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What is Certification? STC Summit 2012


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Overview of the Certified Professional Technical Communicator credential offered by the STC Certification Commission. Presentation by Steven Jong, Chairman of the Commission, at the Society for Technical Communication (STC) Summit, Rosemont IL, 22 May 2012.

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What is Certification? STC Summit 2012

  1. 1. What is Certification?STC Summit, Rosemont, ILMay 2012 1
  2. 2. Session Agenda✤ Who is eligible for CPTC™ certification—and who should apply?✤ Why is certification right for you?✤ What is the process?✤ When will you get your results?✤ How will it matter—to you, to employers, and to the profession?✤ Where do you get more information and get started? 2 2
  3. 3. STC Certification Commission ✤ Incorporated in 2011, in Virginia, as a 501(c)(6) organization ✤ Independent of STC ✤ Responsible for establishing certification policies, granting CPTC™ certifications, and overseeing day-to-day operations ✤ Bylaws, policies, procedures, finances separate from STC ✤ One “member”—STC ✤ Seven commissioners, serving two-year terms 3 3–-what’s-difference501(c)(3): Operated exclusively for charitable, educational, religious, literary, or scientific purposes501(c)(6): Operated to promote a common business interest, and to improve business conditions in the industry 501(c)(3): Includes membership associations (e.g., professional society), if the purpose is to advance the profession with respect to "educational"activities501(c)(6): A membership organization (e.g., business league, industry trade association), advancing a common business interest
  4. 4. Certification is Here! 2008: Benchmarking 2010: STC Board 2012: Charter report on professions approved program members 2009: “Summit@Summit” 2011: Beta testing gathered certification drivers (reasons) 4 4I used a runner image in 2010, which I’ve keptThese are the major milestones from the last five yearsWe’re just getting started, so the runner continues
  5. 5. Are You Eligible? ✤ All practitioners who meet eligibility requirements can Experience... Plus Education apply ✤ STC membership is not High-school diploma required 5 years or equivalent ✤ Prerequisites: combination of full-time experience and education 4 years Degree in related field ✤ Must agree to abide by Code of Conduct Degree in specified 3 years field 5 5Who can apply? We set up the requirements so that a lot of practitioners are eligibleSTC membership is not required, although we charge less for STC members; and certification is not required to be an STC member, so nothing haschangedA combination, or sliding scale, of experience and education:Think of the base requirement as five years or about 10,000 hours of work experience, which is comparable with requirements for PMPBachelor’s degree in related field (such as English, Computer Science, or Journalism) plus four years of experienceBachelor’s degree in specified field (such as Technical Communication, Information Design, or Science Journalism) plus three years of experienceFinally, you must agree to abide by the Code of Conduct, which is more specific than the STC Code of Ethics and lists prohibited behavior
  6. 6. Profile of an Applicant ✤ Bachelor’s degree ✤ Already has 3–5 years of experience in field ✤ Documents products and services sold in North America ✤ May be an STC member ✤ Committed to a long-term career including work in technical communication 6 6Who should apply? Here’s the target demographic.The target audience is mid-career professionals. We are targeting practitioners, not just STC members.You can be a captive employee, a contractor, or a lone writer.
  7. 7. The Process You send application You send submission Commission evaluates and payment packet and payment packet Eligibility verified Completeness verified Trained evaluators assess individual sections under non-disclosure Commission returns CPTC™ granted for evaluation three years Results within 60 days Continue training and professional development with annual maintenance fee 7 7How do you get the certification?The candidate instructions are available on our website, and you can (and should!) download and study them first. It’s an open-book exam.Here’s the process, from application to renewal. Notice that the application and the submission packet are two separate steps.Or... If at first you don’t succeed, resubmit section(s) and payment
  8. 8. Assessing Areas of Practice 1. Project Planning Competencies 1. User, Task, Experience Analysis 2. Project Analysis Competencies 2. Information Design 3. Solution Design Competencies 3. Process 4. Organizational Design Competencies Management 5. Written Communication 4. Information Competencies Development 6. Visual Communication Competencies 5. Information Production Areas of Practice Submission 7. Content Development Competencies Packet 8. Content Management Competencies 9. Final Production Competencies 8 8What are we looking for? The certification assesses competencies, which are your knowledge, skills, and abilities. These competencies aregathered into five broad, uniform areas of practice where technical communicators provide unique value.To assess competencies, we look at a submission packet with nine sections. The submission packet consists of nine sections, including artifacts,commentaries, and scenarios. Why five areas to nine sections? Think of it as drilling down, or emphasizing, information development (writing,illustration, and editing). Three sections are must-pass, and you have to get a minimum passing score on the nine sections taken together.
  9. 9. Evaluation✤ Your packet is received and administratively screened by the Certification Commission✤ Double-blind assessment by trained evaluators under nondisclosure✤ Evaluated section by section✤ You must pass Sections 5, 6, and 7 (writing, graphics, and editing) and achieve an overall passing score✤ Results returned within 60 days 9 9
  10. 10. Fee Structure Fee (USD, STC Member Non-Member nonrefundable) Application $99 $125 Evaluation $595 $695 Resubmission $100 per section $100 per section (if necessary) Maintenance $49 annually $69 annually 10 10
