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Technical Communication -> Rhetoric


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I'm sorry if this topic is redundant; I've looked around a bit and haven't seen anything on the subject, but please direct me to the proper post if I've missed the discussion. I'm a tech com undergrad planning on applying to a PhD or MA Rhetoric program this fall. I have a strong chemistry background and would like to focus on science/technology and rhetoric (I know, original, right). What I'm not sure is how my background will play when it comes to admissions. Will committees balk at my non-English degree, which furthermore is a B.S. as opposed to a B.A.? I want to apply to a Rhetoric program instead of a TC program because I want a broader education and more composition pedagogy. The other parts of my profile worry me too; not so much anticipated GPA or GRE, but that in general I look like a tech com candidate (paper undergoing peer review, but in a TC journal; work exp all in TC jobs). This isn't a chance me thread. I just want to know if anyone has made the switch from this field to rhetoric and how easy/hard it was, strategies, etc.

Also, how about the job market; better for Rhet/Comp PhD's or Tech Com PhD's?

Thanks for any info you could share.

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Some schools will accept you to the MA program without the English background, but most Phd programs are going to require a background in the field first. You may want to consider going the MA route so you can get that background. You can always directly contact schools that you are interested in to gain a more specific perspective. My one concern is that if you are planning on applying directly to phd programs, most deadlines have already passed for fall 2011. I know some schools accept MA applications longer, but not necessarily. Definitely look into when those deadlines are for the schools you are interested in.

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Some schools will accept you to the MA program without the English background, but most Phd programs are going to require a background in the field first. You may want to consider going the MA route so you can get that background. You can always directly contact schools that you are interested in to gain a more specific perspective. My one concern is that if you are planning on applying directly to phd programs, most deadlines have already passed for fall 2011. I know some schools accept MA applications longer, but not necessarily. Definitely look into when those deadlines are for the schools you are interested in.

Thanks for the feedback. I think directing my focus to MA programs is probably a better plan. With regard to the deadlines, I'll be applying in the fall for admission in fall 2012.

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I'm sorry if this topic is redundant; I've looked around a bit and haven't seen anything on the subject, but please direct me to the proper post if I've missed the discussion. I'm a tech com undergrad planning on applying to a PhD or MA Rhetoric program this fall. I have a strong chemistry background and would like to focus on science/technology and rhetoric (I know, original, right). What I'm not sure is how my background will play when it comes to admissions. Will committees balk at my non-English degree, which furthermore is a B.S. as opposed to a B.A.? I want to apply to a Rhetoric program instead of a TC program because I want a broader education and more composition pedagogy. The other parts of my profile worry me too; not so much anticipated GPA or GRE, but that in general I look like a tech com candidate (paper undergoing peer review, but in a TC journal; work exp all in TC jobs). This isn't a chance me thread. I just want to know if anyone has made the switch from this field to rhetoric and how easy/hard it was, strategies, etc.

Also, how about the job market; better for Rhet/Comp PhD's or Tech Com PhD's?

Thanks for any info you could share.

Another thing to keep in mind is the department in which the program is housed. You can get a comp/rhet degree in a communications department, an English department, an education department, etc. Depending on the department, the focus of the degree will be different and thus a lack of an English (usually English literature) degree won't be as problematic. Explore different schools to see how they approach the subject.

I don't know about Tech Com degrees and the job market, but the comp/rhet market is pretty good right now. The only thing I've been concerned about, however, is that everyone currently thinks comp/rhet is the way to go, thus flooding the market in the next 5-7 years.

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Minnesota's program is (in my opinion) one of the best for rhetoric and scientific communication . . . As far as I know, the program is the only one that will actually give you a degree that has "Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication" printed on it :)

And, in my experience in the rhetoric field (accepted to Minnesota's RSTC program), having a background in science is by no-means a bad thing. It can even be a plus! If you can take a few rhetoric or writing classes to supplement a B.S., you'll be golden for getting into a rhetoric program. At last year's Rhetoric Society of America conference, I met several people who had come from a science background and been accepted into a PhD program without much experience in rhetoric/composition. One woman had actually switched from a PhD in biology to a PhD in rhetoric!

Check out Minnesota, Purdue, U of Washington, and Penn State. Also, check out work by Alan Gross, Michael Halliday, and Jeanne Fahnestock. Oh, and re: job market? As of now (could always change), most rhetoric programs have a near 100% placement rate for PhDs . . . and yes, that's tenure-track placement! By far, the rhet/comp route is more lucrative than literature . . . But you gotta really love rhetoric/composition! So if you're truly interested in how writing is used and how to use writing in all aspects of the modern world, you'll be a great candidate regardless of background.

