Week 14 – Certification Will (or Will Not) Work

Hart, Geoffrey J.S. “Why Certification by STC Won’t Work.” Intercom, July/August 2008, 11-13.

Rosenberg, Nad. “Certification – Why We Need to Begin ” Intercom, July/August 2008, 11-12.

Both Hart and Rosenberg address whether STC should implement required certification for technical communicators.  Hart openly admits from the start that his argument is “clearly one-sided” and that this particular article serves to focus on the drawbacks of certification, namely the issue of whether or not employers will eventually pay more for a certified communicator (1).  If the STC members are the only people who recognize the value of a TC certification, then the certification will be highly ineffective.  Another drawback to certification stems from the reality that technical communication is a highly subjective field which contains (according to Hart) “no universally accepted ‘best practices’ . . . [because] often, a technical communicator can choose from several solutions to . . . solve a problem” (2). Additionally, Hart cites that BELS already has its own certification system and worries that STC certification “appears to be reinventing the wheel” (2).  He concluded with an assertion that even if STC certification were implemented, grandfathering presents multiple obstacles with determining how to asses a candidate’s years of experience without diluting the certification program’s values. 

On the flip side of the certification issue, Rosenberg boldly supports a move toward implementing certification standards.  He begins by citing technical communication certification programs offered in Europe and in India and questions why we (in America) have yet to follow suit.  Like Hart, Rosenberg emphasizes the monetary perspective and furthers this focus by quoting Judith Hale, “The driver behind most certifications is economic, whether this fact is stated or not” (1).  Some of the positives presented by certification include providing evidence of competency when hiring/evaluating technical communicators, establishing quality assurance with hiring employees, and presenting a way for prospective employees to demonstrate their interest and commitment (not to mention, competency) in the field.  However, Rosenberg concedes that there will be a “chicken-and-the-egg” scenario until the financial details can be worked out.  Additionally, he admits (like Hart) that establishing a set Body of Knowledge is a daunting task considering the scope of the field. 

As a new practitioner in this field, I understand that developing an educated opinion about STC certification is imperative to my future success.  At this point, I can definitely see the value to portions of both arguments.  For example, I believe that establishing a set BoK is an unrealistic because of the diversity of the technical communications field.  However, I also find that the idea of a certification as a means of establishing myself as knowledgeable and competent could be extremely helpful in terms of being hired simply because I don’t have decades of work experience under my belt; in other words, I would probably be a better candidate for embracing the certification than a woman who has been in the profession for 25 years. 

Additionally, I wonder if my perspective on this issue will change as I begin to work in the field and see how the politics of the organizations actually play-out.  Like Rosenberg said at the start of his article:  “Times have changed – and my opinion along with them.”  How will the technical community’s response to certification change as time passes and as the details of the certification process actually get fleshed-out?

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