Photo courtesy UTEP
The need to communicate complex information clearly and concisely in layman’s terms continues to grow in science, industry and government, so The University of Texas at El Paso will launch a new degree plan during the fall 2020 semester to fill that niche.
Levi R. Martin, Ph.D., the technical writing program adviser, said the English department developed this program during the past few years because of interest from students and employers.
It provides a path for students who want to learn more about professional communication and UX design.
“We think that everyone can benefit from this new degree plan,” Martin said. “There are lots of opportunities for professional communicators who want to write grants and instruction manuals, as well as for those who want to compose well-written documents developed with an understanding of how words and a design can work for an audience.”
UTEP’s Department of English announced its plans to offer a bachelor’s degree in technical writing and user experience (UX). Technical writers serve as translators who consume sometimes complicated information and convert it into instructions, manuals, annual reports and the like. They also work to develop the best methods for users to interact with that information.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics posted in April 2020 that technical writers have a positive job growth outlook of about 8% for at least the next eight years. The median pay for a technical writer with a bachelor’s degree is about $73,000.
The department has offered numerous related courses as part of a minor and graduate certificate program tied to its master’s in rhetoric and writing studies and its doctoral degree in rhetoric and composition.
It developed four new courses for the degree plan and Martin intends to teach one of them, “Introduction to Technical Writing and the User Experience,” this fall.
The new bachelor’s degree consists of five required courses, five writing-related electives, two upper division rhetoric classes and two foreign language courses.
Martin said the Department of English began to promote the new degree plan about 18 months ago during New Student Orientation sessions and through the Academic Advising Center. He shared that student interest has been steady.
The UTEP adviser said people with this degree are in demand among such employers as credit unions, law enforcement, the U.S. military, defense contractors, engineering firms and global consumer product companies.
Crystal Long, president and CEO of El Paso-based GECU, said entities with complex business models want employees with a thoughtful discipline and attention to detail who can write reports, policies and procedures that will enhance communication with stakeholders at every level.
The first-generation college student, who earned an MBA from UTEP in 2014, said GECU was among the financial institutions that needed technical writers to navigate the countless regulations and legislative requirements, and communicate that information with members, employees and examiners from the many governmental agencies that oversee GECU’s activities. She called it a mission-critical task.
“Students who demonstrate excellent writing skills will find they have developed a talent that very few possess,” Long said. “This new degree plan gives students a competitive edge in a workforce that sees countless applicants applying for just one position.”
Hugo Quiñones was among the first students to register for a new degree plan. The sophomore, who initially registered as a business major, said this option intrigued him because he is an avid reader who likes to write. He researched this career and was surprised that technical writers were in high demand across a spectrum of vocations, but garnered little recognition.
The El Paso native and first-generation college student reasoned that tech companies, legal firms, hospitals and government agencies needed technical writers to document their procedures and software, and to create how-to guides for their products and websites.
“Pursing technical writing as a career was a no-brainer for me since it matched my skills,” said Quiñones, who would like a job with a large, progressive municipality or with a high-tech company such as Apple or Google. “I can balance my passion for writing and creating between my work and free time. That is the key.”