STC Certification Program


The STC’s Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC) certification program was re-engineered and launched in December of 2015. The newly designed professional certification program has three certification tiers: Foundation, Practitioner (in development), and Expert (in development). Candidates must successfully complete a preceding certification level to qualify for the succeeding certification tier.

The following are descriptions of the purpose and sources used for each of the certification tiers.

  • Foundation: Measures knowledge and comprehension of entry level candidates through an exam. Technical Communication Today by Richard Johnson-Sheehan is the body of knowledge used for the Foundation exam.
  • Practitioner: Confirms the application and analysis of knowledge of mid- to senior-level candidates through a written exam. The sources used for the Practitioner certification is Technical Communication Today by Richard Johnson-Sheehan. For this level, 3 to 5 years of work experience is recommended.
  • Expert: Confirms the expert-level candidate’s ability to synthesize and evaluate knowledge through a subject matter expert (SME) panel interview and submission of work products. Candidates for the Expert certification should have 5 or more years of work experience.

The 6th edition of Technical Communication Today is the preferred edition. The TCBOK may be used as a supplemental resource for candidates of any level.

Reasons to Pursue Certification

Technical Communicators who achieve certification benefit from:

  • validated knowledge, experience, and competency
  • differentiation from others in the workplace and the ability to command higher pay
  • professional development
  • personal achievement
  • leadership recognition by employers and colleagues
  • professional status
  • portable career credentials

Employers benefit from:

  • validation of an employee’s skills and knowledge by a third party (APMG International)
  • differentiation from others in the workforce
  • employee’s engagement and commitment to the field and business

Foundation Exam Preparation

The Foundation exam measures a candidate’s knowledge and comprehension of nine areas of expertise or core competencies, including key terminology, facts, concepts and techniques.

The core competencies are:

  • Project Planning
  • Project Analysis
  • Content Development
  • Organizational Design
  • Written Communication
  • Reviewing and Editing
  • Visual Communication
  • Content Management
  • Production and Delivery

The exam questions require that the candidate have more than a high-level understanding of the content within the Technical Communication Today book. The ability to recall specific concept and technique differences is key to a successful exam outcome.

The following are some strategies for preparing for the Foundation exam:

  • Register for the exam.
  • Read the book (and then read it again).
  • Take the practice exam.
  • Review the study guide.
  • Enroll in an exam preparation class.
  • Study, take notes, and review with an exam partner.

Foundation Exam Format

There are two formats for the Foundation exam: online and paper. The online format is used most frequently because it allows flexibility in scheduling when and where the exam is administered. There are situations, such as at the end of an exam preparation class, in which the paper exam format may be used when computers are not readily accessible. Whether the exam is taken online or by paper, the proctored exam format and successful passing mark is the same.

Key Points:

  • closed book
  • 40 minutes
  • 50 multiple choice questions
  • 70% passing mark

Additional Information

Once successfully certified, candidates must earn 12 continuing education units (CEUs) every 2 years to ensure that certification remains current. There are several activities that qualify as CEUs, including STC online courses, STC annual membership, STC webinars, and academic courses related to technical communication.

For more information about the Foundation certification or CEUs, see the Certification tab at the top of the STC home page. For more readings about the certification process, see STC’s Intercom January 2016 and March 2017 issues.