One of the most questions we get about the Certified Processional Technical Communicator (CPTC) Foundation program is, “What is the difference between certification and a certificate?”
Certificate programs are often offered by schools, companies, and on-demand providers (e.g., Lynda.com and Skillshare). These programs issue a certificate that typically indicates attendance, participation, or completion of a subject. Certification, on the other hand, is based on industry standards as defined by an organization or governing body. For the CPTC program, the Society for Technical Communication defined the nine core competencies required for the certifications.
A certification uses an evaluation process to measure one’s competency against these industry standards and results in a professional designation (e.g., CPA for accountants or PMP for project managers). While both certification and certificates are paths for professional development, certification involves continuing education requirements to ensure one’s knowledge and skills remain current.
Where’s the value?
When asked if there is value in pursuing the CPTC credential or taking a few classes to earn a certificate, this has been my response: It depends.
- A certificate program provides value if you are getting started in technical communication and want to develop or improve your skills, whereas certification validates the skills you currently have. The path you select depends on your goals: Do you want to learn about the a specific area of technical communication? Are you interested in focusing on one area, such as visual communication or user experience? If so, check out certificate programs, including those offered by STC.
- If you have been in the field a few years or more, perhaps your goal is obtaining credentials based on proficiency and showing you are qualified and committed to doing quality work. In that case, certification would be a better path.
- If you have experience as a technical writer, even if that’s not your job title (programmer, instructional designer, trainer, etc.,), certification is a way to earn credentials and expand job opportunities.
- If you are new to or transitioning into the technical communication field, certification is a great way to demonstrate that you understand the concepts and competencies required as a technical communicator.
Is the certification class right for you?
Our class covers the nine core competencies critical to working as professional technical communicator. It is designed to help candidates pass the certification exam. This asynchronous course is based on the body of knowledge textbook that supports those core competencies. Students complete reading assignments, watch lecture videos, complete activities and quizzes, and test their knowledge with a practice exam. During this course, students also have opportunities to interact with the instructor and fellow students.
For example, the core skill area of project analysis addresses reader and document context and rhetorical situations. The organizational design area focuses on guidelines and techniques for organizing and drafting technical documents, and written communication includes writing style, persuasion, tone, and general readability.