Certificate Program in Professional and Technical Writing

The Bay Area needs well-trained technical writers and editors. The high-tech companies of Silicon Valley require people who are able to write quality manuals, reports, and web updates; write clear business reports and promotional materials; communicate effectively both with consumers and within the company; and understand each step of the publication process. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that demand for technical writers will continue to increase for the foreseeable future, especially in regions of the country like ours.

So what is Professional and Technical Writing (PTW)? Simply put, PTW is writing done in a workplace environment designed to persuade, inform, or instruct. While “professional” generally applies to business writing and “technical” generally applies to writing about technical topics, most professional writers would find the distinction superficial because they are frequently required to do both. 

SJSU’s program (formerly called “Career Writing”) has been going strong for over 30 years and our graduates work at nearly every major tech firm in the Bay Area. We have a strong job-placement record and help coordinate paid internships with local employers during the summer and the school year.

To train students for such writing and editing jobs, the Department of English and Comparative Literature offers matriculated students two ways in which to complete technical writing studies at the undergraduate level:

The certificate program parallels these tracks within a degree program, but offers non-matriculated students a stand-alone program for completing the same training.

Similar to the Concentration in Professional and Technical Writing, students enroll in upper-division writing and editing courses, English 106, 107, and 129, in which they receive hands-on experience in planning and writing two publications: The Department of English and Comparative Literature Newsletter and The Writing Life.

These courses concentrate on writing original compositions, using as models documents from the technical community that surrounds SJSU. Writing assignments will include abstracts, proposals, instructions, procedural descriptions, formal reports, and a variety of business communications. Graphic communication, interviewing techniques, document review, and the specific requirements of technical writing will be additional topics.

English 199 allows students to earn college units for work in the field, as a writing or editing intern. An internship is not required. Contact the Professional and Technical Writing Major Advisor for information on internships.

With the remaining units, each student builds a program of study that reflects the industry- or genre-specific training that he or she is preparing for. Students meet with the program advisor to map out this course of study.


Director of Undergraduate Professional and Technical Writing

Mark Thompson
(408) 924-4433
Faculty Offices 110



How the Certificate Program works: 

Program Length:
The certificate is 16 credit hours (4 classes). Some students complete the program in two semesters (a regular school year), while others take one class per semester. There is no time limit on completion.


Classes: You take classes alongside our undergraduate tech writing majors. Classes meet twice a week, are an hour and fifteen minutes long, and generally start between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm. Classes are usually not offered in the summer.


Required Classes: There are currently three required classes: Introduction to Career Writing (E129), Editing for Writers (E106), and Professional and Technical Writing (E107). E106 and E107 are not taught every semester, so be sure to plan your schedule accordingly. Additionally, it is STRONGLY recommended that you take Modern English (E103) in your first semester. Beyond these courses, most students take an additional writing class in the English Department, and an elective in the field they are interested in joining (Design, Computer Science, Marketing, etc.) Consult the English Department Course Descriptions for further information. 


Enrollment: Enrollment is handled through Open University, which lets community members take classes at SJSU. 


Registration: Pre-registration is not available to Open University students. Certificate students should come to the appropriate classroom on the first day of class and let the instructor know they are trying to add. As per University policy, full-time SJSU students are given registration priority over Open University students, so if a class is full, it may be unavailable to you. Plan your schedule accordingly.


Transfer Credit: There is no transfer of credit from outside universities. Classes taken at SJSU will be considered on a case-by-case basis.



Important Forms

Certificate in Professional and Technical Communication Worksheet 


Course Requirements

  Passing WST or graduate standing

Requirements for the Certificate 16 units
  Core Courses 12 units

ENGL 106

ENGL 107

                    ENGL 129

Editing for Writers

Professional Technical Writing

Career Writing 

  Electives: Select one of the following courses 4 units

ENGL 105

                    ENGL 110


                    ENGL 129


Seminar in Advanced Composition

Visual Rhetoric and Digital Document Design for Writer

Introduction to Career Writing