Frequently Asked Questions About Scoping
| What exactly is a scopist?
The word "scopist" is derived from the first computers, which had a diode scope or screen. Simply stated, a scopist's job is to edit transcripts written by court reporters on stenotype machines into readable, easily understood English. The official NCRA definition is: "A scopist is one who edits a transcript translated by CAT (Computer-Aided Transcription) software into English, correcting mistrans/untrans of steno notes, employing proper punctuation, English, and format." So there you have it in a nutshell! Inherent in this definition are two basic skills: Good English/punctuation, and the ability to read machine shorthand. People who make successful scopists have an aptitude for and enjoy
working with words, are good spellers and have a good vocabulary. They must be highly motivated self-starters, capable of meeting deadlines, researching elusive spellings, dedicated to spending long hours in front of a computer and producing meticulous and accurate transcripts.
As independent contractors, scopists must also be able to handle their own billing and accounts receivable, preparatory tax paperwork, and withhold and pay applicable state and federal taxes. A successful scopist will always be seeking ways to improve his skills and his mastery of the ever-changing English language. He must also possess keyboarding and computer skills, learn to troubleshoot software and hardware problems, and keep up with the rapid-pace advancements in the computer industry and in court reporting software.
How do I know if I would be a successful scopist?
Do you enjoy working crossword puzzles and cryptograms? Are you an avid reader? When you write, do you search for just the right word to express your intent? When you see an unfamiliar word, do you like to look it up? Did you always get good grades in English and on papers you wrote for various classes?
These are all signs of a person who would probably be a successful scopist. A scopist must have an underlying aptitude for language and grammar, just as a CPA needs strong math skills. If you would like to test your word skills to ascertain whether you have the underlying skills to successfully pursue a scoping career, please take a few minutes to complete our Word Skills Test.
Is the scoping profession a viable career?
This is the best time ever to be a scopist! Every year when we attend convention, we see a greater number of reporters seeking scopists. They just can't keep up with the demands placed on them by the reporting profession and do all their own editing as well. More and more reporters are using realtime technology, which is an instantaneous translation of their steno notes into English. As they watch their shorthand translate, reporters are driven to change their writing so that every word translates correctly. This simplifies the scopist's job and allows us to produce more pages per hour than ever before, which translates into a higher income than was previously possible.
Is certification available for scopists?
At this point in time, NCRA has not instituted professional certification/continuing education credits for scopists since, like many organizations, they have been in a budget crunch. However, they may be “back in the black,” and we have spoken to past/present presidents of the association who have assured us scopist certification is still an important issue to NCRA. So at some point we believe there will be an actual professional exam given, like the exams reporters take, that will allow scopists to put a “CPS” (Certified Professional Scopist) designation after their names, just as reporters do.
Will the training I receive from ISS be adequate for me to pass a certification exam?
Linda served on the Scopist Certification Subcommittee that wrote the first exam, which is waiting to be given when funding is allocated. Their first task was to define the skills and knowledge a scopist needs to possess, and that document is called “The Scopist Job Analysis,” an NCRA document. When Linda wrote the ISS course, she ensured that all topics contained in that document were covered in this course, thereby assuring that ISS graduates will have all information they need to pass this important professional exam.
What is the future of the scoping profession?
In the highly litigious atmosphere in which we live, court reporters seem to be getting busier and busier. Whereas many often edited their own transcripts, their workload is becoming so heavy that they are being forced to seek the help of professional scopists. We regularly receive several contacts per month from reporters looking for scopists, whereas that number used to be a few per year. The present ratio of scopists to court reporters is thought to be about 1 to 500. We consider those pretty good odds!
Will electronic recording make scopist obsolete?
We have for years heard speculation that electronic recording will replace the court reporter and eliminate the need for scopists. While electronic recording is said to be less expensive, someone will still need to be there to run the computer and be responsible for the production of an accurate transcript - a court reporter; and someone will still need to proofread the transcript and correct errors - a scopist. And remember, the best computer in the world cannot rival the human brain, which is capable of distinguishing minute subtleties that a computer can't. So are we worried? Nope! For more info on the electronic recording debate, visit www.ncraonline.org and click on "Issues & Advocacy."
How much does a scopist make?
A beginning scopist is much slower at editing than his experienced peers and must establish a clientele to provide him with the desired amount of pages. In his first year a scopist may only earn $8,000 to $12,000, but as he builds his client roster and establishes himself with better writers, an income of $30,000 to $40,000 is possible. A realistic figure for a scopist working full-time, with a fairly steady inflow of work, is probably in the $30,000 to $35,000 range and increasing.
What is CAT software?
CAT (Computer-Aided Transcription) software is a special court reporting program that translates steno notes into English. The reporter enters into her dictionary different words, then the computer matches her steno notes to those dictionary entries. Any words that are written differently than those in the dictionary, or words that have not been programmed in yet, the scopist is responsible to try to figure out. While the reporter version of the software costs several thousand dollars, the scopist version runs around $1500 or so. And since the scopist can save dictionary entries for the reporter, both constantly work toward building the reporter’s dictionary and improving her translation rate. It is best for the reporter and scopist to use the same CAT system when working together.
What are the start-up costs of becoming a scopist?
Here is part of a survey from NCRA that gives an overview of start-up costs:
What equipment/supplies should home-based scopists purchase? What are approximate costs?
- The rule of computer equipment is "get the most bang for your buck": A Pentium computer with the largest hard drive, the fastest processor, and the most RAM you can afford (minimum 128 preferred). For more specifics on equipment needed to run CATalyst software, click here or call at 800-323-4247. If you can get/afford a cable modem or DSL line, so much the better; meanwhile, a 56K modem will work - Cost: $700-2000
- Scopist training course - Cost: $1500-2500, more if taken at court reporting school
- Reference books, CDs, etc. - Cost: $200-500
- Internet provider - Cost: $10-45 per month. You will need a high-speed Internet connection once you’re ready to go to work. A dial-up connection will suffice while you’re taking the training.
- CAT software key (edit version) - **Cost: $1000-1600 For students of the course, Stenograph Corporation is offering special pricing on Case CATalyst software including:
Case CATalyst Edit Software Current Version
One-year support contract
If applicable, you will also need to pay state tax.
As an ISS student, you will get a savings of $100 on the listed price of the software!
Software is not included in the cost of the course but need not be purchased until the student is ready to begin the CATalyst training.
- Professional fees (NCRA/state association membership) - Cost: $125-200 per year
- Forum subscriptions to scopist sites - usually free
- Attendance at user group meetings, conventions - varies
Do I need to know how to read steno?
Although many reporters make audio-synched recordings as they write, it is essential for scopists to know how to read steno notes. And after asking around at different conventions, we find reporters feel the same way. There are times when the audio can’t be heard, but enough information can be gleaned from the notes to make the record.
Is it easy to get started?
We always tell graduates to expect to spend some time building up their clientele to where they want it, maybe even a year. But as the scopist markets herself, in addition to many marketing opportunities provided by the school, we find that most grads are working with reporters shortly after graduation. Then they use those contacts, their own marketing efforts, as well as networking with their peers, to build up to the amount of pages they want per month.
What to consider when choosing a scoping course.