Looking back now, it seems hard to believe it could happen in America as recently as 2012: two men walk into a small, unassuming cake shop in a suburb of Denver, and commission a wedding cake to celebrate their upcoming marriage. The shop’s owner, citing his religious beliefs, refused to bake the cake for a same-sex marriage.
The couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and a case was created that would eventually find its way to the Supreme Court… pitting Constitutional protections of freedom of worship against freedom from discrimination.
Although the court ruled with the cake shop, the case sparked a conversation that helped shift the country even further toward accepting and upholding protections for sexual and gender orientation.
Being a court reporter in Colorado, a state with a rapidly changing demographic, means being in the front seat for such cases, watching new legal precedent and history itself unfold in real time. And as the fourth highest paying state for the position in the country, it also means making a solid living along the way… and the salaries are even better for those with advanced qualifications and experience.
Although court reporters are no longer certified at the state level in Colorado, many employers, including Colorado’s court system, require them to meet a specific set of qualifications. Follow these steps to become a court reporter in Colorado:
|Complete a Course of Study for Court Reporters|
|Pass a National Certification Exam|
|Find a Job as a Court Reporter in Colorado|
|Stay Certified or Advance Your Certification For the Long Haul|
Step 1. Complete a Course of Study for Court Reporters
Court reporter programs come in many shapes and sizes, with options available everywhere from dedicated court reporter schools to technical schools and community colleges. Comprehensive court reporter programs provide education and training in the areas of:
- Communication and English grammar
- Realtime writing
- Legal principles and medical terminology
- Legal and business ethics
- Machine shorthand speed
- Transcript preparation through CAT software
A full two-year associate’s degree in the field will both explore these subjects more deeply and range into more broad liberal arts courses than a short-term diploma or certificate in the field. Whether online or in a traditional on campus program, this classwork will help build your practical knowledge as well as your hands-on skills with recording and transcription technology.
Colorado is among 37 states that allow voice writers using stenomask machines to serve as court reporters in state courts. Programs that specialize in stenomask training for voice writing can be completed in a handful of months, while it typically takes about three years to really master stenotype at adequate speeds.
It’s possible to get hired as an official reporter and begin work with only this education and the six months of experience, but in order to continue in your position, within two years you’ll have to earn your RPR certification through the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA).
Step 2. Pass a National Certification Exam
Although court reporters in Colorado are not licensed or certified, many employers, including the Colorado court system, require court reporters to be certified as a Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) through the National Court Reporters Association.
The RPR certification process consists of two separate exams: a written exam and a skills exam.
The NCRA written knowledge test is a multiple choice exam that includes the following components:
- Professional practices: 16 percent
- Reporting practices: 62 percent
- Technology: 22 percent
The exam is offered exclusively through Pearson VUE at their many available testing centers around the country.
The skills exam portion of the certification, however, is offered exclusively online and includes the following components:
- 5 minutes of Literary at 180 wpm
- 5 minutes of Jury charge at 200 wpm
- 5 minutes of Testimony/Q&A at 225 wpm
After completing your initial transcription of those segments, you will be given 75 minutes to transcribe your notes, and you must achieve an accuracy of at least 95 percent to pass this portion of the certification exam.
Although it won’t help you find employment with the state courts in Colorado, private employers may equally appreciate your earning the Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR) credential through the NVRA (National Verbatim Reporters Association). It’s also an agency that is glad to certify both traditional stenotype reporters as well as stenomask reporters according to the same standards for accuracy and speed.
The requirements are substantially similar to the RPR, so much so that you can earn an RPR and automatically receive your CVR for a $50 fee, but the NVRA tests are exclusively offered in-person.
Costs for both certification tests are as follows:
- NVRA – $150
- NCRA – $120 / $95 for members / $77 for students
- NVRA – $125
- NCRA – $220 / $195 for members / $160 for students
Finally, for reporters more interested in getting into the fast-growing video and audio recording side of the reporting business, the Certified Electronic Reporter (CER) through the AAERT (American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers) may be a good option.
Step 3. Find a Job as a Court Reporter in Colorado
Work in Colorado as a traditional court reporter is most commonly found through the many courts in the Colorado Judicial Branch:
You may also seek employment through one of the many private court reporting agencies throughout Colorado, including:
- Fort Collins Reporting, Fort Collins
- Denver Professional Court Reporting and Video
- Agren Blando Court Reporting and Video, Denver
Those agencies and others in the state may offer you opportunities beyond just legal transcription, however. One rapidly expanding outlet for real-time transcription skills is CART, or Communication Access Realtime Translation captioning. CART is the text captioning you see at the bottom of TVs in bars or in airports, reflecting what is being said on screen. Although initially intended for the hearing-impaired, it’s helpful for anyone in places with a lot of background noise. Real-time transcribers are responsible for producing that translation mid-broadcast, and work in other areas such as business presentations and public events for the same purpose.
Step 4. Stay Certified or Advance Your Certification For the Long Haul
Maintaining your RPR certification requires the completion of at least 3 continuing education credits every 3 years, which, naturally, you will have to maintain if you want to keep your job as a professional reporter with the state courts. The CVR requires 20 credits every two years. You can find a wealth of continuing education opportunities through the NCRA or NVRA.
The RPR is not the end of the line in Colorado courts, however. To advance to the top of the profession in the judicial system requires obtaining additional certification. Primarily this is the NCRA’s Certified Realtime Reporter (CRC) category, which will require you to take your skills to 200wpm in Q&A coverage with 96 percent accuracy. Other advanced certifications from the NCRA are also accepted, however, including:
- Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC)
- Certified CART Providers (CCP)
- Federal Certified Realtime Reporter (via the United States Court Reporters Association)
But it’s also a good idea to join your local professional society, which here in Colorado is theColorado Court Reporters Association (CCRA). For only $110 per year, you’ll not only find a wealth of continuing education opportunities, but you’ll also become immediately plugged in to a wide and experienced network of current court reporters and employers in the state. This leads to job opportunities while also keeping you abreast of the latest technological and legislative developments in the field.
Colorado Court Reporting Salary
As the fourth-highest paying state in the country for court reporters, the average position can be expected to pay about $73,660 per year, or $35.41 per hour in Colorado.
It’s a tremendously varied state both geographically and demographically, however, and the concentration of court reporting jobs reflects the reality that where there are more people, there are more legal cases. The Denver metro area, including Aurora and Lakewood, has the fifth highest employment level for court reporters in the country.
On the other hand, the salary levels in the Denver area are broadly reflective of the state averages for reporters at various levels of certification and experience. Those at the top end make $97,730 per year, but that is only $2,000 above the state average at the same qualifications.
That gives you a lot of options for where to base yourself, whether it’s the wide open plains, the big cities of the Front Range with all their amenities, or some small ski town up in the Rockies. You can expect a great pay rate no matter where you choose.
Annual Salaries For Court Reporters in Major Colorado Metropolitan Areas
Denver (including the Aurora/Lakewood areas)
- Median – $67,250
- More experienced – $85,430
- Certified and experienced – $97,730
Hourly Wages For Court Reporters in Major Colorado Metropolitan Areas
Denver (including the Aurora/Lakewood areas)
- Median – $32.33
- More experienced – $41.07
- Certified and experienced – $46.99
*Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2019. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which court reporters work. BLS salary data represents state and MSA (metropolitan statistical area) average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries.
2019 job growth projections from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment are aggregated through the U.S. Department of Labor-Sponsored resource, Projections Central. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
All salary and employment data accessed June 2020.