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Subject:Chris's Certification Program From:Bill DuBay <bill_dubay -at- PHOENIX -dot- COM> Date:Thu, 19 Jun 1997 11:26:07 PDT
Thanks for doing the survey. It was well thought out and probably
represents what tech writers on this list think of a certification program. I
would like to think it does not represent what they think of their skills.
I didn't participate, but, if I did, I definitely would have voted against
it. For $400, I would have expected, besides a test, a course of studies and
a 6-month mentoring program that would have entailed several reviews of my
work by my peers who are experts in their field. I would have also expected
several avenues of certification to pursue.
In the 1986 study, people were surveyed on the basis of a proposed STC
Certification program that was more elaborate. It provided for two levels of
certification, Certified Technical Communicator (CTC) and Certified Senior
Technical Communicator (CSTC).
There were five vocational levels: Technical Writing, Technical Editing,
Techical Graphics, Technical Audio-Visual Presentation, and Technical
Publishing and Managing.
The certification program included a supervised practicum extending over
six months, at the end of which 1. the supervisor makes a report to the
Committee on Certification on the performance, and 2. you present the
products of the practicum to the Committee for evaluation. After two years as
an CTC, you were required to apply for CSTC, which includes another
examination, 6-month practicum, and review of your work. A CSTC is expected
to re-apply for certifcation every five years.
There were grandfathering allowances for those who had achieved senior
membership or associate fellowship by the end of the first plan year. They
could apply for CSTC without going through the earlier level. Besides the
Committee on Certification, there were also several subcommittees set up for
appeals, reviews, and the five vocational levels.
In the survey questionaire, the proposed cost to the applicant was $120 for
each certificate (As I mentioned before, it is usual in most other
professional organizations to charge $400 and up for certification). The
survey results showed that, even though 71% of the membership favored
certification, less than 1,000 said they would apply for membership. On the
basis of this last figure, the board rejected the certification program.
It is obvious that the certification process is an indicator of how members
of a profession value not only their skills but also their professional
status and potential compensation. Members of the American Institute of
Appraisers pay $800 a year for membership. Candidates pay $400 a year for
membership during their 6-year candidacy. They also pay $400 for each of the
five courses required. Their work is reviewed and evaluated rigorously during
Are tech-writing skills are more difficult than real-estate appraising? You
bet they are. Are they more difficult than engineering? You bet they are.
Good tech writers not only possess an exceptional set of skills, they are
also exceptionally talented. The problem is that they often come into the
field having garnered their exceptional set of skills from other fields, not
only the humanities, but also engineering, public relations, education, and
the like. Technical communication is still a very parasitic profession in
that it steals so much from these other fields in the way of talent and
experience. I came into tech writing at the age of 52 after spending most of
my life as a professional writer and editor and as a hacker who built my own
computers. I still had a lot to learn about technical writing.
Certification gives us a way of identifying and evaluating the core skills
that make us exceptional. It also gives us a way of taking ordinary persons
looking for a career and sharing those skills with them in a
training-and-certification program that will qualify them for the profession.
Phoenix Technologies Ltd.
email: bill_dubay -at- phoenix -dot- com
(714)790-2049 FAX: (714)790-2001 http://www.phoenix.com
From: Chris Hamilton <chamilton -at- GR -dot- COM>, on 6/17/97 5:01 AM:
Let's say the following certification program were put in place this
year (THIS IS ENTIRELY HYPOTHETICAL.):
-- run by STC
-- based on passing an exam. You pass, you're a CTC.
-- STC sells study aids
-- the test costs $400 and can be taken one Saturday every other month
someplace near you (let's say within an hour's drive)
-- you must be recertified every 5 years
-- STC is studying whether it should make membership conditional on
passing the certification test within a year of joining
Would you get certified? If you don't want to clog up the list with
simple yes or no answers, send them to me.
Chris Hamilton, Technical Writer
Greenbrier & Russel
chamilton -at- gr -dot- com
"Please do not try to confuse the issues with facts!"
-- George Banks, "Mary Poppins"