Spec writing courses lead to lucrative career opportunities
By Mark Buckshon
Ottawa Construction News staff writer
The work may lack glamor or glory, yet it is at the core of the architectural, engineering and construction community and the opportunities for a rewarding and satisfying career are immense, say individuals who have acquired the skills and experience in construction specification writing.
Several specification writers who have completed introductory specification writing courses to qualify for Construction Specifications Canada (CSC) certifications shared their experiences at a special introductory meeting at the Algonquin College Centre for Construction Excellence on Oct. 15.
The event conflicted with mid-term exams, so relatively few students attended, even though some of the guests included architects and engineers describing their frustration and the challenges in recruiting qualified specification writers to work in their practices.
As I co-ordinated the event and stood at the front podium, I couldn’t easily take notes – so I’m hesitating to attribute direct quotes to anyone. However, a consensus emerged that:
- College courses in architectural and engineering technology provide only limited coverage of the specifications-writing process;
- Some professionals consider “spec writing” beneath their dignity; yet those professionals who have completed formal engineering and architecture degree programs and learned about specification writing consider the skills to be invaluable in their career development;
- Individuals who care about detail, can write precisely, and enjoy understanding the foundations of AEC projects will find specifications writing to be a worthy career – and will find plenty of employment opportunities, either at architectural or engineering practices, or as freelance specification writers. (As well technical sales representatives will find specifications writing ability to be extremely helpful in their career as they will be able to suggest and revise specifications to promote their businesses’ products or technologies.)
Undoubtedly, course graduates said, the CSC specifications writing program is challenging but not onerous.
While many courses can be completed on-line, there are advantages in the small-class group instruction program offered by the Ottawa CSC Chapter. “We can discuss and share ideas, and explore issues with greater depth in the group setting,” one graduate said.
The CSC program offers several streams depending on students’ interests and professional objectives, resulting in (for those who wish it) certification as a Registered Specifications Writer (RSW). However, specification writers don’t need to complete the entire program to start earning money with their skills.
The first course in the certification process – and the prerequisite for everything that follows – is Principles of Construction Documentation (PCD), said Allan Johnston, the CSC Ottawa chapter’s education officer.
The next PCD course is scheduled for four Saturdays in November (Nov. 2, 9, 16 and 30) from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 17 Fitzgerald Ave., Ottawa, offices of John G. Cooke and Associates Ltd.
The course investment is $650.00 plus HST and include materials, lunches and refreshments. Many employers will reimburse some or all of the costs.