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I'm responding to this thread not as a hiring manager, but as a recent Tech
Comm grad and tech writer in my first job. In our M.S. program, we delved
into plenty of theory on communication, usability, etc. We also completed
some rigorous projects that forced us to learn software skills as well as
time management. For me personally, this degree has been a great means to
enter the field of tech writing, but I do have two suggestions for your
One semester-long class consisted of an overview of several programs such as
Robohelp and Macromedia Director. Although this was not enough time to
become proficient in using these programs, it was good experience to review
them and not feel completely lost the first time using them on the job. As
many of the responders have noted, tech writers need the skills to learn all
kinds of software quickly; the more tools you are exposed to, the more
general knowledge you will accummulate.
I work in the software industry, and my manager was surprised that the
graduate program didn't require more assignments to re-write manuals for
existing products. Students could rewrite (or write from scratch) a few
chapters of a manual, for either a real or hypothetical product. They could
then receive extensive edits from the professor. Or, they could perform
peer edits on each other's work to develop editing skills.
Therefore, based upon my own personal experience, I would recommend an
overview of some of the more widely used publishing programs (Framemaker!)
and some real-world writing and editing projects. Skills developed through
these exercises will serve tech writing grads well in their first jobs.
Happy and healthy new year,
Laura A. MacLemale
Technical Communications and Training Specialist
Matthew Bender, part of LEXIS Publishing
Albany, NY 12204
Phone (518) 487-3465
Fax (518) 487-3681
Laura -dot- A -dot- MacLemale -at- bender -dot- com