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Master of Arts in Professional and Technical Writing

FAQs about the MA in PTW

Q. Why do people enter the professional and technical writing master’s program?
A. The PTW master’s program provides a supportive yet challenging environment in which people who are already strong workplace, nonfiction, and academic writers can further enhance their writing abilities. (Please note that if you do not have strong writing skills, the master’s program is not where you should expect to develop them. Our department offers courses at the bachelor’s and post-baccalaureate levels that are more appropriate for your needs.)
Some people enter the master’s program because they want to learn skills that will strengthen their professionalism as writers, editors, and teachers in their current and future workplaces. Others enter because they are considering a career change. Still others enter the program purely to pursue personal growth.
Q. Do I need an undergraduate degree in English to pursue a master’s degree in professional and technical writing?
A. No. Writers from many backgrounds including science, education, business, and the arts and humanities have successfully completed the PTW master’s curriculum, thereby expanding their professional horizons. The PTW degree is especially useful to people preparing for or advancing their positions in
  • corporate communications
  • educational institutions
  • technology intensive occupations
  • doctoral and professional degree programs
  • grantwriting and consulting businesses
  • government, legal, medical, and research environments
Q. What kinds of writing will I do in the PTW program?
A. Technical writers will develop websites, write grants, create electronic documentation and training materials, organize manuals, and design presentations. Nonfiction writers’ texts range from personal essays to blogs to informative, issue-oriented, investigative works.
All writers in our program compose a variety of academic and analytical essays, often involving substantial research. Master’s-level writers are also expected to improve their technology skills and become literate in composing for new media. All students will produce web-based writing portfolios during their master’s coursework, and students who pursue the thesis option for this degree will write extensive documents of 70 pages or more as a capstone experience.
Q. Can I complete this master’s program if I work full-time during the day?
A. Yes — in fact, 60% of our students are working professionals who take one or two classes each semester in the evenings or online. We offer graduate courses in the morning, at lunch time, and in the evenings (4:30 and 6:00 p.m.), and we also offer and fully online courses that do not require you to commute to campus. You can complete all the degree requirements while taking courses that meet at 4:30 p.m. or later, and in many cases we can customize your schedule so that you are on campus only 1-3 days per week.
Q. Can I complete this master’s program online or from a distance?
A. We do not yet offer all of our required courses online — but you could conceivably complete 75% of your coursework online or from a distance. We offer a sufficient number of online courses each year that you could complete all your concentration and cognate hours, although you would have fewer courses to choose from than a student able to come to campus. Independent studies are also good options for online and distance students.
You must come to campus for RHET 7310 Composition Theory, RHET 7311 Rhetorical Theory, and RHET 7312 Language Theory — three of the four required core courses. These courses usually require you to come to campus just one night per week.
For a list of the courses we regularly offer online, visit our Online Course webpage.
Q. How long will it take to finish the degree?
A. The time it takes to complete the degree depends on the number of classes you take each semester. A full-time student takes nine hours (3 classes) per semester and can finish the PTW master’s degree in roughly 2.5 years. A part-time student will take one or two classes per semester. Students pursuing the thesis option who take 1 course per semester (including summers) can finish in 4 years.
Q. What can I do with a PTW degree?
A. You can work in a variety of fields including business, technology, publishing, industry, and government, or you may wish to teach. Some of our graduates have pursued advanced degrees, including doctorates in rhetoric and composition and MFAs in creative writing.
Q. Will there be a job for me when I finish the program?
A. No one can guarantee jobs, but our experience has shown that a carefully planned degree, work experience, a strong writing portfolio, and an aggressive job search, have helped create a tradition of success for PTW graduates. A good source for networking and job information is the rwjobs-l mailing list.
Updated 12.11.2012