View Full Version : Certification - worth it or not?

09-22-2005, 03:04 AM
Newbie here... please be gentle. :flag:

I'm trying to make the transition from electro-mechanical engineering technician to technical writer. I've written a good dozen instructional & procedural documents as part of my duties as a tech, but because I never held the title of tech writer I don't think I'm being taken seriously. (Plus I struggle with self-marketing being a die-hard introvert.)

I have a BA in Liberal Arts and over a decade of technical experience, but just can't seem to get my foot in the door as a writer. There are a number of "tech writer certificates" out there, and some look pretty decent. Would a cert help me gain some cred as a writer? And, has anyone tried the online certification sites? Do tell.

Many thanks.

09-22-2005, 03:41 AM
My lil' 2 cents:

I've written a good dozen instructional & procedural documents as part of my duties as a tech,

I think this is a start. And I think your electro-mechanical engineering experience is also a start and well qualifies you to write technical material. Writing is the best way to get in. Just keep writing. You could mention the material you've already written in your queries. However, the choice is up to you as to whether you want a certification. Only you know how well your writing is. Although having a tech writer certificate is helpful, it still doesn't guarantee anything. Your writing ability and persistence is the key.

I have a BA in Liberal Arts and over a decade of technical experience
Another Plus!

Wishing you the best.

Mac H.
09-22-2005, 05:12 AM
I've employed a tech writer or two for short projects, and I've no idea if they've been certified - or what that even means.

For the short projects that I've been involved with, it's usually been the case that I've had a software package or a box that has needed a user manual or service manual.

For that kind of job, I really want someone to walk in the door with a bunch of similar manuals under their arm - offer me some options as to style etc (although I'll probably accept whatever they prefer) and ask intelligent questions about the system.

I'll then get a time-frame and a quote for the job from them.

That's it. 'Certification' sounds a bit odd when it's a job that I sometimes do myself - and I'm uncertified.

I'm sure corporate giants may consider certification & training important - I can't speak for them. And I'm Sydney based, so the USA may regard this as vital. But not over here.

In an earlier post on this forum I mentioned how I like to see the job approached. (As an engineer who does a bit of tech writing internally, but prefers to hire external people)

I'm sure I'm probably missing quite a few vital things, but certification ain't one of them

My 2c worth.


Good Word
09-22-2005, 03:37 PM
Hi Technoscribe, and welcome to AW! Check out the newbies forum when you get a chance.

Do you list the documents you wrote on your resume under the job description? In your resume, include everything you wrote. Use the word wrote wherever you can.

You might want to contact a recruiter who specializes in placing tech writers. It can also help balance out the introvert side of you.

I think that a certificate can help, but it does not replace effort. I'm in the greater Boston area, and there is a community college that offers a tech writing certificate to folks who already have a degree, and the certificate they offer is respected. It shows that someone who is making a career change is serious about the change. You, however, have the engineering background that gives you a lot more credibility than say, someone with a degree in psychology who wants to become a tech writer.

What geographic area are you in?

How long have you been looking, and how many resumes have you sent out?

09-25-2005, 02:29 AM
Thank you all. There are some good thoughts here.

Previous documents were all proprietary, so I can't use them as samples. This leaves me with very little in the way of a portfolio, so I can either create some dummy samples from thin air, or I can take a tech writing course or two and use my classwork as samples.

My writing skills are quite good. I had one paper published, so I'm pretty confident in that arena. Of course, I believe there is always room for improvement.

The only course I can afford at the moment is an online cert program produced by JER Group. Has anyone heard of these people or had any experience with them? They've been around for close to a decade and I have yet to dig up any dirt on them, so I'm seriously considering this path. Here is the link to the course overview. Does it sound worthwhile?

GoodWord... I'm in Fort Collins. Boulder/Denver is the technical mecca around here, but I'm not willing to drive 100+ miles every day.

Many thanks.

Good Word
09-26-2005, 07:51 PM
Why do you think that you can't use proprietary docs as samples? Of course you can. It just means your name isn't on them. But you can still show them, if you wrote them. It will help to have references if that's possible, unless, of course, your reference is your current job.

09-27-2005, 10:56 PM
Good Word,
I should have been a bit more specific. Proprietary as in company confidential, shall not leave the building kind of stuff. I worked in R&D for a major biomed manufacturer and they are very picky about information leaks.

References are no problem, other than the fact they are out of state.