University of Washington


April 1999

University of Washington


This Fall, Technical Communication (TC) at the University of Washington (UW-“u-dub” to insiders) will celebrate its 25th anniversary. Part of the College of Engineering, the TC program was the first in the US. The program started as an “inter-engineering degree” and has grown into a full department offering minors in TC, and BSTC and MSTC degrees. The department is also developing a proposal for a joint PhD program to be sponsored by TC, the School of Communications, Speech Communication, and the Political Science Department. If approved, the program will begin in 2000. Additionally, the faculty created a curriculum and provides instruction for the One-Year Certificate in Technical Writing and Editing UW extension program.

The 10 TC faculty members teach 18 undergraduate and 11 graduate courses; students also have the option of taking a number of partnered courses through other departments. Undergraduates must complete nearly one-third of their coursework in math, statistics, and natural sciences. They must also complete at least 34 of their 180 quarter hours in TC coursework. Students choose a special interest core and complete an additional eight courses in that area; multimedia design is an undergraduate favorite. Graduate students completing the MSTC requirements must take at least 22 credits in graduate-level TC courses and 9 in technical electives. Usability and science writing are among the most popular graduate courses of study. Graduate students must also complete an additional core of four courses, an internship and project, or a thesis to meet degree requirements.

The department currently has 60 undergraduate-student majors, 30 graduate students, and 26 evening certificate-program students in each of two locations (totalling 52 certificate students). Faculty and students are active in a number of professional organizations including STC which has an active UW student chapter. Program coordinator Kate Long posits the faculty’s industry ties as one of the keys to the program’s success:

One of the things that the students are attracted to is the faculty and the faculty’s involvement in the field. Their willingness to accommodate students and what they want to get out of the degree is also an attraction. Faculty advise student projects, co-author papers with students, and help them establish professional ties.

Internships are required of all undergraduate majors and, as noted above, one of three options toward completing graduate study. All internships are paid. While most students opt to accept full-time Summer internships, others take advantage of six-month co-op assignments, and still others choose part-time local internships that will not significantly interfere with their coursework. The department has established solid internship program relationships with AT&T, Boeing, IBM, Microsoft, and several other companies.

With up to 50 BSTC and MSTC graduates each year, recruiting at UW can be quite rewarding. Recruitment activity is administered by the UW Center for Career Services. The TC department also aids prospective employers directly by electronically distributing any job postings it receives to all students. Finally, the UWTC web page contains a section where employers can post job announcements themselves ( All of the students seeking employment find it through these various means. Primary recruiters include those mentioned above, Intel, Visio, and a host of West Coast companies.

For more information on UWTC programs, recruiting programs, co-ops and internships, contact:

TC Program Coordinator
Department of Technical Communication
University of Washington
14 Loew Hall, Box 352195
Seattle, WA 98195-2195
phone: 206/543-7108