For the past forty years, technical communicators have discussed developing systems of certification, for formal accreditation of professional technical communicators. Significant numbers of people in the field have wished for certification, but many written discussions have pointed out that the diversity of skills and the number of people resistant to the idea have tended to make TC certification programs difficult to create. Certification is sometimes related to Body of Knowledge projects, which attempt to delineate the major categories of a field (which can then be described and taught in standardized ways, and tested).
The Society for Technical Communication (STC) announced today that certification for the technical communication field has been approved. Within the next year, technical communicators will be able to attain certification in their profession.
For the past nine months the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA) participated in a project to investigate the feasibility of certifying usability (or user-centered design) professionals. The project was kicked off in Salt Lake City last November when a group of people from many organizations, countries and associations met for three days. That meeting ended with a sense of enthusiasm for creating a certification program based on the international standard for a human-centered design process, ISO 13407. The group planned activities to survey professionals to determine the level of support for certification, and to understand the benefits and drawbacks seen by stakeholders.
I believe certification of technical communicators is unavoidable, given the current status of related professions and our technological environment. Either the STC develops a certification program, or someone else will do it.
The Society for Technical Communication (STC) has been debating certification for technical communicators for over 37 years in one form or another. Despite many attempts locally, regionally, and nationally to move toward establishing a certification process for the profession, the issue remains on hold.
The debate over certification of technical and professional communicators has occurred with periods of relative intensity and quiescence for more than twenty years. This article surveys the historical developments of the debate; describes the arguments for and against certification; surveys technical communication curricula and theoretical arguments for literacies, standards, and competencies; and examines various efforts to study certification, including a description of published documents regarding certification.
Most professionals want to further their careers over the course of their working life. Scientific editors as a whole do not have well-defined paths for establishing their careers, unlike professionals such as lawyers and doctors, where the educational and credentialing processes are well established. Where can scientific editors get their training? Where can they get experience? This paper will explore experiences, certifications and credentials, as well as training, and degrees, specific to scientific editing that can help further the careers of scientific editors.
STC members have shown interest in being certified as technical communicators for at least 37 years. The Society has made at least four studies of certification. This paper reviews the work of the 1975-80, 1981, 1982-87 and 1994-1998 committees. The three, multi-year studies had essentially the same results; significant numbers want certification, but too few to make a full certification program economically viable. The studies also revealed that creating a certification program might be divisive. The 1982—-87 study revealed an interest by employers in STC having an accreditation program.
STC has meant a lot to my professional growth over the past 20+ years as a teacher and practitioner of technical communication, and I want to help STC expand its educational mission for all technical communicators. It is time our profession had a defined body of knowledge. Why?
Personally, I’d rather see it done as a series of courses and tests covering major areas of the profession. Basing it on a portfolio immediately cuts out a large portion of the writing community who produce proprietary material. Most writers would probably be better off pursuing an advanced degree like an MA from a university that offers a technical communication program.
Over 230 countries, 6,700 languages, 147 currencies, 24 time zones — the Web allows companies to traverse these barriers and reach consumers worldwide.
Technical communication as a profession should have some mechanism for identifying and validating the work that its professionals do. In many countries in Europe, professional societies have made some progress in this direction.
Certification will transform the Society, the profession, and the careers of people working today. To me, anything I can do to help accelerate the growth of the program is worthwhile.
In spite of the limited population, Sweden is a highly industrialised nation with a number of globally well known industries. As the home market for these industries is far too small, they have to rely on the export markets to sell their products. This situation creates a rather special situation for technical communicators in Sweden. We have to translate the manuals into a large number of languages. And, as our own culture really does not have a dominating position in the world, we have to adapt the information to the target cultures on the different markets. Internationalization is a part of our everyday life.
It is difficult for companies and employees to assess or verifiably prove qualification in technical communication. The reason is that "technical communicator" is not a legal job title and no specified legal qualification training regulations exist for the qualification – anyone can claim to be a "technical communicator" even without qualification. The tekom "Technical Communicator (tekom)" certificate solves this problem.
We can avoid much of the controversy surrounding certification when we consider it as part of a qualification process. Certification has two primary results. It provides candidates with the most effective way to achieve the required skills. It also provides us with a way to define the skills and skill levels that make us a profession. The Appraisal Institute and the American Medical Writers Association are examples of groups that offer training as part of their certification process. We can promote certification and standards within the Society and in cooperation with academic programs and industry.
Varför anlita certifierade teknikinformatörer? En uppdragsgivare som anlitar en certifierad teknikinformatör (eller tecknare, fotograf, översättare eller liknande) vet att han kan få en opartisk granskning av ett arbete som han är missnöjd med. Om granskningen utfaller till beställarens fördel kommer han med största sannolikhet att få en korrigering till stånd så a tt han blir nöjd.
The mention of the word certification in any room where technical communicators are often leads to a heated debate. As a profession technical communication is still in its infancy; therefore, the technical communicators are still defining their roles in the workplace and the standards of their profession. Some specialists in the profession have already established their own standards and certification programs. At present the avenues for professional certification are limited.
The virtues of certification cannot be ignored, but they are outweighed by the drawbacks: There’s no evidence that employers will value certification; it can be highly subjective; and it requires ongoing renewal, even for experienced practitioners, to avoid diluting its value. The more important task must be to demonstrate our value to employers. Only once they understand our value will certification provide a means to assure employers that they can expect to receive that value.