I recently read Tom Johnson’s post in response to an English and technical writing undergraduate major considering either law school or a pursuing more education in technical communication. Rather than post a comment, I thought I’d write a post on my blog as a trackback. Isn’t that what blogs are for, after all?
As a response to the original email Tom quoted, I’d offer the obvious – that deciding whether to get a masters or other advanced degree in technical writing is not an easy decision. I have interviewed two different people who took that path, and their interviews might be helpful to those who want to make a decision:
A master’s degree worked well for me when I was a 22-year-old with a BS in Chemistry in hand. The summer prior to my senior year, I had completed a 3-month job as an analytical lab technician. When I found myself more interested in reading the manuals for the spectrophotometer than running tests for eight hours on second shift, I found out more about technical writing graduate programs. Miami University’s Masters of Technical and Scientific Communication degree program turned out to be the best combination of the practical, technical, and theoretical skills you’d need to transition from any undergraduate degree to technical communication.
Whenever I bring up this topic at lunchtime discussion or on email lists, the classic argument surfaces – learn by doing, or learn by being taught? I don’t take a side in that argument – I can offer examples of success either way. The pathways to a technical communicator job are winding and varied. You can learn a lot about choosing your path by talking to those who have gotten there in many different ways.