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Focus of Study
The B.S. in Technical Writing & Communication (TWC) is one of the oldest undergraduate technical communication degrees in the country and still one of the few that is a B.S. rather than a B.A. degree. The program is specifically designed to prepare students for successful careers involving scientific, technical, and computer-related communication.
The B.S. in Technical Writing has recently been revised to reflect changes taking place in the technical communication fields. At one time in the not too distant past, technical writers worked primarily with print documents and within a relatively narrow range of fields that included the software industry and various organizations concerned primarily with scientific or technological subjects. The recent explosion of information technologies has radically changed that situation. Today’s technical communicators are professional specialists with strong backgrounds in the technology, communication, and design skills needed to enter a broad range of information-based fields. The work that technical writers now do goes well beyond writing documents for print distribution. The expanding range of options includes positions that involve organizing, managing, communicating, and facilitating the use of both technical and non-technical information in a range of fields and media.
Some of the many things that technical communicators do include developing and designing web sites, explaining science and technology to the public, developing print and multi media materials, developing information management systems, designing and delivering corporate training, and developing support systems for consumer products ranging from software for wordprocessing or personal finances to complex data management systems.
Tracks in Technical Communication (TC) and Scientific and Medical Communication (SMC)
The B.S. in Technical Writing recognizes the important changes taking place in communication-based careers and includes two distinctive “tracks,” one in Technical Communication (TC) and one in Scientific and Medical Communication (SMC). Both tracks begin with a common core of foundation courses in print and on-line communication as well as a shared set of pre-requisites in math, statistics, and computer programming. The two tracks differ in the set of theory/specialization courses beyond the core, with each track including a specialized set appropriate to its focus.
In both the TC and SMC tracks, TWC students work on real projects for actual clients, learn group interaction and management skills, and develop a flexible repertoire of skills and strategies to keep up with the rapid advances in software and technology. Above all else, they focus on developing structures and information strategies to solve a broad range of communication and information design problems.
Resources and Internships
Students majoring in Technical Writing & Communication are able to draw on exceptional resources on and off campus to enhance their education. Most obvious are the course offerings of Carnegie Institute of Technology, the Mellon College of Science, and the School of Computer Science. Additional course offerings in business, organizational behavior, policy and management, psychology, history, and design are also encouraged.
Students who maintain a B average in writing courses have the options of doing internships for academic credit during their junior or senior year. These internships provide a minimum of 120 hours of professional experience as well as exposure to the broad range of career possibilities that technical writers can pursue after graduation. Both coursework and internships also provide writing samples for students’ professional portfolios. Recent students have done internships at various on- and off-campus sites including Rockwell Software, Duquesne Systems, the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute, Claritech, Janus Technologies, and the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute (SEI). Placement patterns after graduation are similarly diverse. Graduates of the Technical Writing program have been hired by organizations nationwide. Firms recently recruiting and hiring Technical Writing graduates include Microsoft, Intel, AT&T, Digital Equipment, IBM, Data General, NCR Corporation, Apollo Computers, Cisco Systems, and Mellon Financial.