Am I being too ambitious?
August 30, 2010 10:38 AM   Subscribe

I've enrolled in three classes at my local community college to obtain two post-BA certificates. I need to decide if I'm making a good decision or if my eyes are bigger than my brain....

My BA is in journalism, which has led to very little for me in that field. I graduated college almost 6 years ago (yikes!) and have had quite the lost-soul career since. Entry level clerical work, part time at a weekly newspaper, bartending for two years, back to a temporary/godawfulboring/maybe permanent clerical position. I've been thinking for literally years about enrolling in a paralegal post-BA certificate program and have FINALLY stopped making excuses and enrolled.

However, I also want to enroll in the post-BA court reporting program. My thought is, what better way to be marketable than to tell an attorney "Not only am I a certified paralegal, but you can save money by having me take depositions in-house!"
I've gone to both programs' orientations, and the court reporting one had about 15 people in it. The paralegal one packed a lecture hall and had overflow. That to me says my competition will be much more so in paralegal jobs than in court reporting jobs. However, I am well aware of the failure/quit rate of court reporting students.

I'm motivated to do well at something. I'm tired of trudging through life with vague ideas and not following through with any of them.

Pros to doing both:
-You can't be too educated.
-It would be nice to have a "backup plan" if necessary.

-I'd much rather be in court reporting than a paralegal. Despite the wider variety of work potentially available for a paralegal.
-The court reporting instructor told us that we should only plan on taking one class (a CR one) per semester because it's so intense. I heard this after enrolling in the first steno class, and also two other for the paralegal certification.
-I'm worried that I'll quit/fail court reporting after dropping the other classes and have to wait yet another year to start the paralegal program.

I guess what I'm looking for are stories from people who have doubled up their workload, school, what have you, and how you came out of it. And any suggestions/recommendations from people who have done either or both of these programs, or people who work in those fields now are welcome as well!!
posted by slyboots421 to Education (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I am an attorney in WI and know a number of court reporters. There is a huge demand for court reporters, both within the judicial system and privately. I know that here in Wisconsin, the state reporters organization does a tremendous amount of outreach at High Schools, job fairs, etc. I know of a few that have either retired, or changed jobs but maintain a side business doing transcriptions from audio in their homes. If you think you would be interested in it, court reporting is a very valuable skill.
posted by greasy_skillet at 11:02 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: I'm in community college and just dropped my AS in Paralegal Studies program. My sole reason was that, at least in my area, the demand for paralegals is almost nonexistent. The few jobs that I could find either from paralegal websites, craigslist or through my department at school all paid $9-10 an hour without benefits. All the paralegal classes I've taken were full to the point of students doubling up at desks, which made me even more nervous about the job market when I graduated. My city also has a law school which is flooding new grads into paralegal positions at the firms here. It might be different in your area, but at least here I would strongly encourage you to focus on court reporting. Good luck!
posted by hollygoheavy at 11:14 AM on August 30, 2010

Response by poster: hollygoheavy - That is the same type of thing happening around here (MI) - I find tons of paralegal jobs but they want you to have your bachelors degree, your paralegal certificate, and they want to pay you $9-$10 an hour. Thank you for your insiders' tip!

greasy_skillet - Thank you, that's the sort of thing I was hoping to hear!
posted by slyboots421 at 11:23 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: I completed two bachelor degrees, in four years, in wildly disparate fields. However, neither is in the fields you're looking at. But maybe my "double load" experience will help.

Overall, I'm very glad I did it. Like you, I felt that I couldn't be too educated, especially because I was genuinely interested in both of my fields. (It's probably worth noting that I did earn my degrees during the "typical college years" for an American student -- ages 18-21, just out of high school.) It has been a huge benefit to my career; I'm not scaling the corporate ladder super quickly, but I've never had a problem landing interviews even in difficult economic times, and I've been offered some unique opportunities that I would probably have missed out on if I had a more conventional education.

But... it was hard. Sometimes my workload made me very unhappy. If I didn't have the pressure of family watching me and my own stubbornness, I'm not sure I would have made it through. I sometimes wonder if I have a masochistic streak.

