BS or BA in tech comm

Subject: BS or BA in tech comm
From: Edwin Dahlquist <Edwin -dot- Dahlquist -at- asu -dot- edu>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 09 Jul 2005 12:49:10 -0700 (MST)

Undergraduate degrees may be useful, as long as you understand that the demand
for tech writers a few years back fueled a big jump in enrollment and in
programs, many of "uneven" quality. That is, many writing programs
with "technical" anywhere in the name were flooded with applicants, while
providing instruction in little more than basic writing skills by English or
Journalism instructors. The starry-eyed wannabes from those programs now have
their undergraduate degrees, many have auxiliary skills (Framemaker, RoboHelp,
XML, web design, programming) acquired online or from community colleges), and
are your competition. By the time a new entry gets his or her degree, that
flood of recent market entries will have several years of experience and solid

The opinion is not to dissuade anyone from entering the field, but rather to
act as a heads-up to anyone who believes that a "degree in tech comm" is going
to be viewed as anything more than "one line on a resume." It is no guarantee
of a career, a job, or even competency in writing; if you understand that early
on, and realize that you need a lot of skills and knowledge outside that which
the various programs provide, you should do well.

A BS or BA in tech comm is useful, primarily because it levels the field to
those with the degrees; those lacking the degrees will tend to be weeded out in
the initial parsing of their electronic resumes (unless they have great
experience and a stunning portfolio). By all means, go for the degree, but
never believe that it will teach you what you need to know to be a competent
technical writer--you have to learn that outside (and in addition to) the
various programs available.


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