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WRTC Graduate Program


The specific goals of the masters degree are to help students:

  • Define what effective communication means in writing, rhetoric and technical communication environments.
  • Enhance their understanding of how and why communication works.
  • Learn how to identify and eliminate barriers to effective communication.
  • Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their communication management.
  • Develop research skills.

To achieve these goals, the programs combine work in theory, writing, text design, and analysis of communication systems and contexts to help students to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to begin careers in writing, rhetoric and technical communication. The programs emphasize scholarly, humanistic and social scientific perspectives on the function and application of writing, rhetoric and technical communication.

Consequently, the programs provide students with not only the knowledge and skills required for careers in industry, business or government but also the research skills and communication theory that will prepare them for doctoral study in communication and rhetoric. The long-range goal of the degree, then, is to enable program graduates to grow as professionals and, ultimately, to contribute to the developing field of writing, rhetoric and technical communication.

Degree candidates must successfully complete a minimum of 33 credit hours of graduate course work, which includes a minimum of two semesters of course work completed at JMU. Students work with school advisers to design a program that fits their unique educational needs and career aspirations. Depending on their backgrounds and options they might choose to pursue while in the degree program, students may decide to take course work beyond the required 33 hours to obtain additional knowledge or skills in specialized areas. For example, students may choose to take extra course work to enhance their skills in communication technologies or to deepen their academic training in the writing, rhetoric and technical communication content areas in which they intend to work as professional writers or editors.

Potential Careers

Students pursuing graduate degrees in WRTC learn the kinds of research, analytical and reasoning skills that will allow them to become successful professionals in a wide range of fields. WRTC graduates can expect career opportunities in writing, editing or production positions with a variety of business, educational or industry employers, including the computer hardware and software industry, law firms, journalism, health care providers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, education, engineering companies, publishing houses, environmental concerns, not-for-profit or political organizations, and technical translation groups of multinational corporations.

Degree Requirements

Students in the program must successfully complete three required courses for nine credit hours: 

In addition, students must complete a capstone requirement for six credit hours and six WRTC elective courses for 18 credit hours.

For those students wanting to focus their studies on emerging educational technologies, the School offers an M.S. degree. Students complete the degree by taking a nine credit-hour cognate in Educational Technology in place of nine credit hours of WRTC electives:

At least 18 of the students' credit hours must come from course work at the 600 level or above. Up to six of those hours may be WRTC 700, Thesis or WRTC 701, Internship.

The WRTC graduate program encourages applicants with diverse academic and professional backgrounds, including (but certainly not limited to) biology, business, computer science, education, English, geography, mathematics, philosophy, political science, psychology, rhetoric and composition, or writing.


Degree candidates have two options for satisfying the capstone requirement for the master’s degree:

  • Complete a research-based master's thesis on a relevant topic (WRTC 700).
  • Complete a 300-hour internship with an external client on a relevant topic (WRTC 701).

It is important that the student understand that he/she is solely responsible for the success of the thesis/internship. The student needs to be in charge of completing all paperwork for the school, The Graduate School, registrar, etc., and for meeting all deadlines to matriculate successfully. The student will need to contact these offices well ahead of the semester in which he/she plans to graduate to ensure that all deadlines can and will be met.

Comprehensive Exam

All students must pass a comprehensive exam in the form of a defense of their capstone project.

Admission Criteria

In addition to satisfying all admission requirements of the JMU graduate school, applicants must submit the following:

  • A research statement that explains how the graduate program relates to the applicant's prior experience, how specific faculty research agendas speak to the applicant’s own interests, and how the program fits into his or her long-term professional or academic goals
  • Three letters of recommendation from people who are qualified based on direct experience with the student to comment on the applicant's academic preparation and professional experience
  • 20-30 pages (or the equivalent) of academic and/or professional documents (essays, reports, proposals, websites, visual campaigns, etc.) comprised of one or more manuscripts.

Nonnative speakers of English must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language and receive a score of at least 570 (paper) or 88 (electronic).

The application opens October 15. All application materials must be received by January 15 in order to ensure review by the program.

More information about the process is avaiable in this handout.

There are many areas on campus that offer assistantships, including WRTC. Graduate students interested in assistantships should go to JMU JobLink to search for available positions.

All applicants to the WRTC program will be considered for available funding from WRTC.

Admission to the program does not guarantee funding through WRTC.

For more information, contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. Michael J. Klein

JMU Graduate Catalog