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How to Become a Scopist

Learning how to become a scopist can be easy. It also can be difficult. And it can be in between. How quickly you’ll be able to learn depends on your innate abilities, the effort you put into learning, and the training method you choose. In this article I’ve written up details about several personal characteristics and skill sets, six training methods as well as three pieces of tech and gear that you’ll need to become a scopist. So here we go.

(Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to you I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.)

FIRST, WHAT IS A SCOPIST?

Scopists have been around since the 1980’s, but most people have never heard of this job and even fewer know what it is that scopists do.  Here is a comprehensive answer to the question what is a scopist.

In short, a scopist is a person who creates final transcripts of trials, depositions and other proceedings, both legal and non-legal, which are typed onto a steno machine by a court reporter. After each proceeding, the court reporter will send a rough draft of the transcript along with its audio recording to a scopist, who then listens to the spoken words while reading through and polishing up the written words to ensure that the final written transcript is completely accurate and has correct spellings, punctuation and formatting. Scopists are self-employed freelancers. They do not work for court reporters; they work for themselves. Scoping is a location-independent job, which means that as a scopist you can work anywhere in the world. And scopists can make very good money.

I’ve written up 10 of the most important things I’ve learned about working for myself as a scopist. If you want a copy, click here to contact me, and I’ll send it to you right away.

Woman in neon looking at camera and thinking how do I become a scopist?

Helpful Personal Characteristics for Scopists

Just like any job, scoping is perfectly suited for some people but is not for everyone. If you have the following qualities, you could be a good scopist and might like it as well.

You Are Good At:

Typing
Listening
Spelling
Punctuation
(grammar skills are not necessary)

You Like:

Working on computers
Working alone
Crossword puzzles and other word games
Technology

You Want To:

Work at home
Work wherever you want
Be self employed
Freelance
Travel

You Have:

Knowledge of medical and/or legal and/or technical terminology
Experience working in a law firm or some other legal setting
Good eyesight
Good hearing

Bonus Points If You Are:

Detail oriented
A wordsmith
Greatly annoyed by misuse of its, it’s, there, their and they’re

Words in random arrangment in neon colors for how to become a scopist

6 WAYS TO LEARN HOW TO BECOME A SCOPIST

I have organized the following six ways to learn how to become a scopist from most common to least common based on a May 2018 Facebook poll I took in which 209 people responded.

1. Learn From a Court Reporter or Scopist

(34 percent of scopists polled received their training from court reporters or scopists)

All court reporters know how to scope, as scoping their own transcripts is a big part of their job. They use court reporting software, which is more involved than but has the same functionality as scoping software. If you know a court reporter, you can ask them if they’d be willing and able to train you on how to become a scopist on their software program. Likewise, if you know a scopist, you can ask them to train you.

Unique Pros of Learning from a Court Reporter or Scopist

One-on-one training
Low cost or no cost
Will learn the fundamentals of scoping

Unique Cons of Learning from a Court Reporter or Scopist

No option as to which software you buy, as you will need the same software as your court reporter or scopist trainer
Will not have the comprehensive, quality education offered by scoping courses

2. Take Online Scopist Training

(24 percent of scopists polled received their training from online scopist schools)

Scopist training programs are the most comprehensive and in-depth way to learn how to become a scopist. You can obtain official scopist training through both online courses and brick and mortar institutions.

Studying online is becoming more and more popular and common for many reasons. One reason is because this means of learning can be very effective. There are three online scopist schools which specifically teach people how to become scopists, two of which want to be mentioned in this article.

BeST Scoping Techniques – This online authorized scopist training program is owned and operated by Judy Rakocinski and Cathy Knox, who together have over 40 years of scoping experience.

BeST Scoping Techniques offers:

Training on more than one scoping software program
Online networking group
Lifetime access to trainers and some coursework

Internet Scoping School – This online scoping school is owned and operated by Linda Evenson, who has over 35 years experience as a scopist.

