Technical Writing ToolBox

A Blog on Technical Writing

Enrolling for a Technical Writing Course?

A depiction of the world’s oldest continually operating university, the University of Bologna, Italy.- Image Credit, Wikipedia

Learning on the job is a great thing. But, is getting a higher education in Technical Writing after gaining some real-world experience a good choice as well?

I worked as a technical writer for eight years in New Delhi. Recently, I took a sabbatical to pursue a post-graduate certificate in technical communication from Seneca College, Toronto. The term sabbatical (from Latin ‘sabbaticus’, from Greek ‘sabbatikos’, from Hebrew shabbat, that is Sabbath, literally means “ceasing”) means – to take a break from work for an extended period of time, to pursue a goal.

Looking back at the golden triangle of cost, time, and scope, my decision to pursue higher education in technical writing after getting the real-world experience, was challenging and satisfying at the same time. I often felt that the learning outside the classroom is more important than studying in the classroom. For example, walking a kilometer to my class in -25 degrees, and under a heavy snowfall was as challenging as writing a technical autobiography for my technical writing class.

Searching for a suitable technical writing course

When I started looking for a course in technical writing, I started looking at the available courses in India. I was highly disappointed with the level of information provided in those courses. Then, I decided to search for a suitable technical writing course in UK, US, Canada and Australia. There are so many factors that come into your mind when you decide to leave  your homeland. Will I gain more knowledge by going back to the classroom? How much will the course cost me? Will it be easy for me to adjust to the culture in a new country? Will I be able to adjust to the extreme climate, where the temperature dips below -60 degrees in winters? Will I be a victim of racism because I wear a turban OR because of my brown skin?

After I compared my requirements with the available courses in technical communication, it was easy to make the final choice. Finally, I selected the Seneca College graduate certificate program in technical communication. For more details
about this program, see: http://www.senecac.on.ca/fulltime/TECC.html.

Difference between the Canadian education system and Indian education system

Seneca@York

Technical Writing program at Seneca@York

The Canadian education system is very different from the Indian education system. First, let us take a look at the concept of the college and universities in both countries. In India, several colleges are part of a university, whereas in Canada, the university and college are two different entities . The Canadian university usually provides degree courses of longer duration, whereas a college provides short but industry-specific specialized courses. I was surprised to find out that no Canadian university offers a full time, post graduate course in technical communication, (since it is a specialized subject). Only two colleges in Canada offer a full time, post graduate course in technical writing.

Cost of the technical writing course

It goes without saying that the International education is expensive. No scholarship is available for international students, due to the recent budget cuts. Also, getting a part time job along with your studies is difficult, if not impossible. The tuition fees for an international student for a technical communication program is approximately $ 14,000 CAD (roughly Rs. 7,42,000). This figure may seem high, but Canada has the lowest fees for international students as compared to other countries. Tuition fee for a similar course (for an International student) is almost half in Canada (compared to the U.S).

The living expenses depend on the individual’s lifestyle. But, it is assumed that the expenses would be around $1000-1500 CAD per month or about $ 12,000 to $ 18,000 CAD (roughly Rs. 6,36,000 to Rs. 9,54,000) per year. The books are astonishingly expensive and cost roughly $1000 (Rs. 53,000) for the entire program. Overall, the entire cost of a course may be around $30,000 CAD (roughly Rs. 15,00,000). If you are working, then you may add your annual salary to this figure (since you have to leave your job to pursue this course) and this amount may be sufficient to buy a small house in a suburban area in India!

Advice to the technical writers interested in pursuing higher education

Consider your goal to pursue the higher program:

  • Do you want to pursue a course to gain more knowledge about technical writing? OR
  • Do you want to pursue a course to immigrate to a developed country? OR
  • Do you want to pursue a course to get a salary raise?

The job market in India is good but that is not the case in Canada and other countries. It is extremely difficult to find a good job. Even jobs that pay minimum salary are increasingly becoming highly competitive. Some international students have returned to their native countries due to lack of job opportunities in Canada.

However, if you will ask my honest opinion about my experience here, then I would say that it was (and still is) the most amazing and memorable experience of my life.

I’d love to hear your opinion on getting higher education in technical communication. Is it worth it?

This article originally appeared in the newsletter of MITWA mailing list. It is published here with slight modifications.

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4 responses to “Enrolling for a Technical Writing Course?

  1. Peter Stewart October 10, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Thanks for the article. I applaud your initiative in putting this out in the public domain, especially as communication is the life blood of technical writing.
    I do think that you must avoid basic errors in the text as ‘technical communication’, by definition, should reflect accuracy and attention to detail. Some examples follow:
    1. ……. returned back – returned is sufficient and does not need back which is superfluous and redundant.
    2. Do you want to pursue a course get salary rise?
    3. The fees in Canada … should be – ‘fees’ are plural, ‘is’ should be used with a singular noun.

    • Gurpreet Singh October 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      Hi Peter,

      You have a good eye for editing. Thanks for providing your valuable feedback.

      I’ve corrected these errors in my article.

      Gurpreet

      • sumikiran October 11, 2012 at 12:14 am

        Hi Guru,
        Thanks for the info. Wondering how it has helped you improve your career. Did it distinguish your profile in the job market? Or did it help you bag a job in Canada? Or did it improve your knowledge level extensively?
        Thanks,
        Sumi

  2. Wilton December 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Great post, really enjoyed it!
    — Wilton

    http://www.bigconceptdesigns.com

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