Re: On degrees and the like...

Subject: Re: On degrees and the like...
From: "Elna Tymes" <etymes -at- lts -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2000 08:08:08 -0800

Eric Ray wrote:

> For example, an aspiring technical writer fresh out of
> college with a degree in "technical communication" would
> have far better chances to jump right into a tech comm
> position if the resume shows Frame, RoboHelp, and HTML
> skills. A tech comm degree program that teaches useful
> skills but does not necessarily leave a student with
> specific marketable toolsets is likely doing the
> job-hunting student a disservice--at least in the short
> term.

Today's job market focuses (unfortunately) so much on familiarity with tools
that certificate programs and some BA programs (I don't think you CAN get a BS
in technical writing - but then, that would be an oxymoron, wouldn't it? <g>)
tend to teach the tools at the expense of broader education. Like you, I don't
like that tendency - it tends to produce tradespeople, rather than
professionals who can bring thinking and analysis to the job as well as ability
to use tools.

> As it is, it's nice to see that every day or two, even
> now, something comes up that I can say "hey, I remember
> that from the <blah> class I took during my first year
> in the MA program, or that relates to <blah>, which
> I am familiar with"--and that's the real value of
> a degree in any field, not just tech comm.

Exactly. My BA, received long ago from Stanford, is in journalism and I chose
it because (a) it focused on learning about other things and then writing about
them, and (b) it afforded us the greatest choice in non-major electives. I
learned how to write at the old Underwood typewriters at the Stanford Daily,
where the best writing coaches were students a year or two ahead of me. (They
were far, far better tool-teachers than any of the profs in my major.) But my
real education came in all those electives - science and math and art and music
and literature and comparative religion and poly sci and history and logic - oh
my! - and like you I remember and use something from one or another of those
classes a couple of times a week.

When my sons were looking at college, my advice was to major in something they
loved, but to also acquire sufficient skills that they could find a job after
they graduated. In majoring in something they loved, I figured that they'd
learn more about the art and discipline of learning to learn than any
trade-oriented program could provide. But by also acquiring salable skills,
they'd be able to effectively market themselves in the job market. I still
believe that kind of balance is very important.

> Do I have a proposal or answer? No. But I think that there's
> more to being a really good technical writer than can come
> from any program, any certificate, and any specific set of
> requirements, and I think that we'd be doing ourselves and the
> profession a service if we were to focus our energies on how
> to help people enter the profession and on how to prepare
> people to succeed in the profession, rather than beating the
> dead horses of STC, certification, degrees, and the like.


Elna Tymes
Los Trancos Systems

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