Degree qualifications

Subject: Degree qualifications
From: "Charles P. Campbell" <cpc -at- PRISM -dot- NMT -dot- EDU>
Date: Fri, 7 Jan 1994 10:41:28 MST

Ms Stubbs--

In your posting on the TECHWR-L conference, you mentioned the literature,
journalism, and technical writing courses required in your major. Does
your program have any math and science requirements?

I ask from the perspective of a TC program, housed in the humanities department
of a small science/engineering college, that offers a BS (not a BA) in
technical communication. We find that many employers prefer hiring our
BS people to those with MAs in TC from university English departments. Our
students, like you, take a relatively large number of literature and other
liberal arts courses, but they also take all the calculus-physics-chemistry
courses required of the scientists and engineers plus 12 additional semester
hours in a science minor. It's this scientific literacy that seems to give
them an edge in the job market.

If your program is housed in an English department, there may be historical
reasons why the program is as it is. For most of this century, English
departments have been dominated by literature types, and until recently,
composition, rhetoric, or technical communication tended to be ill-rewarded
career paths for English professors. Even now most professors in English
departments don't really understand technical communication or take it very
seriously as an academic subject. Your "dynamite" professor may well be
up against well entrenched literary interests in the competition for program

However that may be, here's a list of the required courses in our TC program:
Rhetoric/Advanced comp., editing, report writing, instructional writing (aka
manuals, which includes online doc.), persuasive writing (aka proposals),
internship, desktop publishing/document design, Senior readings course in TC
theory, and senior thesis. TC majors also take the same technical-writing
course as the general population plus 9 hours in TC electives.

You've noticed that your curriculum includes at least some of these things,
plus some things we don't offer. But I'd opine that the strong math and
science emphasis in the program materially improves our graduates' perceived
utility to employers.

Incidentally, a recent STC-sponsored survey by Sam Geonetta et al. lists 22
BS programs, 44 BA programs, and 37 certificate programs among the 140
schools responding to the survey. In addition there are 15 MS programs to
28 MA programs within the same 140.

In sum, the issue you raise is a lively one, there being still no consensus
on appropriate education for technical communicators. I hope, since you're
close to graduation, you've included as many science electives as you could!
It'll be interesting to see how others respond to your query.

cpc -at- nmt -dot- edu

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