I plan to start looking for a new job soon and got my single free transcript from my university after graduation. Would future employers accept a photocopy of the transcript that I have? New copies cost $6 and I'd rather spend much less copying it if I can but I also don't want to seem unprofessional.
Disclosure &/or support for my answer: I am head of product & technology for a company that maintains academic dossiers; we deal with academic transcripts and the confidential or non-confidential delivery thereof.
Some general terminology:
As for the core question: Will employers want an official or unofficial transcript? the answer depends on the company. Many companies don't require transcripts, but for those who do, a common situation is that the unofficial transcript is used in the application process, but as part of the hiring finalization the official transcript is required for your file.
My recommendation would be to get a few copies of your official transcript (and keep them sealed), and also make copies (photocopy or scan) so they are available for you. When someone asks for a transcript, clarify with them if an unofficial transcript is ok at this stage. If unofficial is fine, send them the unofficial copy. If official is required, you will have some ready (and won't have to pay expedited costs) to hand over.
This depends on whether transcripts are a hard requirement.
Companies requiring transcripts tend to want sealed versions of them coming from the institution in question to make sure that they have not been tampered with. This is a very common practice in Finance, for example.
On the other hand, photocopies will suffice if you just want to show the hiring manager that you're an all-around over-achiever type, and only use them to pepper your application.
FWIW most people understand that official transcripts cost money and will only expect them if it's an HR policy.
The U.S. government will take copies of transcripts with an application, and will require official copies if a job is offered. Many educational institutions are the same way, but some require official transcripts even with an application.
In the small software company where I work a photocopy of transcript from a recent graduate is appreciated, but not usually required. I've never heard of pure private sector company wanting an official transcript with a job application.