Re: Become a tech writer in only 70 hours

Subject: Re: Become a tech writer in only 70 hours
From: George Mena <George -dot- Mena -at- ESSTECH -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 12 Jun 1998 10:21:51 -0700


It sounds like you're talking about the Webster Institute of Technical
Writing, run by Dorothy Webster of Webster & Associates of San
Francisco. From what I've heard, you do in fact get that sort of
training on the "tools of the trade."

Whether or not that certificate is really worth its weight in gold,
however, is a *completely* different matter. I don't know of *any*
privately run school -- especially one run by a job shop! -- that will
adequately prepare someone for a tech writing career without also giving
the student the exposure I (and a few others) consider essential to
really make it in this extremely demanding and diversified business. I
seriously doubt, for example, you're really going to get the hardcore
knowledge necessary to understand how to document an API or how to
understand microprocessor architecture basics. Knowing how to describe
the functionality of a multiplier-accumulator in a digital signal
processor's architecture (and how to understand how registers work) is
*not* something *anyone* can pick up in such a compressed time frame!

My perception of the Webster Institute is that the "school" helps the
job shop stay in business via the tuition, then sends the graduate out
to interview at one of the jobs the shop has available. An interesting
way of running a business, yes. The professionalism of the graduate on
the job, however, is another thing entirely. Were I a potential
employer, I'd be *very* suspicious of someone with the piece of paper
from there because of the lack of exposure to the technologies that many
real-life tech writers have to understand in order to adequately
document it.

This falls into the rather ignorant contention that someone on this list
once made in saying that "Anyone can write." That is, in my
professional opinion, emphatically NOT TRUE!!! Some time ago, I posted
something I called "food for thought" in ensuring the professional
standards for technical writers remained as high as possible. This was
the case for the Registered Technical Writer, just like we have
Registered Professional Engineers, properly licensed by the various
states' Labor Departments (in California, it's via the Division of
Apprenticeship Standards, governed by the Department of Industrial

Testing for the professional license would be patterned after the
Fundamentals of Engineering / Engineer-In-Training exam that many
engineers of various disciplines must take in order to remain
professionally credentialed. Right now, even the four-year schools, to
the best of my knowledge, don't prepare their students for that. I
think they should. There's absolutely nothing wrong with testing
Registered Technical Writer candidates on fundamentals of operating
systems, fundamentals of programming languages, fundamentals of
mechanical engineering or fundamentals of digital electronics and
microprocessors, *especially* if these candidates want to get into these
fields -- and especially if they already have several years of industry

Next. :D

George Mena

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Bob Morrisette [SMTP:writer1 -at- SABU -dot- ENG -dot- SUN -dot- COM]
> Sent: Friday, June 12, 1998 8:43 AM
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: Re: Become a tech writer in only 70 hours
> I just heard a commercial on KGO in San Francisco that offers
> to train you to make big money as a technical writer in 20 weeks.
> They suggest that you be a college graduate and know computers.
> The instructors are all working writers.
> Classes are 3.5 hours, once a week. They teach FrameMaker, RoboHelp,
> and HTML. You receive a "Certificate in Technical Writing."
> This school is part of an agency/head hunting firm owned by a person
> I know to be legitimate.
> Are there other schools like this around the country? Could this
> become
> a trend while there are so many jobs open in technical writing?
> Is this a good way for someone to "get started" in tech writing?
> The tuition is $3900, which includes lab time evenings and Saturday.
> Bob Morrisette
> writer1 -at- Eng -dot- Sun -dot- com
> &^~~~
> Send commands to listserv -at- listserv -dot- okstate -dot- edu (e.g., SIGNOFF

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