Internet Scoping School offers:

Lifetime access to future bonuses and updates
Lifetime access to private scopist students Facebook group
Several payment plans

Unique Pros of Online Scopist Schools

Specifically geared to scopists
Comprehensive and in-depth training
Courses developed and taught by scopists
Official scopist school training could help attract court reporter clients

Unique Cons of Online Scopist Schools

Online scopist training can cost around $2,500
Complete training can take several months to complete

ISS Mini Course

3. Train Yourself

(24 percent of scopists polled are self taught)

It is possible to teach yourself how to do many things. It is also often better to let someone else teach you some things. You can possibly teach yourself how to become a scopist by simply buying scoping software, reading the accompanying user’s manual, and just doing it. This may sound like the easiest way to train as a scopist, but because you would be going it alone it could actually very likely be the hardest. Legal transcripts are very important documents, and it is very important to transcribe them correctly. You need to have a solid understanding of how to scope before you start doing it. There is a lot more to learn than just how to use the software.

Unique Pros of Training Yourself

Free
Self paced

Unique Cons of Training Yourself

No foundation – you won’t learn why you need to do what you are doing
Teaching yourself can be difficult, inefficient, time consuming and incomplete
Training will be very sparse compared to other scopists’ training
Miss out on learning scoping software program commands, transcript formatting, typical court reporter preferences and other things that make scoping go quickly and efficiently and give court reporter clients a quality product

4. Be a Court Reporter

(12 percent of scopists polled received their training in court reporting school)

All court reporters know how to be scopists because scoping their own transcripts is a big part of their job. So if you’re currently in court reporting school or you’re thinking about becoming a court reporter, realize that as a court reporter or even a student, you will have the skills necessary to be a scopist. All you’ll have to do is get your name out there so people will hire you to do your work. You have already done the rest.

Unique Pros of Scoping as a Court Reporter

Effortless – all court reporters know how to scope transcripts
Ability to switch back and forth from court reporting to scoping when you want or need
Potentially more clients because of your court reporter credentials

Unique Cons of Scoping as a Court Reporter

Probable drop in income due to lower per-page rate
Potential difficulty in adjusting to only scoping and no court reporting

5. Learn Through a Combination of Methods

(4 percent of scopists polled received their training by using a combination of methods)

Sometimes no one way is the best. It might take two ways. To learn how to become a scopist you can use a combination of methods. For example, you could teach yourself some things and line up a scopist or court reporter to help in other areas and answer questions you have. Or could you can take a scoping class or two at a brick and mortar school, then train yourself all the rest of the way. Or any other combination of methods.

Unique Pros of Learning Through a Combination of Methods

Training will cost only as much as the courses you want to pay for
Partially self paced

Unique Cons of Learning Through a Combination of Methods

Might not be as thorough as formal scopist training programs or learning from someone else
Spotty – Possible to miss important aspects of training by the inconsistency of multiple learning methods

6. Study at a Brick and Mortar School

(2 percent of scopists polled received their training from brick and mortar schools)

Studying at traditional brick and mortar institutions gives you an education as well as an educational experience that you can’t get by any other means. There are no physical schools which have dedicated scoping training programs. But there are community colleges that award court reporting degrees which also have courses on how to become a scopist. If you happen to live near one, this is an option for you.

A Couple of the Brick and Mortar Schools for Scoping are:

Baton Rouge, Louisiana – Baton Rouge School of Court Reporting

Saratoga, California – West Valley College 

Unique Pros of Studying at Brick and Mortar Scoping Schools

In-person networking opportunities with current, past and future court reporter and scopists
Hands-on help and advice from teachers and students

Unique Cons of Studying at Brick and Mortar Scoping Schools

If you don’t live near one of these schools, this is not an option for you
Time and effort spent in transiting to and from the school
Must take classes when they’re offered

(Fun fact – Scoping is sometimes called scopistry but scopists are never called scopitrists)

 

Neon launchpad for how to become a scopist

Tech and Gear for Scopists

Scopists need stuff in order to scope. Not a lot of stuff, but stuff. There are two tech items you must have, one piece of gear you should have, and many others items you can have if you want to make your work life easier and more enjoyable.

