NCSU technical communication

Last Updated on January 17, 2023

Master of Science in Technical Communication

NC State offers a Master of Science degree in Technical Communication (MSTC) through the Department of English. The first program of its kind in the Southeast, MSTC was established in 1988. Since then, the program has been dynamic–growing in enrollment, course offerings, and faculty. The program enjoys a national reputation, with its faculty recognized as one of the strongest in the field. In the Society for Technical Communication’s 50th anniversary journal, a listing of the “Essential Works on Technical Communication” included more publications from faculty at NC State than from any other institution.

The program enjoys the proximity of North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park and of the numerous institutions of higher learning in the area. Students often work part- or full-time, and have numerous co-op, internship opportunities at area business, government, and educational organizations. Students in the program can also take advantage of NCSU’s inter-institutional relationship with many area schools, including Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill, allowing a large variety of courses to be taken as electives for the M.S. in Technical Communication program.

Professionalization Opportunities

The program is designed to accommodate students who work full time; therefore, required core courses are offered at night. Five core courses provide students with a critical understanding of the role of communication in science and technology, as well as practical competence in communication techniques. Six electives allow students to customize the program to their own needs and interests. A semester of professional work experience as part of the degree requirements gives graduate students opportunities to integrate academic study and workplace experience.

Besides of the professionalization opportunities offered in school, students also have multiple chances to work with professional associations and companies that have established cooperation with the MSTC program.

Career Opportunities

My MSTC study was and remains priceless… Since the time I entered the program in 2011, my income has increased by nearly 400%! This is astounding, especially when considering the current economic conditions, and not taking into account my gender or race (female and Hispanic). The MSTC program changed the trajectory of my career path by folding me into a network of alumni and experts in the field who could nurture my transition from student to professional, which has been life changing for me and my family.

— Renee Haran

The Technical Communication program strives to prepare professional communicators for a variety of careers that involve the relationships between people and technical systems. Such careers include those in web design and development, software and hardware documentation, industrial training and development, medical communication, environmental and agricultural communication, technology transfer, organizational information management, and human-computer interface design.

In many areas, a Master of Science degree in Technical Communication helps qualify professionals to move into management positions. The advantageous location of NC State near the North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park and other institutions of higher learning enables MSTC students to enjoy the numerous working opportunities in this area. Popular employers of MSTC students include IBM, Lenovo, SAS, Redhat, RTI International, NetApp, Cisco, NCSU, Duke, UNC, etc.. The average annual salary of our alumni is about 70000 dollars, and the placement rate is usually 100% over the years.

Students wishing to continue their education can consider our Ph.D. program in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media.

General Requirements

The Master of Science degree in Technical Communication requires completion of a minimum of 33 semester hours of graduate credit. Although the program is centered in the Department of English, the curriculum is interdepartmental, drawing on the diverse resources of the University.

The MSTC program offers a foundation of courses in theory and practice supplemented by elective courses in technical disciplines. The required core courses are designed to emphasize technical writing and editing, teamwork, audience analysis, document usability and field testing, and publication management. The courses also give students principles and strategies to apply in technical fields such as engineering, computer science, medicine, and environmental science.

Courses TypeTotal CoursesTotal Credits
Required Core Courses5 courses15 credits
Application Courses3 or 4 courses9 or 12 credits
Theories and Methods Courses2 or 3 courses6 or 9 credits

Additional requirements:

  • 15 of the core credits are taken in the Department of English.
  • 18 credits can be taken in English and in other disciplines.
  • Complete a comprehensive project as part of the capstone course (ENG 675).
  • Complete a semester equivalent of Professional Work Experience.
  • Finish the  MS graduation timeline as they progress through the program.
  • Complete the degree in 6 years.

Professional Work Experience Requirement

The equivalent of one semester of relevant professional work experience is required of all students. Previous work experience may satisfy this requirement. Students who do not have previous work experience can fulfill this requirement with a cooperative education experience, an internship, or part-time work.  Students can also complete the work experience requirement by completing an internship as part of ENG 522 Writing in Nonacademic Settings. Cooperative education work experiences give graduate students opportunities to integrate academic study and workplace experience. In turn, such experience provides many benefits to industry, which gains access to affordable, well-prepared support staff.

The M. S. program receives a steady stream of requests from business, government, and educational institutions for cooperative, internship, and part-time student assistance, so completing this requirement is rarely a problem. Several area companies routinely employ M.S. students as interns and part-time employees, which often leads to full-time job offers upon graduation (and sometimes before).

Typical work experiences of cooperative education students in Technical Communication include technical editing, online editing, developing and updating web sites, writing user’s guides and reference guides, updating existing documents with new material, indexing, marketing, negotiating deadlines, and motivating others to meet deadlines. Contact either the University’s Cooperative Education Program:

Cooperative Education Program
Dr. Arnold S. Bell
Interim Director of Cooperative Education
212 Peele Hall, Box 7110
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-7110

or consult with the Director of the MS Program in Technical Communication, for information about positions available through Cooperative Education or through direct contact with potential employers.

Course Requirement

Required Courses (15 Credits)
ENG 512 Theory and Research in Professional Writing

The process of writing, the functions of texts, methods of teaching and evaluating writing, introduction to research design.

ENG 515 Rhetoric of Science and Technology

The relationship between language and science, critical analysis of texts from science/technology, public controversy in science/technology.

