As a technical writer, if you’re not consistently honing your writing abilities, sooner or later the competition will catch up to you. To stay on top of your game, completing a well-recognized technical writing certification course can go a long way.
There are a lot of continuing education/training opportunities for technical communicators out there. Whether you’re a beginner or a current technical writer who wants to take the next step in their career, there’s a certification program for everyone.
To help you pursue the right one, in this article, we’ll review some of the best technical writing certification programs being offered in 2020.
Let’s get started.
What is Technical Writing?
If you’re completely new to the field of technical writing, you should probably explore this brief crash course to see what you’re getting yourself into (you may also directly jump to the list of certifications).
Technical writing refers to the art of delivering highly complex information in a structured, easy-to-comprehend, and targeted way. Stakeholders, software developers, engineers, scientists, and business analysts use technical writing to share technical information with a defined audience.
Used in fields like software engineering, medical science, maintenance, finance, etc., technical writing is a form of technical communication. Its basic principle is that it relies on using unambiguous language to convey otherwise highly technical information.
Technical writing takes a lot of shapes and forms, including, but not limited to:
- Software documentation
- User manuals
- Financial reports
- White papers
- Business plans
Of course, different technical documents have different goals (like explaining the usability of a software product, sharing set-up instructions for a team of engineers, etc.). Furthermore, the tone, selection of words, and depth of information depends on the final audience.
The structured writing for technical documentation is one of the few things that separate it from most forms of writing.
Technical writing is a rewarding career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a technical writer in the US is $76,860. If you enjoy explaining technical information, have a knack for writing, and are passionate about a technical area, this might be the perfect career path for you.
Top 7 Technical Writing Certification Options
There’s always room for improvement in the technical writing field. Whether you’ve been in the game for a while now and want to further polish your writing skills, or setting foot in the field for the very first time, you can find a ton of certificate programs catered to your needs.
After reviewing several technical writing certificate courses, we’ve shortlisted the following 7 that are worth checking out:
Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC) by the STC
The Society for Technical Communication (STC) is a professional association of technical writers, editors, and managers. The STC’s mission is to promote the growth of the field of technical communication.
To that end, the association offers networking events, competitive online courses, and a professional certification program known as the “Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC).”
The CPTC is a widely-recognized credential that speaks volumes for a holder’s technical communication skills. The program is split into the following 3 tiers (passing one tier will unlock the next):
- Foundation – the first tier is for beginners. Completion of this certification demonstrates that the professional has sound knowledge of the principles of technical communication.
- Practitioner – this is the next step in your CPTC journey. Those who hold the Practitioner certificate show that they have high proficiency in applying the best practices of technical communication.
- Expert – this is the ultimate proof of a technical communicator’s high expertise. The assessment is based on special interviews and work products. As of now, the STC still has to announce the exam for this tier.
In order to get started with the CPTC, you’ll also need to become a member of the STC. Furthermore, there are many online courses being offered by the STC, each of which can award certification holders with continuing education points (CEPs).
All in all, if you’re looking for a decent program with a path for steady growth, the CPTC is a good choice.
Medical Writer Certified (MWC) by the American Medical Writer’s Association
This certification has a narrow target audience in that it’s only meant for technical writers who specialize in medical science.
The Medical Writer Certified (MWC) program is offered by the American Medical Writer’s Association (AMWA) in collaboration with the Medical Writing Certification Commission (MWCC).
The AMWA has over 4,000 members and a simple goal – to help fellow medical writers excel in their careers by providing them with training, networking, and continued education opportunities.
By acquiring this certification, you can solidify the credibility of your medical writing skills, strengthen your professional profile, and attract better employment opportunities.
In order to qualify for the examination, you must:
- Have at least a bachelor’s degree in any field
- Have at least 2 years of experience in the field of medical communication
The exam for this specialized technical writing certification is based on 125 multiple choice questions, lasting 2.5 hours. It is conducted at more than 300 testing centers worldwide.
You can learn more about examination get answers to FAQs regarding eligibility on the program’s main landing page.
Coursera’s Technical Writing Certification Courses
Coursera is one of the largest e-learning platforms out there, offering over 3,000 online courses, specializations, and certifications in hundreds of disciplines.
The platform offers a good selection of self-paced, 100% online courses on technical writing. From basic certificates to advanced credentials, you can easily find a program that meets your learning needs.
