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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
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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