Week 14 – Readers’ Response to Certification

Cuddihy, Kevin. “A Monumental Day Dawns for Technical Communicators: Certification!.” http://notebook.stc.org/a-monumental-day-dawns-for-technical-communicators-certification.

 

The reader comments on the article posted by Cuddihy on certification for the technical communication field include both enthusiastic approval and vehement opposition.  Those who approve of the certification applaud various aspects of the process because certification:

  • Shores up the business proposition of belonging to STC
  • Differentiates true professionals in the field from those who just have “a knack for writing”
  • Add credibility to membership to the STC and to the technical communication profession
  • Help raise technical communicators’ visibility within a company
  • Provides opportunity for people who are young in the field to gain credibility if their portfolios are lacking

Many of the readers’ comments, however, are less than enthused about the prospect of implementing a required technical communication certification.  They oppose certification because it:

  • Will only become relevant when hiring managers actually understand the skills and details of the certification
  • Focuses on individual work (which is difficult to identify in a climate of collaborative projects)
  • Requires portfolios of work (which is impossible for some people to produce due to non-disclosure agreements)
  • Could exclude a large number of quality writers due to the requirements of the certification
  • Might encourage people to earn a certification in place of earning a technical communication Master’s degree
  • Could be used as a screening wielded by “ignorant HR departments” to screen otherwise qualified writers
  • Does not allow for a “grandfathering” period for practitioners who have been in the field for an extensive amount of time
  • Only has a “three-year shelf-life” before mandatory renewal
  • Could cause people with a solid reputation to have a hard time being hired if they do not become certified
  • Might mark people who are experts in niche areas as unqualified

Looking at the reader comments, it appears that far more people have concerns about certification requirements than wholehearted approval.  I know that for educators in public school, seeking multiple certifications comes with the territory of being a teacher.  This can both be positive or detrimental depending on the current circumstances of a school district.  For example, during the budget cuts in education last spring, several thousand teachers suffered due to Reduction in Force (RIF).  Administrators for each school were given a list of qualifications to assess all teachers in the school to see which teachers would stay and which ones would be let go.  At one PISD school, some of the qualifications that the administrators looked at included: years of teaching experience, years of teaching experience a particular school, number and type of degrees, number of positive/negative reviews from classroom walk-throughs, and number of different certifications. I knew a teacher at that school who had taught for 15+ years with impeccable reviews.  She had her undergraduate degree and her teacher certification for K-4; however, she was RIFed because her only had one certification whereas many of the younger teachers were certified in two or even three different areas of expertise (ESL, Special Ed, grades 4-8, etc.) Though the fields of education and technical communication are not really comparable, the premise remains similar:  placing a strong emphasis on new (or more) certification has the potential for putting the jobs of excellent professionals in jeopardy.  How could the STC reevaluate the grandfathering aspect of certification to accommodate these concerns?

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