ENG 517 Advanced Technical Writing and Editing

Advanced study of specialized documents, technical editing and publications management for students planning careers in writing and editing.

ENG 518 Publication Management for Technical Communicators

Advanced study of publication and team management issues such as staffing, scheduling, project management, and tracking.

ENG 675 Projects in Technical Communication

This is a capstone course, taken in the last semester of study. In lieu of a thesis, students design a comprehensive project of their choosing. Typical projects cover a wide range of technical communication outputs, including web sites, web-based training programs, revised corporate documents, scholarly articles for possible publication in peer-reviewed research journals, instructional manuals, etc.

Theories and Methods Courses (6 or 9 Credits)

ENG 508 Usability Studies for Technical Communication

Advanced study of usability inspection, inquiry, and testing theories and practices related to instrumental and instructive texts (i.e., computer-related, legal, medical, pharmaceutical, financial, etc.). Practical experience testing a variety of texts using several testing methods, including completion of a substantial, lab-based usability test. For students planning careers in technical communication, human factors, software design, and multimedia design.

ENG 519 Online Information Design and Evaluation

Planning, collaboratively writing, revising, designing, and linking online information using workstation-based technology. Theory and practice of human-computer interaction and online support systems design.

ENG 520 Science Writing for the Media

Coverage of three areas: how to write science articles for a variety of mass media, how to think critically about how mass media cover science, and how to think critically about science itself. Preparation for careers not only in mass media, but also in scientific and technological organizations.

ENG 583B Seminar on Communication in Health and Environmental Sciences
COM 556 Organizational Communication

Theoretical and applied approaches for studying communication perspectives of organizational behavior. Topics relate communication with organizational theories, research methods, leadership, power, attraction, conflict and theory development.

COM 566 Crisis Communication

Working within theoretical perspectives of communication, conflict management and organizational designs, a theoretical understanding for crisis communication, including thorough guidelines for strategic communication planning for, managing and evaluating crises.

CSC 461 Computer Graphics

Principles of computer graphics with emphasis on two-dimensional and aspects of three-dimensional raster graphics. Topics include: graphics hardware devices, lines and polygons, clipping lines and polygons to windows, graphical user interface, vectors, projections, transformations, polygon fill. Programming projects in C or C++.

ECI 716 Design and Evaluation of Instructional Material

Characteristics and selection of various media for instruction and their use in educational settings. Design and production of instructional materials. Analysis of research in the field. Application of grounded research and theory concerning learning to design of instructional materials.

GD 417, 517 Advanced Typographical Systems

Experimentation in typography for the purpose of subjective expression. Analysis of historical precedent, contemporary usage and the semiotics of shaped writing provide a basis for the advanced student to study and use typography as image, metaphor, and symbol.

Theories and Methods Courses (6 or 9 Credits)

These are sample courses; for a comprehensive list, see the complete Electives listing.

ENG 524 Introduction to Linguistics

Introduction to theoretical linguistics, especially for students in language, writing and literature curricula. Phonology, syntax, semantics, history of linguistics; relation of linguistics to philosophy, sociology and psychology; application of theory to analysis of texts.

ENG 525 Variety in Language

Language variation description, theory, method and application; focus on regional, social, ethnic and gender varieties; sociolinguistic analysis; basic discourse analysis.

ENG 527 Critical Discourse Analysis

Pragmatic, discourse-analytic and sociolinguistic theories; application of methods analysis to different varieties of text; particular emphasis on literary text.

ENG 513 Empirical Research in Composition

Reading and evaluation of empirical research in written composition; guided practice in qualitative and quantitative methods. Basic principles of research problem definition, research design and statistical analysis, description and assessment of written products and processes.

ENG 514 History of Rhetoric

Contemporary rhetorical theory and its development from classical rhetoric; emphasis on differences between oral and written communication and the relevance of traditional theory to purposes and constraints of writing. Special attention to current issues: revival of invention, argumentation and truth, contributions of research in composition.

ENG 516 Rhetorical Criticism

Development, achievements, limitations of major critical methods in the 20th century, including neo-Aristotelian, generic, metaphoric, dramatistic, feminist, social-movement, fantasy-theme, and postmodern approaches. Criticism of political discourse, institutional discourse, discourses of law, medicine, religion, education, science, the media. Relations between rhetorical and literary criticism and other forms of cultural analysis.

ENG 541 Contemporary Literary Theory

Survey of major developments in 20th-century literary theory. Introduction to central concepts, issues and theorists in contemporary literary criticism. Examination of range of modern critical practices. Study of relations between literary theory and such adjacent disciplines as linguistics, anthropology, social theory, psychology, and philosophy.

COM 462 Cross-Cultural Communication

Communication across cultural boundaries with emphasis on comparative analysis of communication strategies and tactics as well as overall communication systems of various cultures: problems, barriers, patterns of communication.

COM 552 Communication Theory

Role of theory in study of human communication. General social scientific theories as well as context-based theories including interpersonal, public, group, organizational and mass communication contexts.

PA 515 Research Methods and Analysis

A focus on behavioral approach to study of political and administrative behavior. Topics including philosophy of social science; experimental, quasi and non-experimental research design; data collection techniques; basic statistical analysis with computer applications.

ST 500 Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences

A general introduction to the use of descriptive and inferential statistics in behavioral science research. Methods for describing and summarizing data, followed by procedures for estimating population parameters and testing hypotheses concerning summarized data.

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