Re: STC certification program
Phil is pretty much on track with his suggestion of the certificate as a professional credential. Here's a bit of the back story:
STC has been pushing the US Dept. of Labor (DoL) to recognize Technical Communication as a profession. Recently, the Occupational Outlook Handbook did, in fact, separate technical communicators from a general "creative professions" category, where it was lumped with copywriters, artists, and the like. Now, granted, we do sometimes have to get creative, but that category generally means lower wages.
One criterion for being a profession, according to DoL, is that there must be some sort of entrance exam or test sequence that people must pass to claim that job title of Professional Technical Communicator. So this effort by the STC to gain official recognition for us as a profession required that there be such a test, and STC set out to develop not one but a suite of tests. They are not supposed to relate to any particular technology area, but rather to measure technical communication skills.
Because the tools and techniques in our profession are constantly changing, it is necessary to recertify every few years to ensure that the skills are current with the state of the art and with the marketplace.
That's the rationale. And yes, it SHOULD make money for the agency, in this case STC, that develops both the courses and the test suite. That's only fair.
Like many on this list, I have serious reservations about certification in general. I have not delved into the content, structure, and pricing of the tests, nor do I know how STC intends to promote the certificate to potential employers. That promotion and recognition are essential. But STC is developing courseware to go along with the tests, and they're actively seeking beta testers who get a reduced rate for participating. That's common for software beta testers, too. So if you want to have a hand in the process, this is a good time to get involved in testing out the materials.
I doubt that I will bother with the certification process for myself. At this stage of my career, I see little point in doing so. But its utility is not limited to those who are just out of school. Ideally, it should be geared to practicing professionals who have a few years under their belts. I am not a tax lawyer, but at least in the U.S., you should be able to deduct the cost of the coursework and test as an unreimbursed business expense.
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