Most reporters eventually comes to the place where they ask, should I keep paying for my NCRA and/or state organization memberships?
We have a lot of overhead, especially as freelancers. As a captioner, you have maybe a grand or two of overhead. As a realtime freelancer, you easily can have 10 grand in costs to write off. The first few years are especially turbulent, trying to grab a handle of your software while all your school loans come in and the checks take a while to start. Then come all of the things to upgrade yourself to realtime. Most people put it off because they’re constantly in a frenetic state, too busy to work on their writing and too stretched to afford the realtime upgrades that can put you into the upper class. But the effort toward bettering yourself is so worth it, if not just for the pride you get by being a top-notch writer.
Here are the top reasons to stay certified:
1. In some states, it’s mandatory.
2. Job security. If a firm treats you badly, you can go to any other firm or any other state with the RMR and CRR easily. It also gives you the best chance when applying for an officialship. It gives you weight when you say, no, I will not work for this amount, especially in captioning. Maybe you don’t like negotiating, then these certifications makes the process go smoother for you.
3. For the brief time you’re pursuing the CRR and RMR, you are 10x the writer you would have been if you didn’t pursue them. This is the reason why people do the speed contests annually. It is constantly pressing you to be the best possible version of yourself.
4. Looking at the big picture, NCRA and state organizations fight against legislation that impacts CR jobs negatively, keep other reporters out of your state (keeping the money for the local reporters), and look for innovative ways to generate interest to bring in as many students as possible, which is absolutely essential to the longevity of this profession. So you are supporting your profession, in essence.
5. Conventions are cheaper, and they are a great place to connect outside of Facebook and to meet the steno legends – inspiring you to press harder.
Just because you are supporting your organization DOESN’T mean you support testing. Sure, tests don’t mimic real life, and it could be argued that the initial bar is too high or is, in a way, shooting the profession in the foot because too few ever get out or too many focus on just getting words, not on realtime (which is the future of our profession). Still, just because you do not support the methodology, it is not a bad thing to support the organization that is trying and that can offer the perks of conventions (bringing people together, generating excitement, attention to the profession, and excellence) and certification (which is the second best bargaining chip next to experience).
I don’t support the fact that we HAVE to get CEUs, but I still put into my certification costs. Yes, CEUs don’t make sense. The excellent ones will learn on their own, and you can’t force the bad court reporters to stay awake during seminars.
Some people can say that experience matters more than certs, but for new reporters, the ONLY way to differentiate yourself is to get certifications because experience is eventual. You can’t put the big cases on your resume immediately, but you can immediately put RPR or RMR.
I know that some hate how NCRA is pushing TRAIN, which is a way to get as many reporters providing realtime as quickly as possible. However, please keep in mind that without TRAIN, I would never have been providing realtime. I would never have had the confidence to get set up technologically. TRAIN has its merits. The intention is in the right place. Just like with CEUs.