Must-Have Tech for Scopists

The two must-have items in order to work as a scopist are scoping software and a computer.

Scoping software is the biggest expense you will have as a scopist. But this is a one-time expense, you have to have it and, once you have it you can earn good money with it.

There are several companies that produce and sell court reporting software and supplies, and these companies also sell software for scopists. Because the job of a scopist is not as involved as the job of a court reporter, the scopist version of these software programs is much less expensive than the full court reporter version.

The costs of scopist software varies, but it does cost around $1,500, an expense which can be offset by the money you earn as a scopist.

What software you want to buy depends not so much on what software you think sounds best for you, but what software you think can help you get the most work and, therefore, the most income.

There are two primary court reporting software brands and several smaller brands. The two biggest brands are the two I have listed first in this article.

A benefit of buying from one of the bigger brands is that you will have the potential for a lot of clients because so many court reporters use the big brand software. However, you will also have a lot of competition from other scopists using this same software. If you buy from one of the smaller software companies, you will likely not run into many other scopists using the same software, so court reporters who do use that software will probably be happy to find you.

Scoping Software – Top 5 Brands

Stenograph – Stenograph is a well-known software company which offers scopist software with features especially valuable to scopists, as well as proofreaders, to help make working on transcripts go as smoothly and quickly as possible.

EclipseCAT – This software is good for court reporting students because if you buy the scopist version and later decide to purchase certain of their court reporting versions, you’ll get a 100% credit for what you already paid as long as you have a current support agreement.

StenoCAT – Unlike other software programs, you not only can buy StenoCAT, you can lease it on a yearly basis.

ProCAT – ProCAT is a well-known court reporting software company which has been around since 1982. Although not specifically listed on their website, ProCAT does have a scopist version, with one year of support and updates included.

DigitalCAT – Stenovations, the company which sells this software, says that “scopists using StenoCAT report that our product is easier to learn than any software they had used in the past.” If you want to inquire about their scopist software, you must call them at (304) 346-8363

(Fun Fact: The “CAT” in court reporter and scopist software products stands for Computer Aided Transcription.)

Computers for Scopists

The only other tech product you must have in order to work as a scopist is, of course, is a computer which, of course, you already have.

Because scopist software and scopist school (if you choose that method of learning) can be expensive, I’m listing some inexpensive computers here to offset those costs.

Of course you use computers for almost everything, so when you invest in a good computer you will be buying not only on a product for your work but a product for your life.

In case you want and can afford a computer solely devoted to your work, or if you just need a new computer, I have researched and am listing here two desktops and four laptops. The only computers I’ve used in my life are HP and Dell (and IBM back in the day) so because I don’t personally know anything about any other computer brand I will mention here only HP and Dell. These brands work great with scoping software and in general. The following computers I have chosen based on cost as well as positive independent reviews.

I’ve categorized these computers into desktops, laptops and lightweight laptops with one HP and one Dell in each category. They range in price from $250 to $470.

Purple neon desktop computer for people who want to become a scopist

 

DESKTOP COMPUTERS FOR SCOPISTS

HP destop computer

Dell desktop computer

LAPTOP COMPUTERS FOR SCOPISTS

HP laptop computer

Dell laptop computer

LIGHTWEIGHT LAPTOPS FOR TRAVELING AND WORKING

More and more people are getting into working while traveling, and if that is the case for you (or you hope might be the case someday for you), you may want a smaller and lighter-weight computer, a laptop of course. Here are two laptops under $270 which are good for traveling as a scopist.

HP travel laptop

Dell travel laptop

Must-Have Gear for Scopists

The one piece of must-have gear for scopists is audio gear. When scoping transcripts you need not only to hear the testimony, you need to hear it well. Most scopists prefer headphones in order to listen to testimony, although external speakers can work as well.

Headphones for Scopists

Noise canceling headphones are by far the most popular headphones with scopists. Specifically, many scopists recommend and buy Bose noise canceling headphones – either the Bose wireless headphones or the Bose in-ear headphones.

