The University of Minnesota offers an online Master of Science in Scientific & Technical Communication through its Department of Writing Studies in the College of Liberal Arts. The degree can be earned through completely online instruction, as there are no required on-campus sessions. University of Minnesota uses the Canvas learning management platform for its online degree programs. Courses use asynchronous instruction (e.g., students are not required to log in to Canvas at specific times for live sessions), which allows students greater freedom to study course materials and complete assignments at times that work best for them. This is especially helpful for students with personal and professional obligations.
The Master of Science in Scientific & Technical Communication requires 30 graduate credits and typically takes two years to finish. The graduate program introduces students to technical writing and digital technologies, teaching them how to become effective communicators working with complex subjects – from software engineering to law. Students build competencies as knowledgeable communicators who understand information design and can leverage best practices to create effective technical content such as instructional documents or research reports.
The master’s degree curriculum is divided into two years of study, with the first year requiring five core courses and the second year determined by the student’s academic interests across five classes, including a capstone experience. First-year study familiarizes students with graduate-level concepts, principles, and skills in scientific and technical communication and covers foundational subjects such as information design, editing and style for technical communicators, writing with digital technologies, and international professional communication. The five core classes that students take are International Professional Communication, Introduction to Graduate Studies in Scientific and Technical Communication, Information Design: Theory and Practice, Editing and Style for Technical Communicators, and Writing with Digital Technologies.
After completing their foundational courses, students can use the second year to craft a program of study that best aligns with their academic needs and career goals. They may select one three-credit course within the Writing Studies Department (e.g., international technical communication) and three online classes outside of the department. Students work in consultation with their faculty advisor and/or the Director of Graduate Studies in their selection of elective courses. Example subjects for electives include medical technology, public health, business analytics, interactive design for web-based instruction, popular culture in teaching contexts, data visualization for interactive programs, consumer health informatics, organizational development, public health practices, medical communication, and more.
The program culminates in an online capstone course entitled Professional Practice. It is a single course that offers students experiential learning opportunities and the chance to apply all that they have learned to a concrete professional deliverable. Students act as consultants by gathering and analyzing data on a communication problem in business, government, or healthcare, designing a communication-based solution, and implementing said solution. Students work with faculty to select a topic and work on their project throughout the entire semester. When finished, students present their work at a Research Showcase.
The University of Minnesota is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Online Master of Science in Scientific & Technical Communication
Department: Department of Writing Studies
Websites: Department and Program
Structure: Online program with no required campus visits
Instruction Methods: Programs uses asynchronous instruction - students interact with instructors and classmates through a Canvas learning management system
Campus Visits Required: No
Program Length: Program can be completed in 2 years
Start Dates: Fall, Spring and Summer admission
Curriculum and Graduation Requirements
Thesis Required: No
Capstone Options: Final capstone course with professional project
Credits Required: 30 credits (10 courses)
Example Courses: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Scientific and Technical Communication; Information Design: Theory and Practice; Editing and Style for Technical Communicators; Visual Rhetoric; Usability and Human Factors in Technical Communication; Science, Medical, and Health Writing
GPA Requirements: No minimum GPA to apply
Testing Requirements: GRE not required
Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree; two applicant statements; three letters of recommendation; resume; two writing samples
Estimated Tuition*: ~$42,660 + fees (resident); ~$66,030 + fees (non-resident) (Students who live in North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin may be eligible for in-state tuition)
Cost per Credit Hour: $1,422.00 per credit hour (resident); $2,201.00 per credit hour (non-resident) (Students who apply to and complete the certificate program first may be able to save on tuition as the certificate program has a lower cost of $754 per credit hour (resident) and $1154 per credit hour (non-resident))
State Authorizations: Program accepts students from all 50 states