M.S. in Technical Communication Degree Requirements

The Master of Science degree in Technical Communication requires completion of a minimum of 33 semester hours of graduate credit. Upon admission to the program, students must complete the degree within six years. Although the program is centered in the Department of English, the curriculum is interdepartmental, drawing on the diverse resources of the university. Thus, 15 of the core credits are taken in the Department of English, and the remaining 18 credits can be taken in English and in other disciplines, depending on the interests and background of each student. The program does not require a traditional academic thesis. Instead, students complete a comprehensive project as part of the capstone course.  

Students must take courses that fulfill requirements in the following three areas:

and complete a semester equivalent of Professional Work Experience.

Students will want to review the MS graduation timeline as they progress through the program.


The Technical Communication 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.

Beyond the required five courses, students can select a mixture of applications courses and theory and method courses from the technical communication program and from other departments. Students can select elective courses to design their area of specialization. For example, there are elective clusters in web design and development, environmental communication, medical/health communication , industrial communication, agricultural communication and information systems communication. Those who prefer not to specialize can select from dozens of related graduate courses offered by other departments, including communication, psychology, computer science, business, graphic design and public administration.

Students must complete a minimum of 33 semester hours of graduate credit that includes 15 credits of required core courses and a minimum of 18 credits divided between the applications courses and theories and methods courses. To fulfill requirements for graduate course work in applications and theories and methods, students can choose any of the following:

  1. 12 hours of applications courses and 6 hours of theories and methods courses (18 credits)
  2. 9 hours of applications courses and 9 hours of theories and methods courses (18 credits)
  3. 9 hours of applications courses and 9 hours of approved electives (18 credits)
  4. 12 hours of applications courses and 6 hours of approved electives (18 credits)

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.

Capstone Project Info

Applications Courses (6, 9, or 12 Credits)

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

ENG 506 Verbal Data Analysis

Research strategies for understanding how spoken and written language shapes activities [e.g., design, instruction, counseling, gaming interactions, e-commerce, etc.]. Tracking patterned uses of language as verbal data [e.g., grammatically topically, thematically], formulating research questions, and designing studies to answer those questions through quantitative descriptive means. Sampling, collecting and managing data, developing coding schemes, achieving reliability, using descriptive statistical measures, and reporting the results.

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 and 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.

Approved Electives

The M.S. program provides considerable flexibility to students who wish to design their own curriculum. Outside of the program's five required courses, students take six elective courses, which can be chosen to fit a certain specialty or interest, or can be taken from a variety of disciplines.

Students can work with their M.S. advisor to develop their own cluster, choosing from among the entire list of elective courses, or select a pre-established cluster. New courses are added every semester; if you see one you wish to take, consult with your M.S. advisor to ensure that it meets program requirements. M.S. students may take up to two 400-level courses in other departments.

Examine the current Graduate Catalog or MyPack Portal listing for prerequisites to these courses. Some prerequisites may be waived by departments or instructors; discuss your interests with the course instructor and your advisor before registering. Some Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) courses at the 400 and 500 level may be suitable, as may offerings for the Masters of Art in Liberal Studies (MLS) program; these may vary from semester to semester.

Explore Electives and Clusters

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.

Consult with the Director of the M.S. Program in Technical Communication for information about positions available through Cooperative Education or through direct contact with potential employers.

Or, contact the university's Cooperative Education Program directly:
Dr. Arnold S. Bell
Executive Director of Cooperative Education
2141B Pullen Hall, Box 7303
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-7110

M.S. Graduation Timeline

In your first year:

  • Create your Plan of Work (POW). Make sure to save your POW only. You will not submit your POW for approval until your final semester.
  • Sign the Patent Agreement in your POW.

3rd semester (or after 24-27 hours):

  • Decide on Capstone Project topic and develop and revise your proposal in the fall semester in time to register for ENG 675 in the spring. To reserve a seat in ENG 675, communicate with the ENG 675 instructor in the fall semester when developing your proposal. Your seat will be confirmed when you submit your approved capstone proposal. Proposals are due by the last day of class.  Please keep in mind that faculty are planning their semesters as well and may not be able to accommodate last-minute requests.

Final semester:

  • Meet with your capstone advisor to agree on a timeline for submission of your drafts and revisions. The final draft must be approved by your advisor and submitted to the graduate services coordinator by the last day of class.
  • Complete your Plan of Work and submit for approval
  • Apply to Graduate via MyPack at least two weeks in advance of the Graduate School’s deadline (the Graduate School’s Academic Calendar), so that your application can be reviewed and approved by the DGP before the deadline
  • Submit drafts and revisions by the dates stipulated by your capstone advisor and your ENG 675 instructor
  • Complete your project and submit the following to the graduate services coordinator by the last day of class. See Capstone Project page for formatting and submission requirements.
  • Coordinate with your ENG 675 instructor to schedule and present your capstone project in ENG 675 (during April and early May)