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Ten Proven Reasons for Certification
2010, Q4 (January 01, 2011)
By Bill Pacino, STC Carolina Senior Member

Editor's Note: The author granted permission to republish this article.

The goal is to have a working program of certification granted by evaluators within a year, followed by the replacement of evaluators with an exam-based certification in five years.

The effort to create a voluntary certification program for STC continues to move along eight months after its first announcement in May 2010. The goal is to have a working program of certification granted by evaluators within a year, followed by the replacement of evaluators with an exam-based certification in five years. The exam-based certification in the future would use a STC Body of Knowledge, in the same way the Project Management Institute uses its PMBOK (Project Management Book of Knowledge).

There are many steps in front of STC to meet these ambitious goals, goals worth the effort – for the profession, for the Society and for the individual.

Among the professional organizations that have made a success of certification are: ISPI (International Society for Performance Improvement); Data Warehousing Institute; ASTD (American Society for Training and Development); Human Factors International; IEEE; IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysts); PMI (Project Management); Accreditation in Public Relations; ASQ (American Society for Quality); BELS (Board of Editors in Life Sciences), to mention just a few.

Each of the professional associations listed above have many strong words on the value of their certification programs. Go to the individual websites of these professional associations – they are no different than STC – to see the value that they are providing for their membership and the economic environment that their membership makes its money in.

Why it won’t work

There are many reasons why STC certification will work. Let’s examine first the negative comments about this STC program.

My “portfolio” is proprietary/military/defense

The portfolio submitted to the evaluators is not a forklift load of work you have done, but samples demonstrating specific knowledge, skills, and abilities. It certainly can be work just like that submitted to STC Competitions. But it also can be an original representative piece of work. Yes, this is more preparation, more assembly of your work, but this gets around the problem of getting permissions for proprietary or confidential publications work.

What about those who have no body of work for assessment?

When you go on a job interview, what do you use for a portfolio? How do you show prospective employers what can you do? Yes, there are people who can articulate very well who they are and what they can do. Just like there are speakers who can engage an audience successfully without PowerPoint slides. But a body of personal work is needed. It does not have to be finished products that a company paid you to do. It could be a case study, or an academic piece of work that demonstrates your skills and knowledge of technical communications.

The technical writing field is too broad for certification

Colleges grant technical communications degrees. These colleges must have figured out some order to the profession. Another example is project management, a very broad field. PMI has designed criteria for success in this field.

How will certification become relevant in technical communications?

Certification will become relevant when hiring managers understand what skills are represented by the certification and trust that the skills are held by the practitioner.
Certification programs become publicized when certified practitioners list the certification on their resumes and cover letters and make a point to tell interviewers about it. Yes, the professional association will create white papers and seek publicity about its professional certification program. But, as the individual practitioner did the most work to earn the certification, the individual practitioner, at the grass roots level and by individual action, will do the most work to publicize the certification.

Benefits of STC certification

The certification effort by other professional associations serves two audiences. Employers and clients need standards and criteria to help them distinguish individual practitioners who have proven they can produce results using a systematic process. At the same time, these individual practitioners can make good use of a credential that would help them assess their ability, focus their professional development efforts, and recognize their capabilities.

Here are more reasons why STC certification benefits you (and the companies who hire you).

  1. Certification demonstrates your commitment to the profession. Receiving your certification shows your peers, supervisors and, in turn, the general public your commitment to your chosen career and your ability to perform to set standards.

  2. Certification enhances the profession's image. Association certification programs seek to grow, promote, and develop certified professionals, who can stand "out in front" as examples of excellence in the industry or field. Association certification programs also provide money to the association. All the professional associations listed above are making money on the fees for exams.

  3. Certification reflects personal achievement. Certified professionals display excellence in their field by meeting set standards and requirements.

  4. Certification builds self-esteem. Association certification programs create a standard for a particular profession, complete with performance standards, ethics, and career paths. You'll begin to define yourself beyond a job description or academic degree. You'll see yourself as a certified professional who can control his or her own professional destiny and find a deep sense of personal satisfaction.

  5. Certification establishes professional credentials. Since it recognizes your individual accomplishments, certification stands above your resume, serving as an impartial, third-party endorsement of your knowledge and experience. And when the public looks for individuals qualified to perform services, they seek individuals-like you-who have achieved certification.

  6. Certification improves career opportunities and advancement. Certification gives you the "edge" when being considered for a promotion or other career opportunities. Certification clearly identifies you as an employee who can adapt to changes in work, technology, business practices, and innovation.

  7. Certification prepares you for greater on-the-job responsibilities. Since certification is a voluntary professional commitment to an industry or field of knowledge, it is a clear indicator of your willingness to invest in your own professional development. Certified professionals are aware of the constantly changing environment around their profession and possess the needed tools to anticipate and respond to change.

  8. Certification provides for greater earnings potential. As a certified professional, you can expect many benefits, but for today's down-sized, right-sized, topsy-turvy working world, salary increases speak for themselves.

  9. Certification improves skills and knowledge. Ideally, achieving certification shows your individual competence by confirming proficiency and career involvement and assuring knowledge.

  10. Certification offers greater professional recognition from co-workers and peers. As a certified professional you can expect increased recognition for taking that extra step in your professional development.

More Reading

To give credit where is it due, the benefit list was rewritten from one published by the Virginia Nursery & Landscape Association:

Another good write-up on the growth of certification programs as a reaction to the changing employment market is the Professional Certification entry in Wikipedia:

Bill Pacino can be reached at william dot pacino at verizon dot net. End of article.

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