What It Takes To Be A Scopist

Like most people, scoping wasn’t one of the featured jobs at my school’s Career Day. I hadn’t even heard the word “scopist” until my required scoping classes in court reporting school. It wasn’t long before I decided scoping was the career for me. I loved being able to listen to interesting cases and learn new words, obsessing over correct grammar and punctuation. Plus, Words with Friends wasn’t paying the bills.

If you stumbled upon this page and have no idea what a scopist is, you can read about the profession in Part 1, Scoping: A Work-From-Home Career.

For now, though, I’m going to assume you know a little bit about scoping or have at least read my previous article. Let’s take a look at what it takes to be a scopist and help you decide if it’s the right career choice for you.

Skills You Need to Be a Successful Scopist

We’ll start with some basic skills you’ll need in scoping. While you can develop these skills, you’ll likely have a hard time if you don’t already identify with several of them.

1. Obsessed With Grammar and Punctuation

A huge part of scoping is making sure grammar and punctuation are correct. If you’re not likely to engage in spirited debates regarding the use of the Oxford comma, and if billboard typos don’t annoy you, you will probably have a hard time being a scopist.

2. Mental Toughness

This career may be difficult for you if you’re too empathetic or sensitive. You will hear cases that are downright disturbing at times. If you love CSI or Criminal Minds, scoping might be an interesting career path for you.

3. Ability to Handle the Pressure of Tight Deadlines and Last-Minute Demands

This basically means putting everything else on hold when you have a deadline. Flexibility is key to being successful in this business. There is good money to be had in same-day turnarounds, but it will require sacrifice.

4. Self-discipline

I’ll be honest, sometimes there are days where I just don’t feel like scoping. However, deadlines still have to be met and work still has to be completed. If you struggle with self-motivation, scoping may not be for you. Just like any job, your time management skills will also be put to the test. For instance, you will have to calculate how long it will take you to finish jobs and when you will be available to accept more work. As you become more experienced, you will also have to balance multiple clients.

5. Comfortable Working Alone

You will need complete focus and background silence to ensure transcripts are scoped to the best of your ability.
You won’t have the luxury of listening to music or talking to people during this process. It’s just you and your computer.
Since almost all of your time will be spent in front of a computer, I would highly recommend investing in a treadmill or gym membership if you decide this is the career for you.

6. Basic Business Understanding

At the end of the day, you will be running a business and you must treat it like one.  Make sure you understand the basics of running a freelance business before taking the leap into scoping.

What Software Do I Need To Become a Scopist?

In order to begin working, you must purchase specialized CAT (computer-aided transcription) software.
When it comes to deciding on software, there are a few options to choose from (Case CATalyst, Eclipse, StenoCat, TurboCat, DigitalCAT, ProCAT), but the two that are most widely used are Case CATalyst and Eclipse.

There are some scopists who use two software programs so they can take advantage of more jobs, but this is not recommended for new scopists.

Both Case CATalyst and Eclipse will run you $1,595 for the scopist/editor software version.

Check out their websites below for more information:

Other Necessary Equipment
  • Internet connection
  • Good-quality headphones
  • Reliable laptop or computer
Extras
  • An office chair with back support
  • Ergonomic keyboard

Do I Need To Go To School For This?

Scoping is a freelancing profession, and there is no official certification required to become a scopist. However, it’s no easy task to acquire all the information you need without proper training. A good training program teaches grammar and punctuation, stenography, transcript production, and the ins and outs of running a freelance business. In addition, I would also recommend buying Morson’s English Guide for Court Reporters and checking out MargieHoldsCourt.com. You cannot be an effective scopist without a powerful command of the English language.

Online School Options:

If you’re interested, Internet Scoping School has a great FREE Intro to Scoping Mini-Course.

 

Is Scoping a Growing Industry?

There is currently a high demand for excellent scopists, but it’s important to note that this is a very competitive industry. Credibility is essential to being successful in this field. Why? Because it’s a small industry and a bad reputation could ruin you.

Plus, scoping has a high turnover rate. Many scopists come and go due to a myriad of factors. Court reporters are often looking to replace their scopists who decided to retire, move to other careers, or weren’t meeting their needs. There is a large pool of scopists who are under-trained and return transcripts filled with errors or struggle to meet deadlines. Scopists like this will find it difficult to get repeat work.

If you’re willing to work in this competitive environment and find great reporters, you will be well on your way to building your clientele base. And excellent scopists tend to have more work than they can handle.

How Much Can I Make?

This is a difficult question to answer because income can vary quite a bit depending on the person.

Some factors that can greatly affect your income are:

  • Years of experience
  • How many hours you’re willing to work
  • How comfortable you are with your software
  • Typing speed – While typing speed is not nearly as important as your scoping accuracy, it’s still recommended that you type at least 50 WPM.
  • The quality of writing you receive from your client
  • The type of turnaround requested – A 1-day turnaround is normally double the normal page rate, and experienced scopists make $1,000-$2,000 per week on this type of expedited work.
  • The denseness of said job – Page-to-page colloquy (conversations between the judge and attorneys) is usually more time-consuming than Q&A.

All that aside, you’re probably thinking, “Natalie, just give me some numbers.” So here they are:  Within six months to a year, full-time scopists can expect to make around $2,000 a month. As you become more experienced and your clientele grows, it’s possible to make $2,000 in a week.

How Long Before I Can Make Money?

Online scoping programs offer self-paced courses. The average course is around three to six months, but the time it takes to complete can vary from person to person.

The hardest parts will be learning how to read stenography, mastering your software, and honing your English skills. Dedicate extra time to learning these three things, and you’ll cut your time in half. As soon as you finish your training, you can begin marketing your services.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a scopist has fairly low startup costs and can have you making money in less than a year.

But before you dive in and spend your hard-earned cash, consider shadowing court reporters and scopists in your area. It’s a great way to gauge your interest in the industry and will you save you money if you decide scoping isn’t for you.

Scoping is a fascinating profession, and more and more people are becoming intrigued by it every day. But whichever route you choose, I hope this helps you make an informed decision about entering the scoping field.

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4 Comments
  1. January 2, 2016
  2. April 2, 2017