Subject: certification
From: "ASUE Tekwrytr" <tekwrytr -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 17 Apr 2003 14:38:45 -0400

Certification is not that ambiguous. If I have a BS or MS in TW or TC (not that hard to get, frankly), what do I really have? Paper with my name on it. Unless I have learned something more useful than Michel Foucault's theories on the constructive aspects of power, or the influence of the Belletristic Movement, however interesting those topics may be, they are essentially unrelated to anything I would ever do as a technical writer. As impressive as an MS may have been to me a few short years ago, the closer I get to mine the less valuable I consider it to be, for anything more than bragging rights, and to (hopefully) impress those of "lesser academic accomplishment."

In contrast, certification establishes at least a base line level of expertise. I read papers produced by "technical communicators" that are scary; after 10 pages, I still can't understand what they are talking about, then realize the reason is that they don't understand the topic, and what they are writing is essentially meaningless. Nice words, well crafted sentences, decent grammar, and a total lack of understanding. In a few months these same people will be out waving their freshly printed academic credentials proclaiming their expertise as "technical communicators." Certification would be of great benefit to these people as well; with no way to objectively evaluate what they are learning or not learning, they have no way to tell.

The IT field uses certifications extensively to establish baseline expertise in everything from network installations to database developement. There is no reason whatsoever why the same types of certifications could not be developed for technical writers/communicators, and those certifications would benefit the entire industry.

It is not a case of whether; it is a case of when. It is a perfectly natural and healthy weeding process that will increase the value of those who have developed their skills, and eliminate those who only have academic degrees or artificially created "experience" to recommend them.


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