Technical Communications Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a technical communications program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate and bachelor's and potential careers.
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Studying Technical Communications: Degrees at a Glance

Technical communicators, or technical writers, turn potentially complicated information into easily understandable documents. They may produce instruction manuals for consumers, or documents for communication within a company.

There are likely to be good opportunities for a technical writer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects technical writing jobs to grow 17% between 2010 and 2020. As technological companies continue to grow, they will need those who can produce documentation for their products.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Those looking for entry-level work in technical communication Individuals interested in the potential for a variety of careers in technical communication
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) -Desktop Publisher ($37,000)*
-Writer/Author ($56,000)* Generally requires experience in addition to education
-Technical Writer ($65,000)*
-Medical Writer ($57,000)**
-Associate Editor - Web ($53,000)**
Time to Completion 2 years (full time) 4 years (full time)
Common Graduation Requirements Typical associate degree requirements Typical bachelor's degree requirements
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes (rare) Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 data), **Salary.com (As of July, 2012).

Associate in Technical Communication

An associate program in this field is meant to teach you how to translate technological data into an easily understandable form for a target audience. As technical communication involves both art and science, some colleges treat the degree as an associate of arts, while others treat it as an associate of applied science. In either case, the program will cover a mix of both. Some programs are geared toward further education in another discipline, preparing you for a technical writing career with a strong focus in a particular field. Other programs are meant to prepare you for employment immediately after graduation. These programs may require you to take a technical focus, such as marketing, computer software, or medicine.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Communication skills learned in this program will help you in most careers
  • Find entry-level employment in a technical field you enjoy
  • Many jobs offer the ability to set your own schedule

Cons

  • Most technical writing careers go to those with bachelor's degrees
  • Publication deadlines can lead to long hours and handling multiple projects at once
  • Many employers require candidates with an associate's degree to have experience in the industry

Common Courses and Requirements

Coursework in this program begins with writing, often in the form of beginning composition. Courses in technical communication will follow this. These will either take the form of a series of technical writing, or they may be a number of courses focusing on particular topics, from technical communication to desktop publishing to technical editing.

In addition to typical courses, your program may require you to complete a capstone project and an internship in the industry.

Online Course Info

Some programs offer online courses for technical communications, though at the associate degree level, it is uncommon. Most courses that are offered are in wholly online programs. As the majority of technical communication involves computers, most topics in the field lend themselves to an online learning environment. An online course in a given topic is likely to be similar to its on-campus counterpart. There will likely be little difference between the way online and on-campus courses are considered, whether you are looking for employment or to transfer credits for further education.

Stand Out with This Degree

A method of standing out in technical communications is gaining experience through an internship. If an internship is not a required part of your program, seeking one is a good way to gain work experience in the industry.

Utilizing the courses in the program to produce a portfolio of your work is another good way to stand out. A portfolio can show potential employers your skills in technical communication. Projects completed for coursework can be excellent additions for this.

Bachelor's in Technical Communication

The bachelor's program in technical communications allows for a greater specialization in the field of technical communication. With changes in the industry, there is a wider variety of needs in technical communication. Technical communicators may work in fields such as web design, medical communication, or scientific communication.

Programs may be broken into different tracks, covering the variety of fields. Others focus on technical writing and allow for specialization through elective choices.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • In an increasingly technology-driven world, job prospects for technical writers are expected to be good
  • Flexible degree offers options in many diverse industries
  • Option to work for a company or self-employ as a freelance technical writer

Cons

  • Specialization in a particular area may be limiting when seeking employment
  • Some tasks will require you to communicate with people in different time zones, requiring evening and weekend work
  • There may be strong competition for freelance jobs

Common Courses and Requirements

The core of a bachelor's program in technical communication involves English composition, technical writing, and technical editing. From there, you will have a chance to choose courses to specialize in different fields.

Courses you may find include:

  • Medical Communication
  • Proposal Writing
  • Science Writing
  • Desktop Publishing
  • Promotional Writing

In addition, you may be required to take electives in another field, such as biology, computer programming, or business. Prior to graduation, you will also likely have to complete an internship and a capstone course.

Online Course Info

There are many online options for this program. Schools may offer some or all of their technical communication courses online. These courses are usually similar to their on-campus counterparts.

In addition, there are online courses that offer a basic education in technical communication. These courses are useful to those who are in an industry or educational field that could be complemented by technical communication. These courses can improve job prospects for those with a technical degree, or they can help sharpen the skills of those who utilize technical writing in their career.

Stand Out with This Degree

In addition to gaining experience through an internship (which may be required by your school), you can stand out with a technical communications degree by getting education in a scientific, technical, or business field.

Adding a degree minor in a natural science, computer hardware or software, or accounting will likely improve your employment opportunities within that specialty. Potential employers prefer hiring individuals who are both skilled in technical communication and knowledgeable in the appropriate field.

Popular Schools

  • Campus and Online Programs
    1. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Music Production
      • BS - Audio Production
      • B.S. - Digital Cinematography
      • B.S. - Media Communications
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS Human Communications
      • B.S. General Studies - Communication
      • B.S. Communications
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Communication
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Regent University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Advertising and Public Relations
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Internet and Social Media
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Rhetoric and Public Culture
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Strategic Communication
      • Bachelor of Arts in English - Communication
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Thomas Edison State University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA in Communications
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Excelsior College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA in Humanities (Communication Studies)
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    New York University

  • Towson, MD

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  • Athens, GA

    University of Georgia

  • Platteville, WI

    University of Wisconsin

Featured Schools

Full Sail University

  • B.S. - Music Production
  • BS - Audio Production
  • B.S. - Digital Cinematography

What is your highest level of education?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • BS Human Communications
  • B.S. General Studies - Communication
  • B.S. Communications

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Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Advertising and Public Relations
  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Internet and Social Media

What is your highest level of education completed?

Thomas Edison State University

  • BA in Communications

What is your highest level of education completed?

Excelsior College

  • BA in Humanities (Communication Studies)

What is your highest level of education completed?