NMU needs to offer a technical writing degree

NMU+needs+to+offer+a+technical+writing+degree

Jessica Parsons

After graduating high school in 2015, for the most part, I knew that I was going to attend college for writing. My mind was made up and content with my idea and vision I had in mind for my career path. But I didn’t want to be labeled as an “English major” because of the appearing statistics giving those who have studied English a bad rap both financially and academically. 

I mean no harm toward those who do study English here or anywhere else. In fact I’ll meet you in the middle because I’m an English writing major. But I’m actually on your side, because being at my fifth year in college, I’m a witness that it’s not all about staring into novels and writing papers on Shakespeare. So let’s just act like we know something that STEM majors don’t, and move on.

I’m here to propose the idea that NMU is in a rather desperate need of a degree in technical communication. To provide you with background on my interest in the subject, technical communication is one of the reasons I chose to transfer from my community college (after receiving credits for my general education requirements) to NMU. I saw that this school offered a concentration in technical writing through the writing major.

The reason I was particular in studying technical writing—other than my general interest in what the job itself entails—is because it is the most lucrative writing field with a median annual wage of $71,850 in May 2018—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—whereas writers and authors are placed at $62,170.

It wasn’t until two classes later after being at Northern that I realized I maxed out in the subject, but I also just got here. I had the last half or so of my 120 credits to go and I didn’t feel like I learned as much as I wanted to. That’s also how you know you picked the right subject, when it actually makes you excited and eager to learn more. 

There was a point in time many years ago where Northern did offer a bachelor degree in technical communication, but because of a lack of interest, funds and whatever else, I suppose it fell through. So unless someone interested in attending college in the U.P. wants to pay an ungodly rate to attend Michigan Tech’s campus and study under their scientific communication degree, their best bet is to take a few classes here disguised as a writing major.

I talked with many people that shared a similar interest in the subject as me, and realized how high-in-demand the topic was. The preparation this type of writing includes would spread Wildcats beyond the Marquette area, working in government, the medical field and potentially high-end computer tech companies such as Intel.

Why isn’t Northern on this bandwagon yet? This unique career and type of writing is at an 8% growth and increasing, according to the BLS. Also, technical writing is less available in bachelor degree-granting departments than in master’s and doctoral degree-granting departments, according to an article from Inside Higher Ed. So if Northern is able to be one of the few universities that offer that bachelor degree, students will choose to come here.

So here’s what I can picture: the technical communication major will still be required to take intro writing courses as well as general education university courses. But within their major, they will pick a concentration, similar to how the writing degree is laid out now with different categories, but consisting of three major areas that technical communicators work in: government (writing grants and documents in law), medicinal (writing prescription descriptions and content for medical documents) and computer technology (web developers and programmers).

From there, they will then take the classes within their concentration to learn about the subject matter, and then apply their writing skills to organize what they’ve learned. Voila—they’ll be able to work for companies fresh out of graduation because they already have the background and experience within their field.

Obviously there’s a lot of steps that go into the process of adding a new major, even just a new course. But the idea of having a major such as this one could do wonders for the business side in enrollment at Northern as well as create potential in future writers seeking an education in their desired concentration. What are we waiting for?