Jennifer Lawler

Mary, this is a great question. I think certificate programs make sense for training purposes, though not so much as a credential. That is, I think they are great for learning the skills, and fulfilling the certificate requirements helps you guide your education in a meaningful direction. But while I would certainly mention that I have a certificate in CE from UCSD if I did indeed have one and was applying for a copyediting job, it is unlikely that having it would be the sole difference between getting work and not getting work.

In other words, if the certificate program will help you learn some skills and techniques that you don’t currently have but do want, then pursue it for that reason, not because it will help you get a job. There is no evidence (that I know of) that these types of certificates are instrumental in getting work. They can help you be seen, if all else is equivalent.

For example, suppose I have ten LOIs in my inbox, all from newer editors who have little experience working for publishers. If one of them has a certificate, I will be more inclined to ask that person to take an edit test as I would at least know that they had been taught the basic skills they need to do the work. But if someone else has experience working for publishers but no certificate, I will be inclined to ask that person to take an edit test.

As you say, this is more complex in fiction because most of the university-based programs skew towards nonfiction. That is such a different beast from fiction that I wouldn’t really consider it when hiring a fiction DE or CE.

I do not have an editing certificate of any sort though I have taught in the UCSD copyediting program. I have never experienced this lack as an impediment at all, though I recognize that my experience is not everyone’s experience. (I do have a Ph.D, which is a mixed blessing; it ticks the “education” box but it does make some people assume that I shall never dirty my hands with anything less than prize-winning literary efforts.)

For general classes not leading to a certificate, I typically recommend mentioning this in terms of professional development: “I’m committed to professional development and take several editing-related classes each year through organizations such as X and Y to keep my skills sharp. Learning from a variety of mentors has helped me identify the most effective methods and techniques for working with different types of manuscripts and authors [or whatever you would say].” To me, this type of paragraph means that you’re open to new ways of working, that if I have to teach you how to use a custom content management system, you’ll be up to the challenge, and you’re not going to be shocked if I tell you that we don’t use the Oxford comma here.

Hope that helps?