I am thinking of going back to school. Again.
Some of you might remember last year when I failed calculus pretty decisively during my first semester of what was possibly going to be a computer science degree. I think I left out the actual failing part, but that’s what happened. That was an online class, though–I know I could have done it in a traditional class.
I’m driven by a couple of things–I want to keep advancing in tech comm or just build something new, and I just plain want to keep learning. I know there are other ways to avoid career plateaus than by going back to school. There are other ways to get technical skills. I can dream up plenty of innovative projects that don’t necessitate me taking a class, right? The thing is, I keep feeling this nagging limitation.
What if I want to build something completely different?
It’s like when I was trying to write songs, and I could sing, but I can’t play an instrument. I know there are singers who do it, but for me it was frustrating. I could find musicians to play with, but I wanted more input. So I learned enough guitar to sketch some songs.
Is it me or the tech comm industry that is at a plateau?
At the companies where I’ve worked (and from talking to people, this doesn’t seem uncommon) documentation is a by-product that is approached later in the product cycle, when the product is stable, and past the point at which people have any energy for the all the benefits it can offer if one is innovative.
When I talk about personas, and sales opportunities, they look at their watches and wonder why I am not just writing it, already. I’m becoming pretty well-versed in the benefits of good user documentation that is part of a larger strategy, but there simply doesn’t seem to be much space for making the argument.
So, I’m going to need more credibility.
And more technical skill. Where I’m at now, the product people and even some of the marketing people are engineers. My impression is that they think personas are cute, at best.
Some of that will be alleviated by me getting more experience. People out there are doing these innovative things with tech comm, and seeing the benefits, and it’s the company that’s missing out when I fail to get the message across, or when they just don’t have ears to hear it. But when the rest of the features in the product are being built based on intuition and domain expertise, why should I expect the help to get treated to more empirical methods?
I’m not oblivious to the fact that I got all wound up like this last time, and that it might pass as soon as I get another project that’s shiny to me.
For now, it’s giving me plenty of blog post ideas.
This is the question I want to answer: do advanced degrees (or additional degrees) for technical communicators pay off?
This can be broken into several parts/posts: how much do technical communicators make with various bachelor degrees or less, how much more do they make with additional degrees, how is that different in different parts of the U.S. and in different parts of the world? How do the degrees contribute to other factors of job satisfaction? Which degrees help the most for which jobs? Do other skills or circumstances play a bigger role in salary and satisfaction?
- Graduate Certificate in Systems Analysis
- MS or BS in Information Architecture (not sure which makes more sense, yet)
- BS in Computer Science