Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing
The English Department offers an 18-credit-hour Graduate Certificate in Technical Communication. The Graduate Certificate requires four graduate English courses, plus two graduate courses in an allied field, selected in consultation with the Director of Business and Technical Writing. The English courses include two technical communication core courses (EH 501-502), plus two electives, as described in the program of study. These courses also count toward a master's degree in English. M.A. students in English pursuing this certificate may choose to do a master's thesis in technical communication instead of the two allied field courses.
Students who wish to earn the Certificate in Technical Communication must be admitted to the Graduate School, but may pursue the certificate independent of a master's degree program.
No more than six credit hours taken at another institution may be applied to the certificate, and certificate courses taken at UAH must include EH 501 or 502 and EH 601, 602, or 698.
For further information about UAH programs in technical communication, contact the Director of Business and Technical Writing, Morton Hall, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL 35899, or phone (256) 824-6320.
Visit the technical communication careers page.
Admission to the graduate certificate program involves exactly the same admission requirements as admission to other graduate programs:
- College transcripts
- Admissions tests
- Admission to the graduate school requires satisfactory scores on one of the major standardized tests.
- The Miller Analogies Test (MAT) is offered on Wednesdays at 9 a.m., at least twice a month. A score of 413 is sufficient for unconditional admission. Scores are good for five years. See Testing Services for cost and scheduling details.
- The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is offered four times a year and is recommended for students who anticipate going on to a doctoral program after completing their master's degree. A score of 1500 is sufficient for unconditional admission. Scores are good for seven years.
- For further information about test dates, call Testing Services, (256) 824-6725, or check their website at http://testing.uah.edu/
- Review by the English Graduate Faculty
Students may be admitted to graduate school conditionally or unconditionally. Unconditional admission requires a GPA of 3.0 on undergraduate work and satisfactory test scores. Students may be admitted conditionally with lower test scores, a GPA of 3.0 on the last 60 hours of undergraduate work, or other variables as determined by the English Graduate Faculty. Link to downloadable admission forms.
Students seeking an M.A. in English may choose either Plan I (24 semester hours plus a thesis) or Plan II (33 semester hours). Both plans require a minimum of 18 semester hours in literature courses offered by the English Department. Special certificate programs require additional hours which are determined by further guidelines in consultation with the appropriate program advisors. Six hours of graduate work in English may be transferred with the approval of the department graduate committee. Other requirements are as follows:
- At least half of the hours for the degree (exclusive of thesis credit hours) must be in courses numbered 600 or above, and at least nine hours in English courses at UAH numbered 600 or above (exclusive of thesis credit hours).
- Six semester hours of EH 699 for students following Plan I.
- A maximum course load on 15 semester hours per semester.
- Oral comprehensive examination on courses taken and on the thesis. For students following Plan II, both oral and written examinations are required. The written examination must be passed before the oral exam is taken.
- A reading knowledge of French, German, Spanish, or another language deemed by the department to be academically appropriate. Adequate reading knowledge must be demonstrated by one of the following options:
- Four semesters or their equivalent in one language with a minimum average grade of B at an accredited institution, completed not more than five years before the student's first graduate course in the UAH program.
- Intermediate-level performance on a UAH examination in the language, given by arrangement.
- A score not lower than the 25th percentile on the Graduate School Foreign Language Test (GSFLT). Registration is necessary 21 days before the examination. A fee is required. Any student who plans to pursue the doctoral degree is urged to take this test and pass with a score in the 50th percentile.
- In lieu of the language requirement, additional graduate course work of three semester hours of English. EH 507 (English Linguistics) or EH 508 (History of the English Language) or a designated course of a similar nature is required.
The two core courses required for the graduate certificate in technical communication are
EH 501 Theory and Practice in Technical Communication (fall semester only). This class explores relationships between common practices in technical communication and the theories that legitimize those practices. It includes an introduction to research and theories about fundamental issues in technical communication which may then become the basis for further graduate study in technical communication.
EH 502 Problems in Technical Editing (spring semester only). This class offers advanced study of research and practice in common problems of technical editing, including documentation standards, document design, and management of complex editorial projects. It involves a collaborative project with professional writers in industry. Prerequisites: EH 501 or EH 302, or permission of the instructor.
Graduate Certificate students select an English or Communications graduate course as the elective in the certificate program. Two courses have been approved for this elective.
EH 601 Writing Pedagogy - A seminar in the teaching of writing, this course covers a variety of approaches and writing specialties, one of which is technical communication. Certificate students may take this course at any point in their graduate program.
EHT 602 Practicum in Technical Communication - An internship in writing/editing, involving a combination of research and practical experience in a professional environment. Students must complete EH 501-502 to qualify for an internship, which requires considerable advance preparation, in cluding a research proposal before the internship begins.
Two of the six courses in the Graduate Certificate must be in an "allied field," another discipline relevant to technical communication. These must be graduate courses taken in the last five years, and must be approved by the Director of Business and Technical Writing. Usually, the two courses are taken in the same discipline, although exceptions can be made. The most important factor is that the courses expand and broaden the student's education in technical communication.
M.A. students in English pursuing this certificate may choose to do a master's thesis in technical communication instead of the two allied field courses.
Allied field courses have been approved in the following disciplines: Computer Science, Education, Linguistics, Psychology, Political Science. A file of syllabi and sample papers from some of these courses is available from the Director of Business and Technical Writing.
The term "technical communication" may cover a wide variety of career paths. The careers of some UAH students who completed the Cognate in Technical Writing over the last ten or more years illustrate some of the possibilities.
Both Kathryne Smith Pickett, an English major, and Lynn Jones Dozier, a Political Science major, were hired by companies where they interned. Kathryne started writing on-line help for a defense contractor, and went on to write computer manuals for VMIC, an industrial hardware and software company. Lynn held several positions at Intergraph, from writing training manuals to writing user's guides and online help, before moving to Adtran to write training materials.
Jennifer Whitman Rankin also interned at Intergraph and was hired there as a technical writer the summer after graduation. For five years, she wrote and edited manuals and created online help. Intergraph provided tuition assistance for her to return to graduate school for the Graduate Certificate in Technical Communication. In winter 2000, she was promoted to Webmaster for Intergraph Public Safety, responsible for design and management of the internal and external websites for this division.
John Brewer, a double major in Engineering and English, completed the Cognate and was hired as a technical writer at Cybex (now Avocent) before graduating. He now manages a group of technical communicators who produce documentation and other materials for Avocent switching systems. He is particularly involved in globalization and localization projects, since Avocent sells its products in many countries.
Laurie Harris already had a Journalism degree and experience as a newspaper reporter when she came to UAH for the Cognate. Now she works in Marketing Communication at Intergraph, writing sales collateral, advertising, press releases, and direct mail.
With an English major and Cognate, Thom Chumley began as a NASA subcontractor editing standard operating procedures. His company helped pay for his MA degree with a Graduate Certificate in Technical Communication (1995), after which he went to Sun Microsystems, Inc., in Mountain View, CA, as a Technical Writer. There he designed and maintained internal web pages and delivered online documentation on CD-ROM. In 1998, Thom moved from California to Sun's Colorado office, where he became program manager for Sun's first online service site, SunSolve.
For more information about careers in technical writing, see the jobs site.
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