MeasuringU: Is a UX Certification Worth It?

Certifications provide some indication that a minimum threshold of competence has been demonstrated, which in theory should help prospective employers, customers, and the industry as a whole. 

Source: MeasuringU: Is a UX Certification Worth It?

Bob Watson seems to finding a lot of great articles lately that I wish to pass along. Bob posted this on Twitter the other day, and my mind automatically jumped to the promotion that’s going on with the CPTC certification program that’s being promoted by the STC right now.

In many respects, from everyone I’ve talked to–from those who have taking the exam and have received their certification, to the CPTC instructors, to those running the program through the STC–seem to echo much of the same message as what’s in this article. Certifications as professionals in a specific field or expertise should express that this person has learned and passed some rigorous testing that other experienced professionals in the field have deemed them worthy of being a certified professional.

I have been looking at the CPTC for more than a year now, and while it’s intriguing to me, I haven’t been able to get myself to “pull the trigger” to go to the prep course and take the exam. I have the book, but I’m not good at studying on my own for something like that.

There are three main reasons that I haven’t committed to getting this credential yet. First, cost. It costs $245-495 (depending on whether you are an STC member or not) just to take the test. No guarantee you will pass it, but I’ve heard it’s HARD. That’s a lot of money to blow if you haven’t thoroughly prepared for it to try to guarantee that you will pass it.  The courses are expensive, too. I know at least 3 or 4 of the instructors, and while they are all incredibly capable instructors, the course is still expensive–well over $1000, if I recall correctly. I know there are costs involved, and this is probably competitive pricing to other certification courses of this kind, but it’s out of my budget right now. I would consider it an investment in myself if I did it, but even so, I don’t have the funds to do it right now.

Second, when the certification first came out, it was touted as something for those who didn’t have a tech comm or related degree who needed a credential of some sort. I have an MS in Professional and Technical Communications from one of the best tech schools in the U.S.–NJIT.  And I did very well in that program. So why would I need certification as well?

Third, and this is a big part of my hesitation, what guarantee do I have that earning this certification will help me find employment, whether with a company, as a contract, or otherwise? The impression I’ve gotten is that in some industries, as mentioned in this article, certifications are EVERYTHING, so having an CPTC would be worth it. But how many people or companies actually KNOW about it? And what value does it really have? This article says that it doesn’t yield much more–if at all–in income. For me, it would be whether having this certification made me a more attractive candidate to an employer or client that would put me either near the top or at the top of a candidate list. At this stage of the game, no one can say for sure. Eighteen years ago, when I broke into the IT field, you didn’t need any kind of certification to be a project manager.  After a few years away being a stay-at-home mom, I found that the only way to find a project manager job was to have a PMP certification. Even now, that’s still true.  Is it worth it for me to go back and learn how to formally be a project manager and get that PMP certification? I’m not sure. Would getting a CPTC certification bring a higher value? Again, not sure.

Read this article. I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from taking the CPTC or PMP or any other certification at all. I do see some value in it. My only point is that it’s a big investment, and it’s a risk since there’s no guarantees in some cases. Even if you have the certification, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll get the position–or even do well on the job. So, just be careful out there, and choose wisely!

What do you think? Do you have insights that I’m missing? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

About TechCommGeekMom

Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who has recently started her own technical communications consultancy, Dair Communications. She has worked at the International Refugee Committee, MetLife, Novo Nordisk, and BASF North America, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog, TechCommGeekMom.com, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/daniellemvillegas, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog.
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One Response to MeasuringU: Is a UX Certification Worth It?

  1. Larry Kunz says:

    Certification has a chicken-and-egg aspect to it: practitioners won’t pursue certification until employers show that they value it — in the form of hiring preference and higher pay — but employers won’t value certification until they see that practitioners are pursuing it.

    Certification for technical communicators faces another challenge: it’s hard to agree on a body of knowledge, or a set of core competencies, on which to base a certification exam. STC has worked for years to establish a body of knowledge, and more recently it’s devised an exam. Does the exam accurately measure what it takes to be a good technical writer? I’m not sure. And even if it does, what if you’re a content strategist, or an editor, or an information architect?

    Time will tell if enough technical communicators will pursue certification to make it valuable to employers. I guess, after reading the article, you could say the same thing about certification for UK professionals. Offhand I’d say the odds are against it.

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