Subject: certification
From: "ASUE Tekwrytr" <tekwrytr -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 2003 12:15:51 -0400

Certification, applied objectively, can do a lot to increase credibility. Examples are in the IT field, where an A+ is generally required before anyone can touch the inside of a computer, and a Network+ before anyone can touch a network component. The certifications are not proof of expertise, but rather of basic knowledge--primarily that the cert holder won't break it any more than it is broken already. As opposed to the helpful wannabes who ignore ESD to wiggle a NIC to "see if it makes it work" and zap a perfectly good motherboard.

Specifically related to technical writing, certification would establish a basic skill set that every TW should have to get in the door. There are a rather large number of people entering the field after graduation from a university with the primary qualification of having managed to get out of bed often enough to show up for enough "technical communication" classes to get passing grades, and now consider themselves "technical communicators," based on completion of four semesters of Underwater Basketweaving.

Of course, those people will be unable to hold jobs, be exposed as incompetents, and ... (fill in the blanks). That is largely wishful thinking, because it presupposes the employer can tell the difference between "good" writing and "mediocre" writing in a reasonable period of time, and really cares. Many do not, and tech comm graduates who can type fast, smile often, and display an appropriate amount of self-confidence can often last for months before anyone realizes they are really clueless. Especially if he or she is willing to work for $10-12/hr to have "technical writer for xyz company" on future resumes.

Is certification a good idea? YES! Establish a skill set necessary for entry-level, intermediate, and expert, independently documented. The only real opposition to certification would be from those who think they would be weeded out by the process.

Given that 150+ colleges and universities are cranking out new "technical communicators" at an alarming rate, someone is going to have to do something along those lines fairly soon, or the field is going to flooded out of existence.

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