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Career Options & Training For Stay-At-Home Moms (& Dads)

What is a Scopist: The In-Demand Career No One’s Heard Of

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Question of the day - what is a scopist?

How can something you've never heard of be a great way to make a living working from home?

You'd be surprised how many lucrative career paths you don't know about yet. And more and more of them can be carried out without you even having to leave your front door.

What is a Scopist?

Does it make you think of snipers or hunting rifles? Well, rest assured, it's nothing like that.

Think courtrooms, witness testimony and court reporters. Simply put, a scopist edits legal documents for court reporters.

They check spelling and punctuation, translate into words what the reporter’s computer didn’t render, and make sure everything is in the proper format. All of this is done without changing or reordering a single word of testimony.

Scoping is not the same as proofreading court transcripts. Proofreading will occur after the editing – and the editing is where scopists come in. If you have experience in proofreading court transcripts, scoping is a scalable service to offer your clients, but you don’t need to have proofreading experience. What you will need to succeed is good training, which I’ll go on to discuss later.

What Does a Scopist Do?

Scopists do more than proofreading court reporters' transcripts.

A scopist’s work goes beyond simply proofreading court reporter transcripts. 

Essentially, a scopist is a transcript editor. Your job will be to take the raw transcript and complete the formatting and editing to create the finished version. Without your assistance, a court reporter might have to do this themselves. It would mean less time in court if they handled every transcript on their own. This makes you a valuable member of their team.

You will need to learn how to edit court documents according to the needs of the specific court reporter or reporters you’re working with.

Can I Work as a Remote Scopist?

In a word, yes.

As a matter of fact, scopists have always been remote workers.

Court reporters send assignments via the internet, just like work from home legal transcription. As a scopist, your job will be to handle these projects in the agreed-upon timeframe and return them to your client, also using the internet.

You can do online legal transcription, editing, and proofreading anywhere you have a secure internet connection and an Internet-capable computer outfitted with the proper software program. If you use a laptop and headphones, you can scope while traveling or somewhere other than home. Many scopists like to set up a home base.

Stay at home mom scoping a court reporter's transcript.

Do I Need a Scopist Certification to Work as a Scopist?

You will want high-quality training, such as that provided by the Internet Scoping School, as the foundation of your scoping career, but there is no certification required for scoping. 

It could be useful to begin by getting a legal transcription certification, which will help you develop your basic skills. You can then work as a certified legal transcriptionist, if you wish, providing income while you study scoping. However, it isn’t required to kickstart your scoping career. Generally, completing a respected scoping training program will show court reporters you have the knowledge you need.

And, of course, you will build upon your skills and reputation with each new client.

What Is the Typical Salary of a Scopist?

Typical scopist salaries vary depending on hours worked and turnaround time.

Typical scopist salaries vary depending on hours worked and turnaround time.
Since most scopists are freelancers, how much you can earn depends on a lot of different factors:

  • How much time you have to spend on scoping jobs.
  • How fast can you deliver them to the court reporter.
  • What kind of scoping job it is.

A brand new but well-trained scopist can earn $30k a year. The same scopist with more experience can earn $50k and up (for regular turn around work). It’s possible to earn more if you want to work full-time hours once you’re an experienced scopist.

Beginner scopists tend to charge between $1.10/ $1.25 per page on a typical five-day turnaround. Prices for same-day turnaround can be twice as high. As you gain experience, you’ll be able to raise your per-page rates.

As you get faster, you might be more comfortable taking jobs with a quick turnaround. These pay more, so you can make better pay for the same amount of work. The highest-paying scoping jobs require same-day turnaround, so you’ll need a good deal of flexibility to accept them.

Do You Work A Lot of Hours as a Scopist?

Scopists and legal transcriptionists decide how many hours of work they want to take on. Possibilities range from an occasional project to more than full-time, and projects might range from immediate turnaround to taking most of a week.

Since scopists are in high demand, how much you work is up to you. Consider the following:

  • How much can you work?
  • What are your goals?
  • What does the rest of your life look like?

Once you have the answers to these questions, it’s easier to decide how much or little you want to work. Even better, scoping is a career that allows you to take on more or less work as your circumstances change.

Scopist vs Proofreader: What is the Difference between a Scopist and a Proofreader?

Scopist vs. proofreader - both are important parts of a court reporter's team.

