Master of Technical Communication
The Program in a Nutshell
Utah State University’s Master of Technical Communication is designed to appeal to a broad range of students. Among them are the following:
- Working professional writers and communicators. The program aims to help practicing professional and technical writers—people who do communication-intensive work in a variety of organizations, both for-profit and non-profit. Students advance their careers by learning practical skills and the theories that can support or challenge workplace practices.
- Students considering an academic career. The program introduces students to technical communication and rhetoric as an academic field, and graduates may go on to complete PhDs in the field or teach at two-year colleges.
- Secondary education teachers. High school English teachers who complete the degree will be able to add technical writing and communication classes to their teaching repertoire, incorporate principles of technical writing and communication into their existing classes, or make the switch to teaching at two-year colleges.
To thrive in our online master's program, you need sufficient motivation to participate in ongoing online discussions, and you need to be technologically self-reliant. Our program assumes you are already familiar with HTML, FTP, and other Internet-based technologies, or that you are willing and able to learn the software on your own, without help from the instructor. We recommend you subscribe to a service such as Lynda.com if you need software training.
The master’s program at Utah State University (USU) is taught and administered by the English Department, while enrollment and fees are handled by USU's office of Distance Education. USU is designated as a Carnegie Research University (High Research Activity). The university is fully accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges. To learn more about USU, please visit the university's homepage.
The English Department has a number of faculty members who are trained and experienced as technical writers and professional communicators, and who actively research in their fields of expertise. Students may review their credentials on our faculty page. Some classes may be taught by subject matter experts not on the permanent faculty at USU.
The English Department also offers a PhD in Technical Communication and Rhetoric (TCR), and online classes are designed to serve not only the populations listed above but also our doctoral students, who register for online classes together with master’s students. The PhD program has a mission to explore the ways in which TCR can be used to promote social justice, and students in the online master's program will notice this theme in many of their classes.
Key Readings in the Field of Technical and Professional Communication
Applicants should have at least some familiarity with the technical communication field. As a starting place, we point applicants to the following four touchstone articles:
- A humanistic rationale for technical writing: Positioning technical writing as humanistic and rhetorical, this 1979 article is one of the most influential and heavily cited articles in the field.
- Relocating the value of work: This 1996 article argues for technical and professional communicators to convey more clearly the value of our expertise, rejecting classification as low-skill support workers and instead embracing and articulating our role as critical information brokers.
- Has technical and professional communication arrived as a profession: Exploring the role of technology in the professional identity of the field, this 2005 article acknowledges the centrality of ever-changing technologies to our work but concludes that "people [...] are the ultimate end, not the technology" (p. 369).
- Disrupting the past to disrupt the future: Winner of the 2017 Nell Ann Pickett award, this article calls the field of technical writing and communication to embrace social justice and inclusivity as part of its core narrative. Co-authored by Dr. Rebecca Walton, this article reflects our program's explicit commitment to social justice broadly defined.
Online Graduate Seminars
The program is offered entirely online, which means that students can complete all requirements for the Master of Technical Communication degree without traveling to the campus in Logan. As in a traditional, face-to-face seminar, students read assigned materials, create documents, and discuss what they are reading and writing with each other and with the instructor. However, in our online seminars they do all this without necessarily meeting each other in person. Members of the class interact through the Internet, using a simple interface program called Canvas.
Canvas allows both synchronous ("chat room") and asynchronous ("threaded") discussion. Synchronous discussion occurs in real time. Students who are logged on at the same time use this feature to read and respond to each other's messages without a time lag. Most class discussion, however, is conducted asynchronously to accommodate students who live in different time zones and have different work schedules. In an asynchronous discussion, students do not need to be logged on at the same time to exchange messages. They may post messages to the class at any time of the day or night, at any location in the world where there is access to the Internet. Students can read and respond to each other's postings whenever it suits them.
Although class members may not all be logged on at the same time, class is always accessible (assuming the Canvas servers are operating normally). And while students may not have the benefit of seeing other seminar members and hearing their voices, the online medium offers other benefits. For example, several discussion topics may be pursued concurrently, whereas in a face-to-face seminar only one topic at a time may be addressed and usually only one person at a time may speak. Furthermore, the Canvas interface records all postings, so students can review earlier discussions in the class and add to them at any time during the class. Instructors set guidelines for the nature and amount of discussion they expect in their classes.
Messages may be posted to the class website at any time of the day or night. Students can expect responses within a reasonable amount of time, but it may take several days if the instructor is attending to his or her other work commitments.
When you complete the degree, you will receive a Master of Technical Communication.