Do I Need to Take Formal Scoping Training?

It is very difficult to gather all the knowledge you need to be an effective professional scopist if you don't have formal training. There's just so much to learn, that you quickly find out that even after asking every question you can think of, you realize there's things that keep coming up that you never anticipated. As founders and instructors of BeST Scoping Techniques, Judy and I both feel that formal training is essential to be able to hit the ground running as a successful scopist. Cathy Vickio

I have no idea what the cost of online scopist training is but, in my opinion, you've got to have training. You mentioned $1,500 in one of your posts. My opinion, if a course is well-rounded and teaches you what you need to know, including what to do once you've graduated and are out on your own, that's a bargain. In today's world, no matter what career path you take, there is usually some education expense involved. $1,500 is a small price to pay to be able to work for yourself, stay home with the kids eliminating daycare costs...and I could go on, but I won't.

I got my training from attending court reporting school. That's eventually where I want to end up instead of a scopist. Since I was taught to be a reporter, I just had to wing it when it came to marketing myself and actually starting that all-too-anxious first job. I made a lot of mistakes along the way. It would have been well worth $1,500 to have been able to sidestep all the mistakes.

Now my posting comes down to the nitty-gritty. The adventure you're anticipating embarking on is, in fact, a business. There will be many start-up business costs and many more business costs along the way. Before you decide on any training, calculate the start-up costs and make sure you have a plan for all of it and that it is, in fact, possible for you. Whichever training method you're considering, I would think, will have some sort of a layout of approximate start-up costs. I know there have been several threads here about it as well.

One more thing: Anything you spend related to your new business is tax deductible, including your training.

A dear friend of mine is a reporter in Michigan. When I was pregnant, I wanted to start working at home. I was about to take a job recruiting nurses (blech!), when my friend's scopist went back to reporting full-time. She offered to train me, and of course, I jumped on it. At first, I started out proofreading for her, so I could get a feel for her page layout and style. That really helped a lot! Then when I was scoping for her and I wasn't sure how she did a parenthetical or something, I could just refer back to a job I'd proofread.

She is of the school of thinking that, if you are a reporter using a scopist, and you have the tools the scopist needs to work for you, you should provide those. So she hooked me up with CAT software and a transcriber. She also sent me her textbooks from reporting school. She's been incredibly supportive as I'm learning. We have a little joke between us. We both use MSN messenger, so every day we change our nicknames to something in steno. Dorky, I know, but it's helping me to be able to figure words out rather than sitting there sounding out every letter. Since I've began, I've become obsessed. It's getting to the point where when I read, sometimes I picture what it would be in stenotype.

Those first few jobs took me FOREVER! It's going faster now as I'm getting acquainted with my software. Pretty soon, I'll be able to scope in my sleep.

I really wanted to take one of those online course. I still plan on it once I get some money saved up.
I took the [name withheld] course in 1991. At that time it cost $2500. [It] taught me to read steno and medical terminology. It TEACHES nothing else. After the course was over, then they sent me a 4-page booklet about CAT systems. I had to do my own research and buy a dedicated CAT computer, XEC5, for another $1500. That was used. [They] seemed to have a list of ex-students who just happened to have CAT equipment for sale.

I think you should have scopist's training. If you don't take the training, it takes a long time to learn steno by yourself.

But you need the right course. There are myriad things that a scopists has to learn besides steno. It took me years floundering around on my own to learn those lessons. And some of those lessons were a very difficult learning experience.

In 1991 there was no network of scopists, and I didn't even get connected to the internet until 1995, when I found Compuserve's Court Reporter's Forum. It was a help, but not as helpful as SSG is today.

Even with SSG's help today, scopists who haven't taken a comprehensive scoping course are having problems and spending a longer time getting started.

So in summary, you can become a self-taught scopist or take a cheaper course that teaches you a minimum amount, but in the end you spend more time floundering around learning all the other things you need to know before you are really productive.

What you are paying for is knowledge and experience. You are paying for time. You can spend your own time to gain that knowledge and experience, or you can pay for a scoping course that teaches you and provides that knowledge and experience.

In the end, whichever way you go, you pay. It's just whether you pay in cold, hard cash or you pay with your time and frustration.
I did the same thing. The scoping course I took did not teach me what to do with a transcript, or what the job would entail or what was expected of me. Reading steno is important, but other things are just as important.

Take a good rounded course. They might not tell you how to operate a CAT system, but they will instruct you on what to expect a CAT system to do for you.
I completed formal training, and I recommend it.

I also went through [name withheld]. I had an advantage, though. I had a friend who had already gone through the scoping course and she mentored me. She told me about CAT systems and I purchased StenoCAT's program while I was still enrolled as a student. (I had the backing of my wonderful husband, who bankrolled this new endeavor.) I was able to learn my software and complete my lessons using this software.

While I went through the schooling and lessons, my friend would round out my education by teaching me things that the course didn't cover. She taught me that her reporters like to keep together titles and proper names, such as Mr. Smith, on one line. I would not have known that had she not told me.

When I had completed the course, my friend farmed out some of her jobs to me for me to work on. She paid me a pittance, but then she went through the jobs and proofread them, instructing me on what I missed and encouraging me to do a better job on each successive job. This was a priceless labor of love on her part.
Here's my opinion about getting trained by a reporter:

1. You will only see one style of writing. Not all reporters write steno the same way.

2. Reporters do not know how to run a scoping business. Most reporters don't even know how to scope. Meaning, they will edit a transcript, but they don't know how to do shortcuts, how to save time scoping, how to do research, how to bill, how to schedule, how to advertise, anything about preferences of court reporters, how to set up pages for different types of hearings, court trials, what questions to ask a reporter when you first start working with them, how to set up your rates.

Anyway, court reporters are very good at what they do, but I've found that they really don't have a clue how to run a scoping business. And I really have no clue how to be a court reporter. People look at court reporting and scoping as the same thing, and it is not. There are major differences between the two. Most reporters work for an agency or a court and never have to worry about where the next job is coming from. A freelance court reporter or one who owns an agency has to deal with that problem, but they are not the majority of people who you work for.

3. As you said in your message, your friend is swamped right now. It's hard for someone who is working as a court reporter to also teach you to read steno.

So it's another time situation. Do you have the time to wait, while you are proofreading for your friend, to learn to read steno.

You have a head start in that you have been reading pleadings and briefs for so long, which is good. And now that you own a CAT program, you can play with it and get comfortable using it. That's a plus because it's very hard to learn to use a CAT program when you are trying to scope your first transcript.
I don't think I mentioned in my message that having a court reporter to mentor you is a BIG help too. There are many court reporters who helped me along the way, and it's been a great help. So you are lucky to have someone who can help you.

If you don't go the route of a scoping school, you can at least purchase some textbooks that teach steno.

The NCRA has some realtime books.
There's Sten-Ed theory at:
And a school here is Calif. has a bookstore with realtime theory books:

And reading all the SSG FAQ is a big help:

Of course, taking a scoping course, I think, is still the best way, but there are certainly other ways to get to the same place.

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