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How to Become a Scopist – The Ultimate Guide

  • Sabina Lohr
  • Guide

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Want to know how to become a scopist? Keep reading and you’ll find out! This is the ultimate guide for learning everything you need to know about how to start working for yourself in the lucrative career of freelance scopist.

How to Become a Scopist
The Ultimate Guide

In The Ultimate Guide for How to Become a Scopist, updated for 2023, you’ll discover exactly what a scopist does. You’ll learn personal characteristics and skill sets you need to become a scopist for court reporters. You’ll find out six different methods you can use to become a freelance scopist. You’ll also learn what tech and gear you’ll need. Now let’s dive in! 

Woman looking at her phone for how to become a scopist


Scopists have been around since the 1980’s, but most people have never heard of this job. Even those who have heard of it don’t understand at all what scopists do.

What does a scopist do? 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. Here is a more comprehensive answer to the question what is a scopist.

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 freelance scopist you can work anywhere in the world. And scopists can make very good money.

Scopist laptop with dark green screen and three one-dollar bills floating around it

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 would be a good scopist for court reporters.

You Are Good At:


You Like:

Working on computers
Working alone
Crossword puzzles and other word games

You Want To:

Work at home
Work wherever you want
Be self employed

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


I’ve organized the following six ways to learn how to become a scopist from most common to least common based on a Facebook poll I took in which 214 people responded.

Woman learning how to become a scopist on her laptop

1. Be a Court Reporter

(34 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.

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

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

2. Learn From a Court Reporter or Scopist

(24 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.

Pros of Learning from a Court Reporter or Scopist

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

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

3. Learn in a Scopist Training Program

(19 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.

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

You can read my interview with Linda from Internet Scoping School here, where she lets you know what her scoping course is like and talks about the future of scoping. 

Internet Scoping School offers:

  • Free 7-lesson minicourse 
  • Lifetime access to future bonuses and updates
  • Lifetime access to private scopist students Facebook group
  • Several payment plans

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 experience as scopists.

BeST Scoping Techniques offers:

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

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

Cons of Online Scopist Schools

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

4. Study at a Brick and Mortar School

(14 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, that I know of. But there are community colleges that award court reporting degrees which also have courses on how to become a scopist.

There were more in the past, but as far as I know the only brick and mortar school which teaches scoping currently is Baton Rouge School of Court Reporting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. If you happen to live in or can move to Louisiana, this is an option for you.

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

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)

Woman learning how to become a scopist on her laptop

5. Learn Through a Combination of Methods

(6 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.

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

 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. Train Yourself

(3 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.

I do not recommend trying to teach yourself to be a scopist. Scoping is very involved and legal transcripts are very important. It is really best to receive professional training or be trained by someone who knows what they’re doing.

You could, however, possibly teach yourself how to work as a scopist by buying the 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.

Pros of Training Yourself

  • Free
  • Self paced

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

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.

Woman studying how to become a scopist poolside with delicious food while traveling

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.

Scopist 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. Stenograph is the brand I used for my entire career.

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 scopist 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. If you want to learn more, you can call ProCAT at (818) 222-5010.

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.)

Woman scopist working on her laptop

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.

Desktop Computers for Scopists 

Laptop Computers for Scopists

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.

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:

Ailhen headphones for scopists
Ailihen Folding Lightweight Headphones


Edifier Headphones for Scopists
Edifier Hi-Fi Over-Ear Noise-Isolating 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.

Reccazr speakers for scopists
Reccazr Surround Computer Speakers with Deep Bass USB
DOSS Touch Wireless Bluetooth Portable Speaker for Scopists
DOSS SoundBox Touch Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speakers
Anker Bluetooth Speaker for Scopists
Anker SoundCore Bluetooth Speaker

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 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, 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.


Now that you’ve read the ultimate guide for how to become a scopist, you know everything about freelance scoping as well as what method of learning scoping would be the best for you. If the method that’s best for you is professional scoping training, get started now with the Internet Scoping School free minicourse here.


(This updated post was first published on June 11, 2018.)



Images by Engin Akyurt Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke Engin Akyurt Icons8 Team

Sabina Lohr is a lifelong freelancer turned entrepreneur who created World of Freelancers to help others discover how to work for themselves online and live the freelance lifestyle. She’s always really enjoyed the freedom that freelancing brings, including several years on and off of working online while traveling and living abroad.

This Post Has 19 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!


  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!)

    1. That’s impossible to say. They’re two very different schools. Linda’s teaches you scoping and Caitlin’s teaches you proofreading.

  3. Sabina,
    I’m an experienced freelance court reporter. I’m 18 years on Eclipse. I want to leave the field due to relocation and some other personal issues. I’m wondering if I need to get an Eclipse scoping version? Also what’s the best way to transition? Anyone that can train me? I know I would be great at this.

    1. Hi Lisa. I always used Case Catalyst and never used Eclipse, but I don’t think you would have to get a scoping version of the software since the full court reporter version has more features.

      I think as far as transition, let any court reporters you know personally know that you’ll be scoping now and ask if they’ll send some work your way. And join some Facebook groups for scopists and court reporters so you can let people know you’re a scopist and tell them you’re available for work. You could also create a website, a simple site with one or two pages, to let people know about your scoping services.

      You’ve probably been scoping your own work during the years you’ve been a court reporter, right? If so, I don’t think you’d need any additional training. Just be ready to have to listen to the audio all the way through every transcript and be ready for notes that will be very different from your own notes. You might want to invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. And make sure you have an ergonomic home office set up.

      I hope this helps. Please let me know if you need anything else!

  4. Hi, Sabina!

    In your opinion, could a scopist career be lucrative to those who type at speeds lower than mentioned (60 wpm)?

    – Brit

    1. Hi Britney 🙂 Yes, scoping can be lucrative even if your typing speed is not very fast. Scoping isn’t typing up from scratch like transcription is. Scopists primarily correct mistakes court reporters may have made and fill in gaps of what they may have missed. So while typing is definitely important to scoping, typing speed is not that important.

  5. Excellent and very thorough article. It encompasses everything I needed to know about this potential profession. Thank you very much. 🙂

  6. 2 questions: 1. Will I handicap myself greatly if I don’t know how to read steno? 2. Someone suggested that I ask a court reporting office to send me practice files. Is that a practical suggestion? (Are lots of offices open to doing that?)

    1. Hi Mark – it will be a bit harder if you don’t know at least some steno but I think you can do this job without it. I don’t know how responsive court reporting offices would be to a request for files so you can practice, but there is nothing to lose by asking!

  7. I am curious, because I just registered to sign up for CR school…how many hours a day/week were you practicing when you hit the 130 wpm wall and how long did struggle before you decided to give up?

    1. Oh, wow, that was so long ago I don’t remember specifically at all! I was probably practicing maybe 3-4 hours a day about 5 days a week, primarily during class. I don’t think I hit a wall at 130 wpm but maybe at some other speed I did. I was in my late teens when I started school so it was really easy for me. I didn’t give up; I worked as a court reporter for several years.

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