If I could do it again, I'd work harder to ensure that I was overlapping requirements as much as I could. (I earned my degrees at a university, and my degrees were offered by different colleges, so each college had its own general education requirements; sometimes I'd get lucky and Class A that was required for Degree 1 would satisfy a general ed requirement for Degree 2.)

I don't think I could have done it if I hadn't taken summer and intersession classes; I essentially entered school at age 18 and didn't have a break until age 21. Personally, that worked well for me -- I didn't really want to go back to my parents' place, and I liked that intersession courses were over in a few weeks. But if you can't handle loooong hours in class, it's not for you.

I always tried to go "half and half" on my semesters, so I felt like I had a balance between the classes for Degree 1 and for Degree 2. For me, this meant a balance between "creative" and "technically challenging", which was good.

It's kind of weird thing... sometimes I want to convey to people just how hard I worked to earn my degrees, but I still feel like I'd garner more respect if I'd spent my time earning a masters. It has been a personal challenge for me to give myself the credit I'm due. But part of what gives me confidence is knowing that I look pretty awesome on paper. And I look back on that time fondly -- I learned so much, so quickly, and my brain was so packed full of knowledge and craziness, and I think I came out of it with a good work ethic.
posted by neushoorn at 11:31 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: I'm tired of trudging through life with vague ideas and not following through with any of them.

I know how this feels. I think there was a similar question to yours asked awhile back, and I think a lot of people said court reporting sucks. I've heard that being a paralegal can suck too. My stories are gleaned from real-life paralegals/former paralegals/lawyers in DC, so the pace might be way different.

And I understand the argument that even though both professions suck, you still have to find a way to make a decent income to support yourself.

Here are a few suggestions I want to make to you or alternatives I want to present. :

1) Don't go to the court reporting program. Do an Associate's in Accounting or payroll or book-keeping or something like that. I know some accountants who look less ready to kill themselves than people I know in the legal profession. I think doing accounting/payroll/book keeping for a small business or something could be okay and possibly in demand/better paying than $9-$10/hr.

2) Go to the court reporting program and start making contacts at the court house. Try to get an administrative position at the court house, even something clerical there. I imagine this would be extremely difficult because budgets might be cut or hiring might be frozen.

From what I've heard, court reporting might not be a great career. It might be a valuable skill but it sounds like extremely difficult work. Of course, you've probably researched it and know the ins and outs, but there are a lot of options out there and I hope you can make the best one for yourself.
posted by anniecat at 1:01 PM on August 30, 2010

A few questions that you certainly don't have to answer:

Do you have any student loan debt? How are you paying for these programs? Is the cost reasonable? What is the job outlook like in your region for court reporters/paralegals? Will you be satisfied with your salary? Do you picture yourself working in this field in ten years? Twenty?

Do some homework (research!) and make this investment if you feel like it will improve your quality of life. If you do decide to go ahead and enroll in both programs, best of luck!
posted by camcol at 1:52 PM on August 30, 2010

You don't sound particularly sold on the law, so maybe consider the other possibilities of stenography if it appeals to you. I have a friend who went to steno school and now is a freelance professional CART provider. She makes a good living and enjoys helping Deaf and hard of hearing students. She also does other transcription work on the side.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:59 PM on August 30, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks to all for your thoughts!

To answer some questions:
I don't have any student loan debt (very lucky to have forward-thinking parents... I did undergrad for about 4K). The cost at the CC is very reasonable (especially compared to the "Academy of Court Reporting" I looked into as well). I'm probably going to need a loan or hope to find some grants/scholarships/aid for someone with a degree already because so far, no dice.

I've heard great things about job outlook/earning potential and have a relative who does this freelance. I might be able to piggyback with her! :)

And, the beauty of this program is that it includes closed captioning and medical transcription as well. So it's a bit more multi-faceted than I may have implied.

Thanks again to all!
posted by slyboots421 at 3:38 PM on August 30, 2010

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