What to consider when choosing a scoping course:
1. Is there any sort of screening test for prospective students?
ISS does provide a word skills test on the website that we ask each prospective student to complete. A successful scopist must have good English skills. If the course does not screen applicants, how do you know if you should invest the time and money in training to be a scopist? Some people have poor enough word skills that they may want to consider a different profession; many need to brush up on their spelling, punctuation, and/or vocabulary. Wouldn't you like to know one way or the other before you pay a couple thousand dollars for training?
2. What all is included in the cost of the training course?
Training programs often make it seem like they're giving you a lot for your money, but the benefits students receive really don’t mean much. Compare on a dollar-for-dollar basis the benefits that are included in the training program. Which course offers the type of benefits that will lead to work for you as a scopist and give you the most credibility among court reporters? That’s the program I’d choose.
3. How thorough is the course?
About the only way to compare course content is to compare "apples to apples." Ask the instructors of the various courses to see the table of contents for the different sections of the course so you can see what's really included. Ask to see a sample lesson from each course and compare them. Ask how many lessons there are in each module; the more lessons, generally the more thorough the training. How long does it take to complete the training? If one takes three months and another six, the longer course is probably more comprehensive. Be a smart shopper!
4. Is there hands-on training of CAT software?
Some courses do not do any CAT software training or may provide only the very basic training provided by the CAT company. Since you as a scopist will be using CAT software to do all your work, I would find it essential to have intensive training on the same software I intend to use in my business. I want to know the keyboard commands, the shortcuts, how to troubleshoot minor problems, and how to make the software work for me so that I'm the fastest, most accurate scopist I can be. This involves step-by-step instruction on the software, as well as a large selection of files on which to practice, complete with answer keys to show me where I'm making my mistakes.
5. Are you allowed to take certain sections of the course or are you charged for units you don't need to take?
Many people who are interested in becoming scopists previously went to court reporting school and already know how to read steno notes. Others have extensive backgrounds in medical terminology and don't need training in that area. Choose a course that allows you to skip over sections that you don't need and spend your time and money on the material you do need.
6. What marketing opportunities does the training course provide for its students and graduates?
Some training programs do little or nothing to help graduates find clients; others try to make it look like you get a lot of help starting your business, but how valuable are the aids you receive? What would it cost you to provide them for yourself in a manner that reflects your own individual style and personality? Does the course actually send you real reporter contacts or just cheap cookie-cutter marketing tools? I would look for a program that provides active marketing opportunities for new scopists, as well as innovative advertising and promotions to sponsor its students/graduates. A course that believes enough in its graduates to invest time and money in them is more likely to produce successful scopists as a result.
7. How qualified is the instructor?
- How much experience does the instructor have as a scopist?
While a great deal of experience in the profession does not guarantee the most thorough scopist training course, we do tend to learn more the longer we work at something. Compare years of experience as a scopist to see who is the best qualified to teach you.
- How much experience does the instructor have in training other scopists?
Not everyone has taught in the past, obviously, but if the instructor has past experience in teaching scopists, she's had time to learn a few things about how best to do it. It may just be a little plus in choosing one course over another.
- How much experience does the instructor have promoting the scoping profession?
To my way of thinking, I would prefer an instructor who is involved in promoting and bettering the scopist profession, because this is going to benefit me as someone who seeks to join that profession. Many people never do anything that isn't aimed at promoting their personal business and making them money. I would prefer an instructor with a little more global viewpoint who is involved in speaking, writing articles, getting press for the profession, and constantly building contacts in the reporting field. This type of instructor probably has a better chance of promoting me as a graduate of her course because she is known in the profession.
- How qualified is the instructor to train on a CAT software?
There is training provided by some software companies; however, I would seek training specifically directed to scopists, as our needs are different than those of reporters. I would prefer a teacher who is certified by the CAT company because I know she has had to study and pass tests to achieve that distinction. The better trained the instructor is, the better she can train you as a student.
- What contacts does the instructor have in the reporting profession?
If the instructor has been involved in the profession in terms of serving on committees, speaking at conventions, writing articles, and otherwise promoting and seeking to improve the scoping profession, she has undoubtedly made contacts among other professional people in the field. These contacts often lead to contacts and work for graduates of her course. While it isn't always "who you know" in a profession, the more people who know of and respect the instructor, the more credibility you will have as a graduate of that person's course.
8. How do graduates of the course and professionals in the field feel about the course?
If you privately e-mail students and graduates of a training course, they have no reason to be anything but honest with you about their satisfaction - or dissatisfaction - with the course. Ask them about thoroughness of the material, student support, marketing opportunities, etc. You're much more likely to get an unbiased viewpoint when you get it "from the horse's mouth."
9. What sort of support do the students/graduates receive?
You will want to choose a training course that provides ongoing, quick-response support to you as a student, and also is there to lend guidance and support after you graduate. In addition, scoping as an independent contractor tends to be quite isolating. Getting to know and have contact with other students of the training course provides you, as a new scopist, with a network of peers you can use as backup and with whom you can exchange referrals.