  11. 11. Preparing Your Packet ✤ Read and follow all the directions on the candidate instructions ✤ Treat each section separately ✤ Don’t skip anything ✤ Choose your sample(s) wisely ✤ Observe all page lengths ✤ Proofread carefully ✤ Submit only PDF files (we do not accept other formats) 11 11Here I insult your intelligence, but I have a reason to list each of theseV1.0 of the Candidate Instructions list page limits as suggestions; they will soon become requirementsV1.0 of the Candidate Instructions imply formats other than PDF are acceptable; PDF will soon become the only acceptable formatFor more details, go to Rob’s session on Wednesday
  12. 12. The Value to Practitioners Certification is an objective, ! portable, personal credential ! that is associated with higher salaries, job-hunting advantages, and better job opportunities ! ! 12 12There has to be a reason why so many people in so many professions pay good money to get certified. Here’s the value proposition.A résumé puts you in your best light, but everyone knows it’s not objective. A reference isn’t objective either, and it speaks to you in only one role.Certification is an objective, third-party assurance that you can do the job. And it’s yours, not your employer’s; it goes with you from job to joband field to field because it’s a general certification.People entering the workforce today can expect to change jobs six times in their working lives. The average job attracts anywhere from 200 to1,000 résumés, and consequently the average résumé gets only six seconds of HR attention. What can you put on yours that will catch the eye? HRpeople say it’s a certification mark! And at the other end of the process, when a hiring manager has to choose between you and two or three otherequally qualified candidates, what is the tiebreaker? HR experts say it’s certification again.Certification shows not just what you do, but what you can do. It opens the door for professional advancement, and gives you the confidence tostep through it.Our studies of other professions shows that certified professionals make more money than their uncertified colleagues. I can name youcertifications that boost salaries in certain professions 10%, 20%, 30%, and more. But I don’t want to oversell the benefit. A comprehensive studylast year by Foote Partners of 225 certifications showed an average salary increase of 7.3%. Imagine making that much more in salary, not just as aone-time bonus, but year after year, compounded, for the rest of your career. Those fees start to look like a bargain! And they are.
  13. 13. The Value to Employers ✤ Certificants are more cost-effective to find, train, and keep—and so are worth paying a premium for ✤ Certification objectively assures that certificants can handle complex projects from planning through completion—so they reduce the risk of problems ✤ Certificants voluntarily dedicate and commit to their profession— something employers like 13 13There also has to be a reason why employers would pay more for a certified professional. How is that possible? This is how.In general, employers find that certified professionals are more likely to be successful, valued employees.
  14. 14. The Value to the Profession Certification is one of the three attributes of a profession: 1. Body of knowledge 2. Code of ethics 3. Certification 14 14In 2007, STC commissioned Rick OSullivan for a study of professions. The result was "What Makes a Profession Professional?" (2008). Was technicalcommunication a profession at the time? He said no. “You can be; you should be; but you aren’t yet.” This is what STC did. In effect, STC created theprofession, and certification completed the picture.
  15. 15. Maintaining Your Certification ✤ Your CPTC™ certification is valid for three years ✤ To maintain your certification: ✤ Annual maintenance fee ✤ Ongoing professional development ✤ Stay active in the field ✤ Renewable without retest, resubmission packet, or recertification fee 15 15The certification isn’t a lifetime grant; it would be worthless if it were. We chose a typical period of three years.Continuing education is important, and the certification maintenance process encourages it.You don’t have to attend STC events—any professional society (such as IEEE or ASI) will do.Remaining active in your chapter or SIG counts as professional activity. Chapter leaders: the more certified practitioners in your chapter, the morethey’ll have reason to attend your chapter events and workshops.
  16. 16. Certification and Your Career ✤ Certification is an important milestone in your career journey ✤ Like career paths, the path to certification varies among individuals ✤ Most practitioners are qualified to apply for CPTC™ certification ✤ Some employers will pay; some practitioners will invest in themselves ✤ Initially, certification is for generalists ✤ Initially, certification is in English and based on US market standards ✤ CPTC™ certification will take time to take root 16 16Not everyone qualifies, and not everyone will pass. This is a feature, not a bug.Certification is not a guarantee of personal success.It’s been suggested that this is a money-making scheme, and that everyone who applies passes. That is not true.
  17. 17. Certification is Transformational ✤ For practitioners: More money, respect, recognition, and opportunity; breaks the downward rate spiral ✤ For employers: An objective way to discern value; less risk ✤ For the profession: Makes the profession professional; raises the bar of practice 17 17How does certification matter? I truly believe certification is transformationalProject managers were in a commodity spiral 25 years ago, and began certification to break itMaintenance raises the bar of practice; we can refurbish or add new requirements as circumstances warrant
  18. 18. Where Do I Sign Up—? ✤ To get started on your CPTC™ certification: ✤ Information at the Summit: “How do I Become Certified?” Rob Hanna, Wednesday 11:30– 12:30 pm ✤ More questions? Email (or me at 18 18Today is just an overview; for more information, go to Rob’s session