TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:TW and Education From:Alisa Dean <Alisa -dot- Dean -at- MCI -dot- COM> Date:Tue, 10 Dec 1996 10:03:00 -0700
I've been watching this thread for a while and here's *my* .02:
Nobody *gave* me my first job. I had to work for it, and once I was
in it, work even harder. I went to trade schools to learn programming
and had to search for several months to find it. I had been doing
technical writing for years before my first TW-titled job, but my
title was Secretary then. These were my first samples that I used
when I interviewed for my career change.
When I am asked why don't I have a TW degree, my reply is that there
was no such animal when I started. Back then (in the dark ages of
the mid '80s), if one wanted to learn TW, one must create one's own
degree, combining courses as necessary. At least, this was true in
the SF Bay Area, as far as I know. In fact, it seemed that TW
was not really recognized as the professional career that it is today
(even though it was just as important then as now).
Regarding the people who are considering becoming TWs - I would strongly
encourage that they try. If they don't like it, they can stop. But
if they do, they can succeed. With or without a degree. Granted the
degree, any degree, will give you a step up, it is *not* necessary
for the job. This obvious from reading the various posts from people
who have stated that degrees are low on their list of hiring requirements.
I regret that some people feel it necessary to keep hammering on this,
potentially scaring away those people who want to start TW as a career,
but feel they can't because they can't afford a degree.
For the jobs of the future, until those people who would rather hire
people with good communication skills, experience in the industry,
and self-motivation retire from the TW field, I feel comfortable that
I can find positions without a degree.
So - try it. The worst that happens is that you decide not to continue.
The best that happens is that you will enter a challenging, changing,
fun career that will support you with a decent salary.
This is like that story about the man who asked the famous conductor
whether he was good enough to pursue a career in classical music. After
listening to the man play, the conductor shook his head and said no.
Years later, the man, now a successful business man, met the conductor
again and recounted the first encounter. However, the man expressed
regrets about not being in music. The conductor nodded and answered,
"I was right, you are not suited to a musical career. If you were,
you would have ignored me and did it anyway."
Sr. Technical Writer
alisa -dot- dean -at- mci -dot- com