Would you recommend pursuing a technical writing certificate?


#1

Bellevue College offers a technical writing certificate, but I can’t decide if I should enroll. I don’t currently work in the tech writing field. My career goal is to document open source projects.

Here’s the certificate course list: http://www.bellevuecollege.edu/ce/category/technical-writing/

Tuition is $1,500 - $2,500.

Did earning a certificate help any of you land a tech writing job?


#2

I started doing technical writing just by writing. I volunteered to write technical articles for a Linux website, then someone, who was a published author, recommended me for a small project updating a book chapter. From there, things took off and eventually, I was doing freelance and salaried writing jobs.

Although I know technical writers who have degrees related to documentation and/or technology, I haven’t even heard of a certification related to tech writing.


#3

I don’t know if the certificate, itself, would help much, maybe a little, if it gets you past some resume filters. Experience and examples of past work (i.e. a portfolio) will trump just a certificate.

If you’re interested in open source projects, look at some with great documentation and find some that have awful or non-existent documentation. Then see if you can find one of the bad ones that you could make look like one of the good ones. That would provide great experience and a wonderful portfolio piece (you’d have an example of analysis, authoring, design, customer/community feedback, etc.)

And, it wouldn’t cost a cent (a lot of time, yes, but no money).

Related advice: find a mentor and/or an editor who can help you on your journey.


#4

GitHub is filled with projects; some have great docs; many have poor or non-existent docs.

I’ve been telling people: use it to build your portfolio, in three ways:

  1. You can show prospective employers a “before / after comparison”
  2. You may make an excellent impression on a potential startup
  3. You will learn about the popular version control tool today, Git.

#5

Thanks for all the responses. You all confirmed what I was feeling.


#6

My best recomendation is to build up your portfolio and get experience, which is your goal during this stage. Become involved in forums, discussions, social media, and volunteer work is also very useful. You want to show potential employers that you: 1. Are connected with social media 2. Can prove your skills through writing samples. Best of luck and welcome to the tech world!


#7

STC has talked about techcomm certification for quite some time, but it has never interested me. I’ve also been skeptical of certification. I think I am more a believer in building your portfolio as proof that you love this stuff and do it well.

At the recent TCUK15 conference, we discussed continuing education and training for the techcomms field. Everyone agreed that things like actively blogging or writing articles about techcomm topics or active, constructive participation in online techcomm communities were very acceptable ways of earning credit in the eyes of your peers. You can put this sort of thing on your CV/résumé, too.

Someone mentioned github as a place to do volunteer work. Drupal, WordPress, and Mozilla also have doc groups where you will be welcome. They all know that everyone has to start somewhere. That, too, will be very nice on your CV/résumé.


#8

In the spirit of @kmdk’s post, take a look at these other threads on this forum, which include resources for getting actively involved in demonstrating what you can really do – in this case, contributing to open source projects, which include but are not limited to the ones that Karen mentions –


#9

Only if you want the knowledge that comes with it. It probably won’t make a difference to getting hired.

The best way to get a job is to have a job. So do pro bono if you have to, but ABW - Always Be Working. :slight_smile:


#10

Speaking of which, here’s a pro bono opportunity: https://twitter.com/nlhkabu/status/656793661720670208


#11

A good way to figure out what you need to learn is to look at job postings regularly. Get a sense of how the technical writer fits into development teams. It’s clear that especially nowadays, the more cross-functional a tech writer can be, the better. Become familiar with source control, UI design, coding, graphics creation, documentation tools, and general technical documentation and content strategy principles. (I’m saying this as a hiring manager if that makes any difference.)


#12

Readers would do well to heed @LoisRP’s advice. I’ve heard that from other hiring managers as well. The good news for aspiring writers is there’s a wealth of information available on those subjects.


#13

tedmcox, I am currently enrolled in a technical writing certificate program through UC Santa Cruz, it is all online. It is almost like a mini Masters degree. I just finished my second course in the program, 8 more courses to go, I should be done by Spring 2017. I work as a developer at the moment but think that eventually I will transition to documentation. Check it out:

[UC Santa Cruz Technical Writing Certificate][1]
[1]: http://www.ucsc-extension.edu/programs/technical-writing

I hope this will eventually help me get a job, but there are no guarantees. Just the 2 courses I have taken have already helped immensely in the documentation I do at my job though! :slight_smile:


#14

@annanymouse, that is interesting to hear your perspective. What have you found useful in those two courses?