Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's a Matter of Degree

How badly do I really need that piece of paper?
Photo by scottchan

I don't have a college degree.  Not even an Associates (although I have enough credits for two).  For whatever reason, life has always gotten in the way and I've just never managed to pull together the right combination of credits at the right school in order to grab that piece of paper.  I do have a pharmacy technician certificate from a vocational-technical school, but that's generally not something that impresses people in the writing fields (more on this in a bit).

So what's the deal with that?  Why not just bite the bullet and get the stupid piece of paper?  I looked into it about a year ago to see what I needed.  Turns out it's not much.  I have to retake math (sigh) and I need P.E. credits (you're kidding, right?).  Unfortunately, they both have to be taken at the school where the majority of my credits are, which is now about 45 minutes away.  And apparently P.E. isn't something you can take online.

My budget and schedule simply doesn't allow me to go back to school, at least not that school.  I still want to finish that technical writing certification program and hopefully I'll have the opportunity soon.  So what does all of this have to do with writing?

When I'm applying for freelance writing and editing positions online, so many of them want the candidates to have a Bachelors in English.  Sometimes they don't even care what you have a Bachelors in, so long as you have a Bachelors (which is frankly kind of ridiculous, since I've known plenty of people with a PhD. who can't spell or punctuate their way out of a paper bag).  I've always been skittish around these, and backed away.

I'm generally pretty confident in my skills.  I think that writing and editing is something you don't necessarily have to have a fancy piece of paper for. Either you can do it, or you can't.  As strange as it is to think about, it's kind of like auto repair.  Are you going to take your car to a mechanic who has a framed piece of paper on the wall or are you going to take it someone who can get the job done?  And if your mechanic can get the job done, does it matter whether those skills were learned at a tech school or by hands-on tinkering and discussing the craft with other mechanics who love their jobs and want to pass on knowledge?

A while back I posed the question to Anne Wayman at Aboutfreelancewriting.com, who has been in this business for a while and has considerably more experience than me.  She was kind enough to respond, indicating that she doesn't have a degree either, and that fact hasn't gotten in her way.  In a way, her response gave me "permission" to go ahead and give these openings a shot after all.

Shortly after this conversation, I ran across a request for freelance technical editors to edit pharmacy technician certification exams.  In their ad, they required a Bachelors.  I promptly responded back and, without mentioning education whatsoever, told them that I had worked in the field for nearly 10 years.  Yesterday, I heard back from them.  They sent me a short sample exam to edit and fact check.  After all, what they really want, more than a Bachelors, is someone who can do the work.

Who would have thought a pharmacy technician certification would have come in handy in this line of work?

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