Re: Certification/Degrees

Subject: Re: Certification/Degrees
From: "Wing, Michael J" <mjwing -at- INGR -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 1996 16:50:23 -0600

>I used to be a strong advocate for certification of
>technical communicators. Degrees don't mean much to me.
>A person's ability to the required job is what counts.
>And I thought some kind of formalized qualifying system
>might be helpful.

>Now that I've reached a decade in the business, I've
>done a one-eighty on the certification issue. I have
>worked hard to build a good reputation, technical skills,
>and professional contacts. In other words, I've got mine.
>Certification now looks to me like a crutch or shortcut
>for people to avoid the kind of effort I've made.

>Funny how experience sheds a new perspective. ;-)

>Happy Holidays.


I think Mr. Uhl has touched on an underlying issue. That is, a writer's
perspective on this issue may change as they gain experience. From what
we've discussed, the issue started as future requirements for entry into
the profession and has expanded to discuss certification and standards
for those entering or already in the profession. After reading and
participating in this discussion over the past few days, my perceptions
are currently:

-- The dividing lines are almost generational. Many experienced writers
seem to have fallen into the profession. Not many set out to be tech
writers. Plus, there weren't many TW/TC programs when they were in
college. Thus, people came from many divergent backgrounds. Today, it
seems that more and more people entering (or trying to enter) the field
set out to be tech writers, and thus entered TW/TC programs (which are
much more abundant). They may perceive the established writers as being
in the way, competition for new jobs, and wonder how anyone could have
made the bridge from studying whatever in college to being a Senior
Writer in a company. It's like to them, the established writers haven't
paid their dues. Many established writers worked their way into the
position. They had to perform many mundane duties and prove themselves
over and over. To them, a new TW/TC-degreed candidate is expecting to
start at the level they worked to attain. To the established writer,
the new TW/TC-degreed candidate has not paid their dues.

-- The people pushing the hardest for certification and TW/TC degrees
being the criteria for hire seem to be those with little experience, are
looking to get into the field, or already possess a TW/TC degree.

-- For those just entering or still green in the field, it must be
surprising that so many established Tech Writers come from so many
divergent fields. Maybe it's perceived that they cab leap frog over the
established writers by taking these divergent backgrounds out of the
equation . That is, push for a hiring/advancement standards that favor
TW/TC degrees regardless of experience and ability.

-- Recent TW/TC grads (or soon to graduate) must be frustrated by the
job listings. These listings want 3-10 years experience, familiarity
with tools, and often, background in non-TW disciplines (like the
ability to program). Here, the newly-TW/TC degreed person must compete
with experienced but not TW/TC-degreed candidates. If TW/TC was to
become the standard, the edge would automatically shift their way and
experience would take a back seat to they type of degree held by the

Mike Wing
| Michael Wing
| Principal Technical Writer
| Infrastructure Technical Information Development
| Intergraph Corporation
| Huntsville, Alabama
| (205) 730-7250
| mjwing -at- ingr -dot- com

>Michael Andrew Uhl, Lead Technical Writer (uhl -at- vislab -dot- epa -dot- gov)
>Lockheed Martin, Primary Support Contractor to US EPA
>Scientific Visualization Center
>National Environmental Supercomputing Center (NESC)
>U.S. EPA Environmental Research Center
>Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

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