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Another thing to keep in mind is the department in which the program is housed. You can get a comp/rhet degree in a communications department, an English department, an education department, etc. Depending on the department, the focus of the degree will be different and thus a lack of an English (usually English literature) degree won't be as problematic. Explore different schools to see how they approach the subject.

I don't know about Tech Com degrees and the job market, but the comp/rhet market is pretty good right now. The only thing I've been concerned about, however, is that everyone currently thinks comp/rhet is the way to go, thus flooding the market in the next 5-7 years.

This is always a possibility, but from what I've researched, the number of applicants to rhetoric programs is still MUCH MUCH MUCH lower than the number of literature or education applicants. Check out Richard Enos's 2007 survey of the field. There are only, what, 30 or so rhet/comp doctoral programs in the nation? And most of these programs have been good about not upping the number of acceptances along with the number of applications. Hopefully it stays that way!

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This is always a possibility, but from what I've researched, the number of applicants to rhetoric programs is still MUCH MUCH MUCH lower than the number of literature or education applicants. Check out Richard Enos's 2007 survey of the field. There are only, what, 30 or so rhet/comp doctoral programs in the nation? And most of these programs have been good about not upping the number of acceptances along with the number of applications. Hopefully it stays that way!

Separate doctoral programs, yes. But another thing to consider is, for example, English PhDs with a concentration in comp/rhet. I'm not sure how those play out compared to straight comp/rhet PhD programs in the job market, however. Places like CUNY don't have a separate comp/rhet degree, but with scholars like Ira Shor and Sondra Perl they are able to provide a strong comp/rhet concentration.

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Separate doctoral programs, yes. But another thing to consider is, for example, English PhDs with a concentration in comp/rhet. I'm not sure how those play out compared to straight comp/rhet PhD programs in the job market, however. Places like CUNY don't have a separate comp/rhet degree, but with scholars like Ira Shor and Sondra Perl they are able to provide a strong comp/rhet concentration.

True, true. But, as far as I've seen, Enos' rhetoric survery included those schools that offer an English PhD with a rhet/comp concentration: still not a lot of departments compared to literature departments. And even at those departments that offer a concentration, I would imagine the number of students pursuing said concentration would be under 25%. But we shall see what the next 5-7 years brings . . . Let me be optimistic! :)

And I doubt hiring committees care much about the differences between a rhet/comp concentration and a straight rhet/comp degree. Both programs, like you mentioned, can be quite strong.

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  • 1 month later...

I have a situation that's slightly different than the OP. To avoid forum clutter, I'll tag along on this thread, but I apologize in advance if anyone feels that I am too far off-topic.

My undergraduate degree is in Public Management, and I have been accepted to an English Master's program with an emphasis in Technical Communication at MNSU Mankato. I was anxious about applying for a Master's program without a BA in English, but I have over 10 years' professional technical writing experience, which probably helped my application.

As an aside, I'm impressed with the faculty members I've spoken with there, and it appears to be a solid program. I start my first class in Summer 2011.

My original intention was improving my qualifications for Technical Writing/Instructional Design jobs, and minimizing the educational time investment. However, my real love is the way language works, so after I complete my MA, I'm strongly considering a Ph.D in Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics at Arizona State University. (I hadn't read lolopixie's post before choosing this path, but it's exactly relevant; I hope that through the MA in English, I can establish a background within the field of study.)

I would love to hear any feedback the forum has to offer. Does anyone have any experience with the ASU RCL program? How do people in the field identify quality programs? What sorts of things can I focus on in my MA program to better prepare myself for a Ph.D in Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics?

If things work out, my revised job intentions with a Ph.D are directed more toward college/university education, but I don't want to limit my options. What sorts of jobs are out there for people with a Rhet/Comp Ph.D? Also, I don't want to be indelicate, and I realize it's a highly subjective question, but what sort of salary range can I plan for?

I have a few family constraints (for example, Minnesota is difficult because of the winters), but I expect the MA to take 12-18 months, so I have time to sort through a lot of options.

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I have a situation that's slightly different than the OP. To avoid forum clutter, I'll tag along on this thread, but I apologize in advance if anyone feels that I am too far off-topic.

My undergraduate degree is in Public Management, and I have been accepted to an English Master's program with an emphasis in Technical Communication at MNSU Mankato. I was anxious about applying for a Master's program without a BA in English, but I have over 10 years' professional technical writing experience, which probably helped my application.

As an aside, I'm impressed with the faculty members I've spoken with there, and it appears to be a solid program. I start my first class in Summer 2011.

My original intention was improving my qualifications for Technical Writing/Instructional Design jobs, and minimizing the educational time investment. However, my real love is the way language works, so after I complete my MA, I'm strongly considering a Ph.D in Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics at Arizona State University. (I hadn't read lolopixie's post before choosing this path, but it's exactly relevant; I hope that through the MA in English, I can establish a background within the field of study.)

