Turner, Roy K., and Kenneth T. Rainey. “Certification in Technical Communication.” Technical Communication Quarterly 13, no. 2 (2004): 211-34.
In this considerable article, Turner and Rainey discuss the debate of how to best certify technical and professional communicators. Turner and Rainey position the debate as an ethical issue: a profession, if it is to be judged a profession, must have a mechanism by which the profession can be judged and held accountable for its work. All other respected professions have their crediting agencies so for technical communicators to call themselves professionals, they must have some form of certification, licensure, or accreditation. Without such certification, customers may cast doubt over the quality of work offered as there is little visible guarantee that a technical communicator can complete even the simplest of tasks effectively or accurately.
Rather than descend into a circular argument about whether certification or accreditation produces better workers, Turner and Rainey instead ask, “What does the absence of a competencies assessment say about the profession?”. They conclude that the lack of a competencies assessment “tarnishes” the profession by suggesting the profession’s leaders are irresponsible, and that by keeping the public ill informed means the public have little idea about the professional competencies of the profession’s practitioners.
Ultimately, Turner and Rainey believe that an objective, fair, and meaningful system of certification will greatly benefit the profession of technical communication as well as individual technical communication professionals. Especially when compared to other recognized professions, technical communicators owe an ethical obligation to their potential customers and consumers to show an objective, fair, and meaningful certification system.