Here are a few that are worth exploring:
- Technical Writing – this is an intermediate-level course that is offered by the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. If you want to demonstrate proficiency in the principles of sharing experimental/professional results, this course is ideal.
- Writing Skills for Engineering Leader – if you’re a seasoned engineer who wants to learn the basics of technical writing, this 16-hour long course is perfect for you. It is a part of the “Communication Skills for Engineers Specialization” program.
You can consume the learning material/watch the lectures for free. However, to obtain the certification and share it in a professional capacity, you’ll need to pay the set fees.
Udemy’s Technical Writing Certification Courses
Like Coursera, Udemy is a massive online training platform with far greater number of courses in hundreds of fields.
Furthermore, compared to Coursera, Udemy has a better selection of technical writing courses, all offering certificates of completion.
From courses that teach technical writing skills to project management professionals to programs that will show you the ropes of business writing, the learning possibilities are endless.
Here are a few of the top-rated certification programs worth the enrolment:
- Technical Writing: Master Your Writing Career – this is a basic course that will help you become a more successful technical writer. It is 5.5 hours long and costs only $49.9.
- Professional Technical Writing: Advance Your Writing Skills – this next certification course is also meant for beginners who want to start developing technical documents. It is 6 hours long and comes with a price tag of $199.9.
- Technical Writing: How to Write Software Documentation – if you’re interested in specializing in software documentation via GitHub, this course is a good place to start. As of now, the course costs $129.9.
While Udemy offers free courses as well, unfortunately all the technical writing courses being offered right now are paid.
Tech-Writer Certification Programs
Tech-Writer Certification, in collaboration with different accredited university partners, offers a few well-recognized technical writing certification programs.
Unlike online certificate courses offered by Udemy and Coursera, Tech-Writer Certification programs have to be completed within the specified time-periods (otherwise you’ll be required to pay an extension fee to continue).
The certificates being offered by this platform include:
- Basic Certificate in Technical Writing – this certificate program is made up of three courses, designed specifically for beginners who want to learn technical writing. Assessments are based on quizzes, assignments, one-on-ones with the instructors, and a final project.
- Comprehensive Career Builder Certificate in Technical Writing – this program is meant for professionals who want to take the next leap in their career. It is a comprehensive that lasts for 3 months.
- Certificate in Writing for Current Technical Writers, Editors and Designers – as the name suggests, this program has been designed for technical communicators already in the field. It lasts for 90 hours.
In addition to the above, Tech-Writer Certification also has a 360-degree certificate course on technical communication, a program for structured technical documentation, and another one that teaches the basics of writing/written communication skills.
Certificate in Professional Technical Writing by the University of Washington
The University of Washington (Professional & Continuing Education) is a renowned institution in the US that provides working professionals with unrivalled career-advancing opportunities.
The institution’s certificate Professional Technical Writing program will show that you have deep understanding of the principles of technical writing – giving you a substantial competitive edge over your peers.
It is based on 3 courses that will help build a solid foundation of technical writing.
Through this comprehensive program, you’ll learn how to create different high-level technical documents, the basic elements of document design, and how to use popular documentation tools.
The program is conducted online with real-time meetings, lasts for 8 months, and will set you back by $3,597. Only apply if you are fully-committed to take your technical writing career to the next level.
Dalhousie University’s Technical Writing Certificate Program
The final technical writing certification is the comprehensive program being offered by the Dalhousie University’s College of Continuing Education.
Like all the aforementioned certificates, this program is conducted online. Upon completion, you’ll receive a university-accredited certificate which you can then showcase as proof of your skills.
Another great thing about this program is that there are no strict eligibility criteria. If you belong to a STEM field, and are serious about pursuing a rewarding career in technical writing, you can apply with no questions asked.
The program consists of 4 courses, including 1 core course called “Technical Writing Essentials,” and 3 elective courses, making it one of the most flexible options out there.
While the learning activities are to be completed on a self-paced basis, the evaluations have to be completed within a period of 4 years.
Which Technical Writing Certification is Right for Me?
Considering that there are so many options, it can be difficult to pick just one.
However, your decision should boil down to the following factors:
- Your current budget
- How well-recognized the certification course is in your industry
- Your current requirements/level of skills
- How flexible the course is
Regardless, earning a certification is a milestone that you should be proud of. Showcase this achievement on your resume (and LinkedIn profile) to get noticed for competitive technical writing jobs.