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Current State of U.S. Undergraduate Degree Programs in Technical and Professional Communication

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Purpose: This paper updates Harner & Rich's 2005 survey of undergraduate degree programs in technical and professional communication (TPC) in the U.S. and provides information about the current number of degree programs, locations of degrees programs, and curricula, both required and elective.

Method: We used course catalogs to analyze the curricula of 65 programs that offer majors in TPC. We employed qualitative inquiry methods based primarily on textual analysis and the deployment of codes to assign a summative attribute for course types.

Results: We located 185 undergraduate programs in TPC in the U.S. that offer majors, concentrations, emphases, tracks, and specialization, a 131% increase from the 2005 study, and restricted our analysis to 65 programs that offered majors in TPC. Degree programs no longer are predominately housed in English departments. The most significant gain is to the number of programs housed in Technical Communication Programs. The majority of programs require 30-36 hours of credit. A set of “core courses” are emerging in the field-wide curricula. There is a significant increase in the number of programs requiring document/information design, Web, internship, and capstone courses. In contrast, few require literature courses.

Conclusion: Curricular data show an emerging consensus on the core courses and elective courses within undergraduate curricula. In addition, for the first time, the field has data to assess trends over time.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2013

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  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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