In Washington state, and throughout most of the other states in the United States, it takes a degree, or at the very least, some formal training and/or certification, to succeed in the court reporting industry.

This education can be obtained at any community college, traditional college or university, online school, or trade or technical school in the state-and there are plenty—so long as the school is fully accredited— to choose from.

No matter what particular school you choose or which degree level you aspire to, the important thing is to find the ones that are the best possible fit for you and your career goals.

The majority of people working in the field will have an associate’s degree at least. Associate’s degrees take only about two years, on average, to earn and can provide you with a great start to working in the field. Also, since they are most commonly earned at community colleges or with an online school, they tend to be much cheaper to earn.

Plus, a majority of these programs are designed with busy, working adults in mind, making it easy to balance your quest for an education with work or family responsibilities.

Many other professionals currently working in the field will hold bachelor’s degrees. These degrees are most commonly earned from traditional colleges and universities and take, on average, about four years to earn.

While these degrees are not a necessity for most lines of work in the field, they can help you to earn a higher salary from the start and to start out at a higher up position, reducing the amount of “climbing” that you have to do. So, a bachelor’s degree is definitely something to consider, and these degrees can be earned online as well if that works better with your schedule.

Few people in the field will possess degrees above a bachelor’s degree. In fact, it is actually quite difficult to find higher level educational programs in court reporting.

However, if you do wish to continue your education, you can earn a master’s degree or even a PhD in a closely related field, like criminal studies or even law. While such a step can only help and not hurt you, it is most definitely not a necessity, and you are in no way required to have such a degree in order to find work in this field.

Once you have decided upon the degree level you wish to achieve and have chosen a program of study, all that is left is to find a school! There are many great schools in Washington State and online. The only thing that you need to be mindful of is whether or not the schools is accredited. Accreditation status is extremely important, because unaccredited schools cannot actually award real, legally binding diplomas.

They can award certificates and other “awards,” but these are essentially very worthless and very expensive pieces of paper. So, check the status of any school you attend, being especially careful when choosing an online school. While there are certainly many wonderful online schools out there, there are also quite a few scams that you will need to be wary of.

In addition to learning whether your intended school is accredited or not, you must also take the time to read about the school’s history and establishment. Good schools will have a strong and easily traceable background. Furthermore, you should have a clear idea of what the school’s reputation is like and of what successful graduates of your intended program have gone on to do in the field.