I would love to hear any feedback the forum has to offer. Does anyone have any experience with the ASU RCL program? How do people in the field identify quality programs? What sorts of things can I focus on in my MA program to better prepare myself for a Ph.D in Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics?

If things work out, my revised job intentions with a Ph.D are directed more toward college/university education, but I don't want to limit my options. What sorts of jobs are out there for people with a Rhet/Comp Ph.D? Also, I don't want to be indelicate, and I realize it's a highly subjective question, but what sort of salary range can I plan for?

I have a few family constraints (for example, Minnesota is difficult because of the winters), but I expect the MA to take 12-18 months, so I have time to sort through a lot of options.

Since your questions are more general than the topic of this thread, I think you'll get more of a response if you post your questions in thread topics grouped by subject (a thread for the ASU program and a separate thread for the advice questions--identifying programs, preparation, and job prospects). That way, people who have the information you're looking for will be able to find your questions.

My two cents:

-You identify quality programs in a number of ways. Look at their acceptance rate; can they afford to be choosy? (you can find this data in the rhet/comp program report; a link is floating around these forums somewhere). Look at their faculty. Are they big names in the field, well known, widely published? Get on to forums or lists like the WPA-L; you'll be surprised what you can pick up from hearing the faculty converse among themselves. Look very minimally at national rankings, but do look. They don't mean much often when it comes to PhD programs, especially in rhet/comp, but the big names might give you an edge when applying to some jobs. Look at major publications like CCC and Kairos; who is on the editorial board? I would also say to consider the ethos of the site; what values do they hold (or say they do)? Is the focus of the program well articulated?

-Best way to prepare yourself, from what I've been told, is to read a ton and write a ton. Familiarize yourself with the current scholarship in the field as well as foundational theories. Writing (especially published writing) is really important, too. Take every opportunity to conduct research or perform critical analysis. Take every opportunity to co-author a paper with a professor or present at a conference. PhD programs look for future scholars; it can only help your admission if you are already developing yourself as a scholar.

-Jobs are mostly in the academy, but it depends on your focus and on the focus of the department you're in. For instance, some of the Rhetoric PhDs from Carnegie Mellon have gone on to work for companies like Microsoft, something to do the rhetoric of interface design, I think. I would say that industry jobs are out there, especially if your research is in something very practical. A good way to survey jobs is to browse the alumni profiles of program websites.

-Best way to find salaries is to look them up. In my state, you can look up the salaries of any professor online (the ones at public universities and who are thus government employees, anyway).

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I have a situation that's slightly different than the OP. To avoid forum clutter, I'll tag along on this thread, but I apologize in advance if anyone feels that I am too far off-topic.

My undergraduate degree is in Public Management, and I have been accepted to an English Master's program with an emphasis in Technical Communication at MNSU Mankato. I was anxious about applying for a Master's program without a BA in English, but I have over 10 years' professional technical writing experience, which probably helped my application.

As an aside, I'm impressed with the faculty members I've spoken with there, and it appears to be a solid program. I start my first class in Summer 2011.

My original intention was improving my qualifications for Technical Writing/Instructional Design jobs, and minimizing the educational time investment. However, my real love is the way language works, so after I complete my MA, I'm strongly considering a Ph.D in Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics at Arizona State University. (I hadn't read lolopixie's post before choosing this path, but it's exactly relevant; I hope that through the MA in English, I can establish a background within the field of study.)

I would love to hear any feedback the forum has to offer. Does anyone have any experience with the ASU RCL program? How do people in the field identify quality programs? What sorts of things can I focus on in my MA program to better prepare myself for a Ph.D in Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics?

If things work out, my revised job intentions with a Ph.D are directed more toward college/university education, but I don't want to limit my options. What sorts of jobs are out there for people with a Rhet/Comp Ph.D? Also, I don't want to be indelicate, and I realize it's a highly subjective question, but what sort of salary range can I plan for?

I have a few family constraints (for example, Minnesota is difficult because of the winters), but I expect the MA to take 12-18 months, so I have time to sort through a lot of options.

A couple of quick responses! And congrats on deciding to work toward rhet/comp!

  • No personal experience with ASU's program, but the faculty there are pretty visible in the field (and incidentally, they also moderate the WPA-L).
  • I'd say most rhet/comp PhDs are preparing to work in the academy, but work with digital and technical writing/communication might have more potential for crossover into professional settings.
  • Things to do as an MA student to prepare: try to read as much in the field as you can, so that you can be as informed as possible when writing your personal statement and preparing your application for the PhD. Write, and try to present at at least one conference. Attend the CCCC next April or the NCTE this November, if possible! Also, leap on any chances you're offered to gain experience in teaching, tutoring at the writing center, or otherwise gaining experience in rhet/comp.

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