Proofreaders revise formatted transcripts to catch any final errors that slip through before a transcript is submitted as part of the official procedure records.

A scopist formats the rough transcript and fixes errors with spelling and punctuation using computer-assisted translation software designed for court reporters and scopists.

Both are essential parts of a court reporter's team.

Of course, some people do both scoping and proofreading. While a course in legal transcript proofreading will help you learn how to spot errors in the documents you handle, it won’t be as in-depth as a course designed specifically for scoping.

What Are The Best Scopist Training Options?

Scopist, legal transcription, and legal document proofreading training are available through in-person or online learning. If you’re looking for in-person training, check your local colleges, continuing education programs, or court reporting professional organizations.

You can also find a variety of scoping and legal transcription courses online. When compared with in-person college courses, they are incredibly affordable. Considering that these are remote work jobs themselves, online training courses to learn the skills makes perfect sense.

For scoping, you’ll get training in formatting and revising rough transcripts to be sure your transcripts are clean. But you’ll also need to know other things, like how to use computer-assisted translation programs. These are essential to court reporting and scoping.

Check out these free introductory courses below that I personally recommend. These mini-courses are right for you if you’re still not quite sure if this is the best career for you. They’re a great way to get an idea of what it’s really like:

Legal transcriptionist training is one option for online learning.
  • Internet Scoping School’s free Intro to Scoping Mini-Course gives you the basics in a seven-day course. By the time you reach the end, you’ll know whether scoping is for you!
  • Transcription Foundations from Transcribe Anywhere gives you a peek into life as a transcriptionist in this one-week mini-course.
  • Proofread Anywhere’s free 7-day e-course includes printables, templates, and case studies designed to help you decide if a career in proofreading is for you. 

If you’re ready to invest in a full course, each of these courses is highly rated. Not only have I reviewed each of them, but I’ve also spoken to former students too. So I know that you’ll get what you need to have a successful career.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Scopist?

Be prepared to spend three to eight months learning how to be a scopist, depending on the training you choose and how much time you have to devote to it. There’s a lot to learn, including the CAT software and some knowledge of stenography.

Many newly trained scopists find work as soon as they complete their training and begin looking for clients. If you choose to become a legal transcriptionist to fund your scoping training or offer more services, you can expect to spend about four months of training for that job.

How Do I Find a Scoping Job?

Once you have completed your training, there are many ways to find scoping jobs:

  •  Become a member of online communities or registries where court reporters or scopists with too much work on their hands can find you. This can be a good approach because the potential clients know they are hiring well-trained scopists.
  • Search job boards for court transcript proofreader jobs, transcription jobs, and scopist jobs. There are specific boards for these, as well as more general job boards.
  •  Use a LinkedIn page to find scoping, transcription, or court proofreader work from home. If you don’t have one, consider creating one for free.   
  • Offer your services on freelance sites like Fiverr.
  •  Go old-school.  Lookup court reporters or other busy scopists and pitch your services directly to them.

This is an excellent time to remember that scoping is an in-demand job. If one way of finding clients isn’t working, try another. You’ll find the right fit for you.

How Do I Become a Proofreader for Scopist?

You can do court proofreader work from home - or anywhere else you have an internet connection.

You can do court proofreader work from home – or anywhere else you have an internet connection.

A scopist assures the original steno taken by the court reporter translates correctly and cleans up formatting problems. While they will probably do some proofreading along the way, that’s not their primary job. That means that the scoped transcript will need final proofreading. Proofreading is another service you can offer. You might choose to start as a legal document proofreader before becoming a scopist, or you might add it to your scoping skills to increase your value to clients.

If you want to know how to become a scopist proofreader, an excellent approach is to take a course. Proofreading transcripts is more technical than general proofreading. If you choose a high-quality course, you can expect to finish in 2-4 months of consistent effort. While proofreading requires less specialized knowledge than scoping, this is still an in-demand field.

Once you’ve finished your training, many of the same approaches scopists use to find work will help you, too. Check out job boards, put out the word, join a professional organization, and update (or create) your LinkedIn page. All of these are good options.

Your Questions Answered by Professional Scopists 

Ok, let’s ask some real scopists what they think about their work in their own words.

In our researching and reviewing of scopist programs, we've spoken with many successful and experienced scopists about everything you could ever want to know about becoming one. We've taken excerpts from those discussions and added them here to help you quickly get an idea of the everyday life of a scopist.