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How Much Does Court Reporting School Cost?

Posted on 7/22/2009

Just yesterday, I got a call from a prospective court reporting student wanting to pick my brain about the job prospects in court reporting.  This particular lady was looking to retire from her current job and wanted to attend court reporting school.  She was attracted to the idea that freelance court reporting provides one a lot of flexibility as well as a good income.  She was doing market research, which I think is a good thing.  Its typically a good idea to do as much research as humanly possible before embarking on a journey requiring lots of time and money and heart and soul.

As the Book of Luke wisely points out:

 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost?
Luke 14:28

Youve got to count the cost of going through court reporting school.  And I dont necessarily mean just the financial cost.  How much is it going to cost to build that tower? Here is a partial list of other costs you should be aware of:

A Partial List Of Court Reporting School Costs

  • The Financial Cost 
    The dollars and cents.  Tuition is not the only thing to consider.  Think about some of these other add-ons: child care, books, paper, steno machine purchase/rental, supplemental courseware, publication subscriptions, CEU credits,  association membership dues, gas for the car, Tylenol.
  • The Opportunity Cost
    What is the possible loss of other opportunities that may arise due to a commitment to court reporting?  Will you have to cut down on things you enjoy in order to focus on school? (Hint: Yes, you will.) What if that great job offer finally comes through which now conflicts with school? What if that great vacation conflicts with your class schedule? What are you going to do?
  • The Emotional Cost
    There is a hidden emotional surcharge that I felt during school.  Perhaps its the stress of attempting to master the steno machine.  Perhaps its the constant failure of not passing a speed in a timely fashion.  Im the guy who spent a long, long time in one particular speed.  Theres nothing inherently difficult about that particular speed 170s but that was a time of my life where I stopped focusing on school, got distracted, and stopped counting the cost.  The cost of that sort of distraction does indeed come with an emotional price tag.  When youve lost momentum, its frustrating to you as well as to your family and friends.  I  write from experience!

Is Court Reporting A Good Stepping-Stone Career?
No, it's not.  When I was in court reporting school (circa 1993 1999), there was a colleague of mine who intended to become a court reporter in order that she could afford to pay her way through medical school.  Dumb idea.  In her mind the flexibility and high pay of a freelance reporter would be a perfect fit for a doctor-to-be.  Wrong!  She quit school in frustration but not until accruing some student loan debt.  On this side of things being a licensed CSR since 1999 I can surely see the folly in that plan.  Court reporting school is not something to do on the side while you work on the real deal elsewhere.  Its way too hard and demanding of an endeavor for that.  By that logic, as an example, should a person become a doctor because it will pave their way for becoming an astronaut?  Its silly and an extremely roundabout path to a goal.  If you want to become a doctor, go the direct route.  Go to medical school or watch lots of episodes of House or whatever.  Dont even think about becoming a court reporter as a stepping stone.  Becoming a court reporter is not for the faint-of-heart, nor the semi-committed. 

I hope this post does not seem overly gloom-and-doom about how hard it is.  Yes, it is challenging.  Yes, it takes time.  But I guess what Im saying is that there is a cost to doing this apart from the financial cost.  A wise person needs to consider that before jumping in.

Thoughts anyone?  Id like to hear from current court reporting students and/or prospectives.

Comment by Adam B.
Hi. I am a current court reporting student at South Coast College. Todd, I really appreciate your blog and follow it very closely. After high school, I went to an automotive college to learn the ins and outs of cars and eventually became a dealership technician. Needless to say, I left that industry. It was a great experience, but my heart wasn`t in it. So, I decided to look for something else. It wasn`t until I read an article about great careers most people don`t know about, that I came across the wonderful world of court reporting. I can also honestly say that your blog helped me make the decision to give it a shot. I`ve been a student here now since November of last year. 8 months in and so far, I`m lovin` it. I am slowly realizing the great amounts of focus and determination required to make it through school in a timely fashion. During my short time so far at this school, I`ve already seen people come and go. It seems that they become discouraged by the amount of practice that`s required (even from the very beginning). You`re definitely right about it not being for the faint-of-heart. However, I`ve also spoken to other students who are in the higher speeds, and they all say the same thing, All those dreaded hours practicing in the stenomaster lab are definitely worth it. So far, my excitement for this career has remained strong, and I can safely say it`s the challenge after failing a test that keeps it that way (ironic; right?). So I guess I`d say (and sure that you`d agree) that the keys to success are practice, practice, and most importantly, practice. Thanks, Todd, for keeping students like me updated on the industry trends so that we know what to expect when school`s over. I hope this testimonial helps to give some insight to those considering this career.

Comment by stephanie wheeler
I am looking for an affordable online college for court reporting. Any suggestions?
Stephanie Wheeler

Comment by Nicole
Thanks for your advice and for an insightful article. I am considering becoming a court reporter and am actually thinking about attending South Coast College as well. I have also thought about becoming a teacher, but I know lots of teachers are getting laid off right now and it`s probably not a good time for that. I am currently working at a law firm doing reception work and am enjoying my time here. Seeing court reporters come and go for depositions made me think about the possibility of getting involved in that field. However, I wonder if I should follow logic and try to do something rational that will pay the bills, or if I should follow my passions and my heart (even if it may not end in a stable career for me, or I may have to struggle more). So... that is what I am wrestling with right now. Anyway, thanks for providing an article that helps me get an idea of what I may be getting myself into. I really appreciate it!

Comment by Michael

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most accurate, I`d give this blog an 11. I had the fortunate luck of excelling through the early speeds within my first couple quarters of speed am and now in my third quarter of speed and just hit 160. I have come to realize that this kind of progress is far from the norm but rather the exception to the status quo.

With that said, I find myself being inspired daily by students who have been in 60-80 for multiple quarters and rather than getting discouraged and quitting like so many before them, they just keep on practicing away. I guarantee that no one told them at the outset of school what a difficult endeavor this will be, yet they continue to persevere, and I hope to walk in to school every day to see their names on our announcement board with a passing test.

Should there come a time in which I am in one speed for multiple quarters, I will look to these students for motivation.

Comment by rachel sciacca
how much is the cost of schooling to become a court reporter, on the average

Comment by Ruth Long
I am looking for an online Stenography school. I live in Montana & am looking for a challenge & change in my professional life. All my children are now out of the house & I can focus on my education. Any suggestions for a good, qualified, online court reporting school?

Comment by Rebecca
Please consider the financial ramifications if one does not successfully graduate from stenography school. I plateaued at 180wpm and was asked to leave after not passing tests for two consecutive quarters. I face owing a staggering amount of $50,000, which is broken down to $450 per month for years to come. All new students should realize that this vocational degree takes talent and skill and there is a 95% failure rate.

Comment by Heather
Rebecca is right on.. I attended court reporting school for one year.. There is a 95% failure rating which I wish I would have known about.. Also the cost is ridiculous.. I owe 13,000 in school loans in just a year.. That`s not including books, steno machine etc.. I would highly recommend not choosing this career path.

Comment by STR
Hello I too am strongly considering Court Reportting,i am very nervous about it because of my age.I am 55 year young and have been a stay at home for the past 19 years and I meed a career of my own now that my daughter is off to college now. I need all of the idea`s suggestions,anyone who have been/or traveling down this path.Thank You so much.

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