There are currently 410 actively employed court reporters in Minnesota, including both stenographic reporters and voice writers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that number will increase six percent, or to 440 jobs, by 2018. You can expect to spend two to four years training to become a stenographic court reporter. Although there are no licensing requirements in Minnesota, you will need an associate degree or certificate in court reporting.
The following steps are common among those interested in becoming a court reporters in Minnesota:
|Earn a Court Reporter Degree or Certificate in Minnesota|
|Decide Between Official and Freelance Court Reporting|
|Consider Becoming Certified|
A recent job opening for a court reporter in Minnesota’s First Judicial District offered an hourly salary of $19.70 to $21.17, which translates to an annual salary of $39,936 to $44,070, based on a 40-hour week. There is considerable wage variation depending on geographic location and degree of competition. Annual median court reporter salaries in different Minnesota cities are reported as follows:
- Minneapolis and St. Paul – $54,100
- Eden Prairie, Lakeville and Minnetonka – $54,100
- St. Cloud – $52,170
- Duluth – $49,561
- Rochester – $48,935
Step 1. Earn a Court Reporter Degree or Certificate
The 70-credit-hour judicial reporter courses offered in Minnesota generally takes two years to complete although additional time might be needed to bring your typing speed up to the minimum requirement of 225 words per minute (wpm). You will spend considerable time learning to write effectively on a real-time stenotype system. A remedial English class may be a prerequisite depending upon your placement test score.
- English (writing, grammar, spelling)
- Business Law
- Computer Technology
- Machine Shorthand Theory
- Legal and Medical Terminology
- Courtroom proceedings and practices
A great deal of emphasis is placed on increasing typing speed. Programs also incorporate both a mandatory summer session and completion of an internship that must incorporate 40 verified hours of writing.
In addition to the right education and training, you will need certain abilities and skills in order to be a successful court reporter, including sharp hearing, finger dexterity, good proofreading skills, ability to concentrate and excellent grammar/spelling.
Step 2. Decide Between “Official” and Freelance Court Reporting
Court reports are employed by federal, state and local courts, court reporting agencies or law offices. Court reporters who work directly for the court system are called “official” court reporters. The three branches of the Minnesota judicial system are:
- Supreme Court
- Court of Appeals
- District (Trial) Courts
The Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals are part of the Minnesota Judicial Center located in St. Paul, Minnesota’s capital city. District courts include criminal and civil trial courts as well as such specialized courts as drug, truancy, traffic or divorce courts. There are district courts in all of Minnesota’s 87 counties; they are divided into 10 judicial districts which cover a different number of counties depending on population figures. The Fourth District Court is the most populous. Although it covers only one county, it includes Minneapolis and handles over 800,000 cases a year, enough to keep many court reporters busy! The state’s second and third largest cities, St. Paul and Rochester, are in the second and third districts respectively.
In accordance with 2013 Minnesota statutes, a judge may appoint a specific court reporter to serve whenever that judge is presiding. This court reporter also acts as the judge’s secretary in all matters related to official duties. Official court reporters must post a $2,000 bond which is filed (along with the oath of office) with the court administrator. Open jobs and applications for all Minnesota courts are described on the state court system employment website.
You can also elect to be a freelance court reporter which has the advantages of greater autonomy and a more flexible work schedule but the disadvantage of a less dependable income. Freelance reporters can either work for a court reporting firm or on their own. There are approximately 50 court reporting firms located in 15 Minnesota cities; 18 of these firms are in Minneapolis. Freelance court reporters usually work as individual contractors but sign a business agreement with the firm. Contact the individual agencies for employment prospects.
It is better not to hang out your own shingle until you have several years experience in the state and have established a network of business relationships. Freelance reporters who work on their own are hired by a variety of legal, corporate or civic clients to record such activities as:
- Municipal Hearings
- Board Meetings
Step 3. Consider Obtaining NCRA Certification
Minnesota does not require NCRA or NVRA certification; however, it is an option.
The NCRA (National Court Reporters Association) was founded in 1899 to advance the court reporting profession. Although it is headquartered in Vienna, Virginia, its affiliate, the Minnesota Association of Verbatim Reporters and Captioners (MAVRC), is located in Marshall, MN. MAVRC membership is open to all active or retired Minnesota court reporters and students. Both the NCRA and the MAVRC hold conventions, conferences, educational seminars and other events. They also advance professional standards and lobby political bodies to promote certified court reporter legislation.
There are three NCRA certifications, each representing a higher level of achievement:
- Registered Professional Reporter (RPR)
- Registered Merit Reporter (RMR)
- Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR)
Examinations for the first level (RPR) are offered twice a year in April and November. The city of Anoka is the site of the examination in Minnesota. It is essential that you register well in advance in order to be assured of a place. The exam includes both a written and a skills test. Certification increases your credibility as a court reporter and serves as an acknowledgment of your skill and professionalism. Twenty-two states currently accept NCRA certification in place of state or licensing examinations.
The National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA), headquartered in Hattiesburg, MS, is the national voice for voice writers. The organization provides voice reporters with many of the same opportunities and benefits, including testing and certification, as the NCRA does for stenotype reporters. Testing for a Registered Verbatim Reporter Certificate of Merit is offered at various times and in different locations throughout the country. Check the NVRA testing schedule to find out when testing will be offered in Minnesota, or call the home office at 601-582-4345.
Minnesota Court Reporting Salary
The field of court reporting is growing both nationally and in Minnesota. The state’s Department of Employment & Economic Development projects a 13% increase in the number of jobs from 2010 to 2020. Slightly more than half of these jobs are projected to become available due to the need to replace professionals who are leaving the workforce.
This department provides a projection of the increase in the number of court reporter jobs throughout Minnesota. The percent increase projected is listed below:
- Central Minnesota – 17.4%
- Northeast Minnesota – 24.2%
- Northwest Minnesota – 16.4%
- Seven County Minneapolis-St. Paul – 10.5%
Employment and salary information for court reporters in Minnesota is available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The Twin Cities area had the tenth highest employment level of any metropolitan area in the country in 2012. Sixty percent of the state’s court reporters were located in this area.
The 2012 salaries of court reporters in the state are listed below:
The following positions for the Minnesota Judicial Branch paid from $40,976 to $64,875 in 2013:
- Official Court Reporter
- Official Stenographer Court Reporter
In addition to working for the state of Minnesota, a large number of court reporters work for private firms that provide court reporting services to attorneys and businesses that seek this type of expertise. Some of the court reporting firms in Minnesota are listed below:
- Ask, Trondson & Smith, Inc.
- Benchmark Reporting Agency
- Braden Undeland Reporting
- Northwestern Court Reporters
- Paradigm Court Reporting & Captioning
- Twin West Court Reporting
The BLS provides a breakdown of the salaries of all court reporters in the Twin Cities area in the following table: