Answer: TW and grad school

Subject: Answer: TW and grad school
From: Dick Gaskill <dickg -at- AG3D -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 1998 19:25:53 -0800

> cheri k.[SMTP:tekgrrrl -at- YAHOO -dot- COM] writes:
<snip>
> One more thing I am curious about: Is a Master's degree usually
> important to most employers? This might be a stupid question, but I
> was just wondering about this the other day when I was feeling burnt
> out.:)
>
>
Hello Cherie,

I am a Tech Pubs (hiring) Manager in the computer (both h/w and s/w)
industry. However, please do not take my opinion as gospel. I'm sure
there are other managers who may see things differently.

Your question is definitely NOT a stupid question, and I think you are
very wise to consider it. Unfortunatlely the answer is not cut and
dry, and often depends on the technology you would be writing about,
and/or the audience you would be writing to. Let me give you some
examples.
* A writer of textbooks would probably be expected to have an MA
or MS, with a PhD being a plus.
* A writer of computer software programming guides would probably
be expected to have a BA or BS, with an MA or MS being a plus, but would
also be required to have some programming experience.
* A writer of basic computer operating guides may not be expected
to have a degree, but would definitely need experience in using
computers.
However, a degree may not be absolutely required, even for high tech
jobs. Many companies today realize that people can learn just as much
on the job as through formal education, and their advertisements for
employees often contain a statement similar to, "BSxx or equivalent".

I believe most managers look for combination of education and
experience. We evaluate the job that has to be done, decide on what the
minimum qualifications needed for the job are, and post a req. However,
(and maybe I'm giving away secrets here) managers will often accept less
than their posted requirements if the candidate has other education
and/or experience that can be applied. The bottom line questions
generally include something like these:
* Does the candidate have technical knowledge or experience in our
field?
* Can the candidate write? Writing samples are usually required.
* Does the combination of education and experience this candidate
has fit the job? How does it compare with that of other candidates for
the same job?
And the two biggies . . .
* Can the candidate do the job now or learn to do it in a
reasonable time?
* How does this candidate fit in with my
department/section/company?
IMPORTANT ! How well a candidate "fits" can often be
the deciding factor when evaluating two or more candidates who are
otherwise equally qualified. Most technical writers are part of a team,
and when you work with people 40 or more hours per week, it is most
important that you are able to get along with them. Especially when
the pressure is on at product release time. Further, if the hiring
manager and/or interview team doesn't think a candidate fits in, they
may not get the job even if the other qualifications are better than the
other candidates'.

Personally, I will usually weigh experience more than education. This
does not mean that I think education is unimportant; it is. But just
having a degree does not mean you can do a particular job. I have
interviewed several candidates who, although they had advanced degrees,
did not have the experience and/or skills needed to handle a Sr. Tech
Writing assignment. On the other hand, I've hired writers with a BA or
BS and a little experience and they have done a great job.

In my opinion, in the technical writing field, a two-year technical
writing certificate is often more valuable than a bachelors degree.
Knowledge of the technology is important, but a tech writer has to be
able to present the information to the audience in a way they can
undersand and use it. That's where the "writing" part of "technical
writing" comes in. No matter what technology you intend to write
about, nor what degree you get, be sure to take at least one or two
technical writing courses. I look for them on a resume, and most other
Pubs managers I know do also.

Well, I hope this helped answer your question. Feel free to email me
privately if you have questions about my answers.

> Also, if you know of any internships in the Northwest, let me know!
>
On the web, search for chambers of commerce in the cities you are
interested in living in. They often have lists of the employers in
their communities. Pick an employer and look at its web site. Most
technical companies today have them. You could also search for
companies who are involved in the technology you are interested in, see
where they are located, and zoom in from there.

Good Luck.

Dick Gaskill
Pubs Manager
AccelGraphics, Inc.
Milpitas, CA





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