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.