Re: STC certification: what's in it for tech writers?

Subject: Re: STC certification: what's in it for tech writers?
From: Steven Jong <stevefjong -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: TECHWR-L Digest <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- TECHWR-L -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2011 11:26:08 -0400

Robert Lauriston asked the title question, though he actually wondered what's in certification for employers:

> As far as I can see, at best no prospective employer would care, and
> at worst it would be one more thing to have to spend time and money on
> to stay competitive.

Milan DavidoviÄ posed the question for technical communicators:

> And professionals embrace certification for themselves when ________.
> (fill in the blank)

Speaking to the first question, and citing Performance-Based Certification by Judith Hale, the reasons why an organization offers certification are called drivers. These are the goals of the program, and they need to fit the strategic goals of the organization. The drivers for the certification program were identified and validated by a group of thought leaders at the 2009 STC Summit, and subsequently accepted by the STC Board:

â Legitimize the contributions of, and respect for, our profession
â Establish uniform worldwide performance standards
â Increase the employability and salary of certified practitioners
â Satisfy employersâ expectations
â Reduce hiring risk for employers
â Generate non-dues revenue for the Society

This is why weâre doing it. Everyoneâpractitioners, employers, and STCâstands to gain from certification, including financially. Note points 2, 4, and 5, which are the advantages to employers.

Speaking to the second question, note points 1 and 3, which are the advantages to practitioners. This passage from PMP Certification For Dummies, by Peter Nathan and Gerald Everett Jones, describes the situation project managers found themselves in a decade ago. It sounds strikingly similar to the situation technical communicators find themselves in today:

> Not so long ago, anyone who could create a simple Gantt chart with Microsoft Project called himself a project manager. These were typically project leads, or senior programmers, for small- to medium-sized development teams. Most of these âproject managersâ had little practical experience in projects and practically no formal PM methodologies. Theyâre called accidental project managers. When the dot-com bubble burst, their resumes poured into human resources (HR) departments. How could an HR staffer know the difference between a battle-scarred project manager with hard-won PM experience and an accidental project manager with a similar title and no real experience?
> The answer is that HR recruiters couldnât tell the difference. Nor could the actual hiring managers make the distinction. The accidental project managers flooded the IT market, and corporations were swift to take advantage. Employers dropped the rates they were willing to pay for project managersâ salaries by 25 to 45 percent.

The next paragraph speaks to both employers and practitioners:

> The best way to distinguish yourself from the growing list of project managers is to become a certified Project Management Professional â the coveted PMP designation. According to recent salary surveys, achieving PMP certification brings an average salary increase of 8 percent [Note: Recent PMI surveys put the average increase at over 17%--sfj] across all industries â as high as 14 percent for IT managers. To employers who hope their projects arenât among the 83 percent that fail, PMP certification is now a preferred risk- reduction tool for screening job seekers and making promotion decisions [emphasis mineâsfj].

The general answer is that professionals embrace certification for themselves when they see that it getting them more interviews, jobs, raises, and respect. I have to argue by induction at this point, but we've seen no evidence that the general situation doesn't apply to technical communicators.

-- Steve

Steven Jong, Chairman
STC Certification Commission

mailto:SteveFJong -at- comcast -dot- net

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
-- Margaret Mead

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