Re: TW and education (was Re: Houston Area Jobs)

Subject: Re: TW and education (was Re: Houston Area Jobs)
From: Bruce Covell <brucec -at- CCTECH -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 10 Dec 1996 07:29:18 +0000

Eric Ray wrote

> Well, in MY final analysis, it all depends on whether
> you consider technical communication to be a profession
> into which any person with the requisite skills and
> knowledge may enter, or a job/profession that requires
> merely specific academic credentials.

> There are any number of different paths to the necessary
> skills and knowledge. Mine went from journalism to
> layout/production to teaching to translation to
> technical writing. Not meaning to imply that technical
> communication programs have no value, but they're
> certainly not the only way to get the necessary
> skills. On the job training, an awareness of the
> reader, effectively applied common sense, and reasonable
> writing skills can "compensate" for a considerable lack
> of academic/rhetorical background. Even if you don't
> have the opportunity to learn on the job, a couple
> of carefully selected technical communication classes
> (editing and document design come to mind) can get you
> a long way down the path.

> Guy et al are right -- this all gets back to (gasp)
> certification, but in the form of a degree. Frankly,
> I don't think that a degree in any way certifies
> competence.

Certification, or certification by degree, is an interesting and
controversial topic, but mostly, I think, because it is driven from
within the technical communication community. I still see most want
ads for technical writers (in Northern California) either not
mentioning a technical comm. degree, or claiming that "equivalent
experience" is acceptable.

Employers are willing to hire technical communicators without a
degree, and they pay them well (at least around here ;-) ). My
experience is mostly limited to high end software documentation - for
tools that cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. Employers in
this segment of the software industry don't seem particularly interested
in the finer points of tech. comm. They spend a lot of money
educating their customers, but most of that goes for classroom
training, customer support, field applications engineers, and so on.
Publications groups are frequently understaffed and software release
schedules often do not allow time for such niceties as usability
testing and dedicated editing. As a result, even when technical
communicators have the training and/or skills they don't have the
time or staff to use them.

I guess the point of all this is that I think when employers
understand and want the benefits that well qualified technical
communicators can provide, they will demand them by requiring Tech.
Comm. degrees. They will staff technical pubs. departments
accordingly and provide schedules that permit the technical
communications "professionals" to do their thing. Until then, you can
have the degree or not; it won't make much difference as long as you
can provide what employers want.

Bruce Covell
A conclusion is simply the place where you got tired of thinking.

Bruce Covell Cooper and Chyan Technology Inc.
brucec -at- cctech -dot- com 1601 S. De Anza Boulevard
408.342.5630 Cupertino, CA 95014

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