Validate Your Knowledge with Professional Certification
Earning a professional certification can boost your credentials and career opportunities by demonstrating your understanding of the core knowledge, skills, and practices in the field, your performance capabilities by following standards of practice, and your commitment to continuing education by expanding your knowledge of emerging practices.
Certification sets baseline standards for skills, knowledge, and performance across the range of products and services provided by technical communicators and the companies they work for. Professional certification is ideal for individuals who have professional experience in other fields but are looking to specialize more in technical and professional communication.
“The CPTC certification was evidence that I had the credentials, and my active membership with STC was evidence that I was serious about my career. I got the job. My salary is $20,000 more than I was previously making and I have an office, not a cubicle with three walls, where my CPTC certificate prominently hangs.” - David Dick, STC Fellow
Professional Certification Benefits Any Career Level
Professional certification is a portable credential that validates your skills through a formal examination process and continuing education requirements. It also allows you to demonstrate expertise over a broad range of core competencies and skills in technical communication.
Whether you’re an entry-level enthusiast, seasoned career practitioner, or a veteran in the field, professional certification has potential value at all levels. It allows you to demonstrate the skills you have and encourages you to acquire others through continuing education and training throughout your career.
History of Certification
The Society for Technical Communication launched a certification program for technical communicators in 2011. The goal behind the program was to create preference in the marketplace for certified technical communicators and to validate efforts in learning core skills, best practices, and specific industry standards. STC believes that certification is a powerful tool for driving market recognition and adoption of an essential skill set. Per a report written in June 2009 titled “STC Certification Drivers,” the STC Certification Task Force at the time identified driving factors for a certification program for technical communicators:
- Establish uniform worldwide performance standards.
- Increase employability and salary of certified practitioners.
- Satisfy employer expectations.
- Reduce risk for employers.
The CPTC program was reopened in December 2015 through a partnership between STC and APMG, a credentialing organization that has developed more than 80 certification products that span the entire range of Professional organizations and industries. APMG’s accreditation and instructional design processes follow established and credible ISO standards. The updated CPTC program encompasses three levels of certification: foundation, practitioner, and expert, providing opportunities to earn the credential at all career levels.
You can read more about the history of the certification program and its development in this Intercom Magazine article.
The Three Levels of CPTC Certification
As a multi-tiered program, Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC) provides opportunities for credentialing technical communicators at different career levels, whether entry-level, intermediate, or senior. While candidates begin testing at the foundation level, they can move on to demonstrate mastery at the practitioner and expert levels as they progress in their knowledge and skills.
The Foundation Level Certification (Level I) is designed for entry-level professionals and measures a candidate’s general knowledge of the field and the ability to demonstrate comprehension of concepts, processes, and best practices. Foundation level has no specific prerequisites, but it is recommended that candidates have at least two years of professional study and/or work experience.
Note that you must obtain the Foundation Level Certification (Level I) before you obtain the Practitioner Level Certification (Level II).
The Practitioner Level Certification (Level II) is designed for mid-level professionals, measuring candidates’ mastery of applying best practices and current knowledge in the field as well as the ability to analyze complex problems and devise best practices and solutions. Practitioner level requires successful completion of the Foundation level certification exam and proof that certification has been kept up to date. While not required, it is recommended that candidates have at least two to five years of professional study and/or work experience.
Note that in order to obtain the Practitioner Level Certification (Level II), you must first obtain the Foundation Level Certification (Level I).
Expert Level Certification (Level III) is designed for senior-level professionals, where candidates demonstrate expert competency through the creation and management of complex and successful projects, which are evaluated by a panel of experts in the field of technical communication.
Expert level will require successful completion of the Practitioner level certification exam and proof that certification has been kept up to date. While not required, it is recommended that Expert level candidates have at least 5-10 years of professional study and/or work experience.
Expert level is currently in development and will include the submission of a sample document and presentation to be reviewed by an expert panel. Expert level is anticipated to be launched sometime later in 2023.
Note that in order to obtain Expert Level Certification (Level III), you must first complete Foundation Level Certification (Level I) and Practitioner Level Certification (Level II) in that order.
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