Re: MA in Tech Writing?

Subject: Re: MA in Tech Writing?
From: "Race, Paul" <pdr -at- CCSPO -dot- DAYTONOH -dot- NCR -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 16 Nov 1994 20:45:00 EST

David said:

>I would like to have an MA for personal reasons (prestige, etc..).
>since grad schools are expensive, I need to be able to directly benefit
>professionally and economically from having an MA. I would appreciate any
>advice on this matter.

Paul Race said:

My take on that is that if you've already done some graduate studies, which
it looks like you have, finishing up with an MA should be a consideration.
For one thing, certificate programs vary from school to school, and there's
not enough standardization for most of them to mean anything. I know I
wouldn't consider a certificate (without a degree to go along with it) to
mean anything, unless I could ask the interviewee "What effort went into
this?" and she could provide answers that indicated there had been real work
and real scrutiny on the part of her advisors. And yes, a master's program
could also be poor, but it shows that the person not only could get a
"certificate" but also fulfilled the requirements of the college and the
graduate school, which are much more standardized.

Of course an MS or MA is more impressive on your job applications than a BS
or BA. But a lot of people get jobs with a BS and BA, so, once you have a
job, is the Master's useless? No, because, in many companies, your ability
to advance once you have the job may be filtered by whether you have any
graduate degrees. Of course, in some companies, no matter what you do for a
living, an MBA is considered the only "worthwhile" graduate degree. But if
you have an MA/MS and an understanding boss, she could make the argument
that you have a master's in your field, so you qualify for the
promotion/whatever. With just a BA/BS, you don't even have that to go on.

Now let me argue the flip side. What's wrong with finding work now and
letting your employer play for the completion of your master's? Most
corporations have a tuition reimbursement program, and you can ask about
that in the job interview to make certain you're getting into the right
situation. You can usually transfer about 12 hrs of a 48/hr program or 9
hrs of a 36-hr program to any other university with a similar program. If
you're already more than a third of the way through a master's program at
your own school, you should limit your job search to your own area, but if
you only have 9-12hrs (depending on whether you're on quarters or
semesters), you could consider any other location with a college that has a
MA/MS program in TechWriting.

That way, you enter the workforce now and start paying off those bills. In
the meantime, the corporation pays for the rest of your Masters'.

BTW, I wouldn't do a Master's full-time unless I got a full fellowship or
was fully-funded by rich parents..... Have you applied for a fellowship?
Yes I know you can barely live on a fellowship, but at least you COULD
live, and you wouldn't be adding up more tuition bills.

So my first choice would be employment in the area (or in an area with a
college you can transfer your credits to) so you can start paying off those
loans and get your employer to pay off your degree.

Second choice would be applying for a full-time fellowship.

Third choice would be biting the bullet and completing the master's
full-time, but I would probably only do this if I was already over half-way
through the program or was at least a third of the way through and could not
get a job in my vicinity.

Fourth choice would be not to complete the degree at all.

Yes, there are tens of thousands of technical writers today without masters,
and thousands without undergrad degrees. As long as they keep their jobs,
they'll do OK. The problem is that with the incredible workforce shifts
we'll be experiencing in the next 20 years, many of them will have to start
"cold" at a new company at least once, if not several times, in their
career. And the extra degree could just help you make the cut.

An aside: Having detailed knowledge of some technical fields may also help
you make the cut, so if you're working in a "hot" environment and have to go
job-huntingn, you may be in good shape. But technical knowledge gets
obsolete in a hurry, while a degree is on your record permanently.

Do what I do - go for both.

Good luck, whatever happens.

Also E-mail me at paul -dot- d -dot- race -at- daytonoh -dot- ncr -dot- com if you have any more specific
questions, comments, complaints, etc.....

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