By Marcia Shannon
I attained Certified Professional Technical Communicator status in 2016. At that time, I was planning to retire from my full time technical writing job, so why did I seek certification? I did it for validation, for confirmation, and as incentive to pursue a freelance writing career. I wanted, no, needed validation that I understand and practice technical writing. I needed confirmation that my 30 years of output as a sometimes unrecognized technical writer met requirements. I wanted to be able to present myself to future employers with professional credibility, in addition to my B.S. in Business Administration, my writing samples and experience.
If you are thinking about pursuing CPTC, go for it. Start by going to the STC website section about certification, https://www.stc.org/certification/ , to look over the requirements. You will need the book, Richard Johnson-Sheehan’s Technical Communication Today, Fifth Edition. Choose the format that fits your learning style, hard copy or digital, buy or rent. I bought a hard copy because it is a very useful addition to my reference shelf.
My approach was to find and study the sections in the text that correspond to the nine core skill areas that are on the test. I wrote study outlines for each skill area, referencing the book pages. I also used the study materials available on the web site. As I worked my way through all of this, I realized that I needed a way to test my learning.
I attended the two day pre-Summit examination prep class, which was followed by the exam.. We were a very nervous group, hoping to use this new designation to better our careers as well as our skills. Alan Houser, our very patient and knowledgeable instructor led us through the prep, helping us to be calm and confident for the exam. Those were two very long days, part review of known skills and part unlearning some bad habits.
The benefits I received from taking the chance and doing the work were many--making new friends in the class, clearing away doubts that I might not be a “real” technical communicator and finding the confidence to start freelancing. If you are the least bit interested in becoming certified, I strongly recommend pursuing it. I found it to be absolutely worth the time, the cost, the effort.