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, such as English 106, 107,110, 111, and 129, in which they receive hands-on experience planning, writing, and editing professional texts such as instructions, user guides, social media campaigns, newsletters, infographics, and feature articles. 

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.

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.


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

You need two required classes, Editing for Writers (E106), Professional and Technical Writing (E107), and two PTW electives (choose from 105, 110, 111,129, or 157). E106 and E107 may not be taught every semester, so be sure to plan your schedule accordingly. Electives also vary by semester. 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. 


Currently we are only able to offer PTW certificates to graduate students already enrolled in SJSU. This is because of a recent university policy that was passed without our input. We are trying to once again offer a certificate to the working professionals the program was originally designed for and will update this website if we are able to make any progress. In the meantime, everyone is able to take individual tech writing classes through Open University (https://www.sjsu.edu/openuniversity/).


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

Prerequisite: Passing WST or graduate standing

Requirements for the Certificate

Core Courses: Both required
16 units
ENGL 106
Editing for Writers
ENGL 107
Professional Technical Writing
Electives: Select two
ENGL 105
Seminar in Advanced Composition
ENGL 110
Visual Rhetoric and Digital Document Design
ENGL 111
Writing Online: Strategic Digital Content and Social Media 
ENGL 129
Introduction to Career Writing
ENGL 157
Topics in Rhetorical Analysis

Note: Some other classes in English can be substituted for an elective if the need arises. Consult with a professional and technical writing advisor.