For an ambitious student with the right combination of talent and patience, court reporting may be a career worth considering.
But reaching 225 words per minute on a stenotype is no walk in the park, and it's hard to know if you have what it takes before committing to the training.
"It's not for everyone. Speaking very bluntly, you have to be a nervous wreck. You are sitting at the edge of your seat. You have to get every word, every utterance," says Patti Blair, who owns her own Chicago-based court reporting business and has been a licensed court reporter for 47 years. "If you're a laid-back person, this profession is not for you."
Qualified individuals can earn the National Court Reporters Association's Registered Professional Reporter credential by passing a rigorous test; their dictation speeds must exceed 200 words per minute.
"There's always people that drop out, just like any college -- but not necessarily because they can't do the speed," says Cohen.
Orleans Technical Institute in Philadelphia offers a two- to three-year program that includes the RPR exam, though the school was unable to specify how many students pass the test. However, Marlene Cohen -- an employment specialist from Orleans -- was quick to point out that passing the RPR is not required for all professional positions in the field. Those who persevere through the training can still seek employment.
"For anyone who is really truly driven and interested in doing this, I think the first course would let them know if they could handle the speed," adds Blair. "But I would say they need to stick it out until they start taking dictation -- about four to six weeks."