material on eBay.  (So at this point I have a little less than $700 invested in my new career).

I then noted that I was starting to put together my own program and realized that an established program would be much better.  After some research, that's when I determined that the best study at home program was Court Reporting at Home (CRAH).

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) Program

I highly recommend Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) program.  Why?  First, I can't find one person who has anything negative to say about it.  Second, I believe it to be the only NCRA approved program that is specifically developed for home study. Third, the entire program is only about $5,000, which is less than a single tuition payment at a vocational school.

I purchased the CRAH program (see photo) used for $450.  I was lucky to come across it, and from what I read on the first page of the theory manual (the blue binder), a person is not allowed to resell the material.

The program included the theory manual--which contains 20 lessons, the practice and reference manual (white binder), necessary academic material on law, medical terms, etc. (the black binder), and 20+ CDs which contain dictation tests/practice for the theory lessons and speed building dictation practice (60 to 225 WPM).  I also received 2 StenEd books, but I'm not too sure if they were part of the original program.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How Long Will It Take to Become a Court Reporter?

How Long Will It Take to Become a Court Reporter?
From what I've read from other court reporters and students is:
1. The more time you practice, the quicker you'll finish.
2. Also, daily practice of 2 hours a day is not the same as 7 hours on Saturday and Sunday.

The average time to finish a court reporting vocational school is 3 years.  The Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) program is self paced, but from the website it looks like it can be completed in about 2 years.

Keys to Becoming a Court Reporter:
Once again from what I read:  Traditional vocational schools have a drop out rate of 80 to 90%.  The remaining 10 to 20% have problems passing the national RPR or their state CSR.  It appears that many students become discouraged and give up.

1. Stick to it.  Don't expect instant results.  Progress can seen by looking back several lessons.
2. Practice EVERYDAY.
3. Push yourself

I'm also a self taught drummer and the same things apply.  You can't improve without practice, and the more you practice, the more you improve.  Also, slow and correct is better than fast and incorrect.  Why?  With slow and correct, you can (slowly) build speed.  If you do it wrong and practice that, you'll just continue to do it wrong.  

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why I Decided to do Court Reporting?

My Current Career (2011):
First, let me say that I'm currently (2011) a licensed Civil Engineer in the State of California and have worked in this field for almost 20 years.  However, I work in the Public Sector (in local government) and I think that I can see the handwriting on the wall.  This will be the 4th straight year of budget cuts and the 2nd year of lay offs.  Come July 1, 2011, 34% of our Department staff will have been laid off.  If this continues, I think that I will only have a job for 2 or 3 more years. And finding a new job in my field will be very competitive if or when I get laid off.

Looking for a New Career:
While the particulars of my story are unique, there are many people who are finding themselves with no career openings in their fields when they get laid off.  Therefore, I decided to look for an alternative career with the following (before I am potentially laid off):

* A well paying job.
* A job that will be in demand in this economy.
* Something that learned or studied at night--because I have a current job--that was not going to break my finances.

Personally, I had a hard time finding something.  I thought about assisted care (or an errand running business) due to the aging population, but it might be hard to find work or many people might depend on government assistance which is being cut.  I thought about starting an online business, but I already tried that twice and only end up losing money.  And in this economy, people are not buying things like they use to.

I stumbled across courting reporting on the internet, and after reviewing the available information I knew it was for me.  Here are the reasons:

1. Court reporters earn a good income.
Average income is about $62,000 a year.  Those with 5 or more years of experience generally make between $70,000 and $90,000 a year.  Some court reporter make over $100,000.  (This a very good income if you consider you don't need a degree and only takes about 2-3 years of training--see below).

2. There is a demand for court reporters.
When I called the local court reporting school, they said that job placement is basically 100%.  The US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that court reporting jobs are expected to grow by 18% between 2008 and 2018, which is above the national average.   Not all court reports work in a court room.  In fact, only about 15% do so.  Court reports take depositions at a law office for legal cases, do closed captioning for TV, and provide Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) for the hearing impaired.  This makes a large customer base (courts, law firms, TV companies, and any company or organization who needs to provide CART services).

3. You don't need to attend an expensive vocational school or get a degree.  You only need to pass a test.
While most court reporters attend 3 to 4 years of vocational school, you don't need to.  Why?  To work as a court reporter some states do not require any certification, though most states require you to pass the RPR (Registered Professional Reporter) exam as given by the NCRA (National Court Reporters Association).   A few states require the passing of an additional CSR (Certified Shorthand Reporter) exam after you pass the RPR exam (example: California requirements).  To take the RPR you don't have to be enrolled in a court reporting school or even be a member of the NCRA.

Why I decided on a "study-at-home" program:
Most court reporting vocational schools are day classes, but you can find a school that offers night time classes.  There was only one night time school in the area I live.  The classes are held Monday through Friday for 5 hours at night (and they said the homework was about 2 hours per night).  After 10 months, though, I could then go "online" and only came in 1 day a week.  On top of that, it was going to cost me about $50,000 over three years--the average time and cost to complete all the courses.  If you factor in the cost of a used stenograph machine (about $600) and the supplies (about $300 per year), that's an average cost of $17,200 per year.  Ouch!  I can't afford that. This option was not for me.

So, I looked for purely online schools, but they seemed similar to the night class option (i.e., many hours at night studying and practicing on the steno machine but without the need to be at a particular location), and the cost was about $30,000 over 3 years or about $10,500 per year.  Cheaper, but still too expensive for my budget.

I eventually found a study at home program for me: the Court Report at Home (CRAH) program.  The cost for the complete program--regardless of how long it takes you--is about $5000 and this includes a steno machine.  The CRAH program also only takes about 2 years, assuming 2 or more hours of practice a day.  This amounts to an average cost of about $2700 per year.  Gee, I could afford that.