Bose Noise Canceling Headphones for Scopists

Bose Quiet Comfort wireless noise canceling headphones

Bose Quiet Comfort acoustic noise-canceling headphones for scopists

Bose Quiet Comfort acoustic noise-canceling headphones

 

Headphones for scopists need not be expensive, though. Some other examples of headphones are:

Vogek headphones for scopists

Vogek On-Ear Headphones with Mic

Vogek headphones

Ailhen headphones for scopists

Ailihen Folding Lightweight Headphones

Ailihen headphones

Edifier Headphones for Scopists

Edifier Hi-Fi Over-Ear Noise-Isolating Headphones

Edfier headphones

I compiled a list of the most popular headphones (and foot pedals) for scopists, which will give you some more excellent ideas of what to choose.

Speakers for Scopists

If you have other things that you need to hear while you’re working, such as your phone, doorbell or kids, or you simply don’t like the idea of wearing headphones, you might prefer speakers instead. Here are three speakers suitable for scopists, under $35.00.

Reccazr speakers for scopists

Reccazr Surround Computer Speakers with Deep Bass USB

Reccazr speakers

DOSS Touch Wireless Bluetooth Portable Speaker for Scopists

DOSS Touch Wireless Bluetooth V4.0 Portable Speaker

DOSS speakers

Anker Bluetooth Speaker for Scopists

Anker SoundCore Bluetooth Speaker

Anker speakers

Foot Pedals for Scopists

Many scopists choose to use foot pedals to help them do their jobs. Foot pedals allow you to focus on typing on your keyboard while your feet control the audio speed as well as reversing and fast forwarding when necessary.  Foot pedals are not completely necessary in order to be a scopist, but they are very popular with scopists and they do help a lot.

The most popular foot pedal for scopists is the Infinity USB foot pedal. In fact, I conducted a Facebook poll in 2018 in which all scopists who use a stand-alone foot pedal said the Infinity USB Digital Foot Pedal is the one they use.

Infinity USB Digital Foot Pedal for Scopists

Infinity USB Digital Foot Pedal

Headphones/Foot Pedal/Audio Software Bundle

For a long time I’ve heard scopists talk about using Express Scribe, also called XScribe. This is a very popular combination of headphones and foot pedal (and audio software if you need it) to help you do your work quickly and efficiently. In the Facebook poll I conducted in 2018, I learned that all scopists who use any type of headphone/foot pedals bundle at all use the Express Scribe headphones/foot pedal/audio software bundle.

Express Scribe Pro Transcription Kit for Scopists

Express Scribe Pro Transcription Kit

If you would like more information about tools of the trade and resources for scopists – as well as proofreaders, transcriptionists and court reporters –  you can refer to my frequently updated Resources Page.

And that’s it! If you want to become a scopist, you can do it. Welcome to the World of Scopists!

(What about you? Do you have any ideas about how to get started working as a scopist? Please share in the comments below!)

Written by Sabina Leigh – World of Scopists

Sabina Leigh

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This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Sabina,

    I recently ended a contract with a political action committee (Nov. 6). It was a great job, and I have experience as a researcher, writer, proofreader and editor.

    A few years ago I began South Coast College’s court reporting program but quit after I hit “the wall” at 130 wpm. I went directly into it’s paralegal program and obtained a paralegal degree, but most firms won’t pay new paralegals a survivable wage in Orange County, CA. (Definitely something I should have considered prior to enrolling in anything – especially with a student loan on my back!)

    I’ve looked at Caitlin Pyle’s highly-touted transcript proofreading course, but I don’t have ANY money. I also contemplated scoping during my court-reporting days, but didn’t pursue it.

    So, what – given my background, with both proofreading and court reporting – would you suggest I do that is the most economic, but something that won’t take forever to learn?

    I will appreciate your answer and enjoy the blog!

    Jim

  2. (Sorry – I went directly to the bottom of the page, not realizing that you list several resources here that may answer the questions I’ve asked in my post! Thanks!)

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