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: Mark Baker <mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com>, Gene Kim-Eng <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 27 Oct 2011 12:23:46 -0400

Mark Baker, looking at the basket of KSAs we're evaluating for the certification program, suggests that we've gone about things backward by creating the base certification first instead of more targeted sub-certifications. Well, you have to build the foundation before you can build the towers. That's not to say the towers might not be a great addition! And in fact, watch this space; sub-certifications are in the plan. But in my opinion, and following the advice of experts, we've taken the correct path.

Also, Gene Kim-Eng commented:

> [T]he biggest problem I have with the STC certification process as it seems to be now is that for all the effort and expense what candidates get is a mark of approval that is at best good for about 25% of an average tech writer candidate's interview. The ROI seems very small compared to making the same investment in some training and certification in a domain related to a writer's intended work environment.

With his first point I agree. Certification is not going to replace domain knowledge. But the reality is that when you apply for a job these days, there are often scores of other applicants who also have domain knowledge. It's necessary but not sufficient. Certification is often the edge that gets your résumé past the screener, and the edge that gets you the job over an equally qualified candidate.

As for ROI, that's a perfectly valid basis for comparison. The price of a bachelor's degree in the United States is extremely high; let's say $50,000 as a basis for comparison, and let's further say that this gets you the domain knowledge that makes up 75% of your interview impact. So what is the ROI of certification in getting a job? For comparison, let's say a certification costs $1000. (We charge less.) At $1000, the program is priced below the average (we're new); significantly below the cost of most individual courses (check out the prices of STC certificate courses, a successful program); and far below the cost of degrees. So if it's worth 25% of your interview, but you only have to spend $1000 to get a 25% impact as opposed to spending $50,000 to get the other 75%, which has the higher ROI?

Another way to measure ROI is to consider the effect on salaries. A BA, while expensive—and as a parent, I'm paying for one right now. so I know!—is still worthwhile on average because of the positive effect it has on lifetime salary. (As an aside, when the price of a BA outstrips the benefit, I think you'll see dramatic changes in the education market.) What's the impact of a professional certification on salary? As I've said before, we looked at other certification programs, and the average salary of a certified professional is significantly higher than the average salary of an uncertified colleague. (By "significantly" I mean 10% higher or more.) Would making even 10% more salary, compounded over the rest of your career, be worth an investment of $1000? In my case, I'm much closer to retirement than the start of my career. And I know there's no guarantee in having any certification. But if you offered me a certification ten times as expensive with the prospect of making 10% more salary over the remainder of my career, I would jump at it so fast I'd knock you over. And I'm not even in the target demographic!

-- Steve

Steven Jong ("Typo? What tpyo?")
SteveFJong -at- comcast -dot- net
978-413-2553 [C]
Home sweet home page:


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