Practical First-hand Experience Delivers Value in the NAU Professional Writing Program

Face-to-face with Janet O’Connor, Current Student in the Northern Arizona University Professional Writing Certificate Program

naulogoIs it time for some professional development? Spring is a great time to think about sprucing up your professional house. If you are reluctant to move away from your computer for fear of scaring up the dust bunnies under your style book or worse, of unearthing some moldy professional dreams, fear no more!

You can overcome your fear pretty simply—join a community of technical and professional writers in Northern Arizona University’s online programs.  Our master’s and certificate programs are built just for you, the working professional looking to reach new horizons. We’re rather proud of our program and of our students.  And we would love to have you join our community.

You might ask yourself “Why would I enroll in a professional writing program? I already have a degree, and I’m working in the field.” Let’s start with convenience and ease of enrollment. Even if you already have a master’s degree, we have a graduate-level Certificate in Professional Writing program that does not require reference letters, the GRE, a thesis, or anything more than just six courses.  Our courses are all online and happen all year round.

Here are some other reasons to enroll in NAU’s Certificate in Professional Writing:

  • Brush up on your editing, web-based document design, and proposal-writing abilities.
  • Prepare to teach technical writing.
  • Feel more confident in your professional and technical writing skills.
  • Find your tribe.
  • Discuss current issues with other writing professionals.
  • Apply all your work toward the MA program if you decide to go whole-hog.
Janet O'Connor, Technical Writer, and Professional Writing Certificate student at Northern Arizona University.

Janet O’Connor, Technical Writer, and Professional Writing Certificate student at Northern Arizona University.

Don’t take our word for it.  Our current students can say it better than we can.

We recently talked with Janet O’Connor, a professional technical writer and one of our current certificate students to get the student’s-eye view of the NAU program. Janet writes proposal documentation for General Dynamics Mission Systems in Scottsdale, Arizona. She also does document design, writes blog content, and has written advertising copy as a graphic designer. She told us she came to NAU because she was looking to start teaching technical writing and doing more freelance writing.  Here’s more on why she chose NAU.

What are you learning in your Professional Writing Certificate courses that is helpful to you in your role as professional writer?

The first course I took in my Professional Writing Certificate program at NAU was Professional Editing. I have been editing documents for many years, and my experience runs the gamut from basic proofreading to comprehensive edits of very large documents. The practical, first-hand experience I gained in working through the course assignments was priceless. Learning about the process of querying writers and working with my customers/clients helped me to become more skilled in understanding and anticipating customer needs, and that has made it easier to plan my workload.

My courses for the Spring 2016 semester are Advanced Technical Writing, and Professional Writing for Digital Audiences (Writing for the Web). We are roughly half way through the semester, and I am so excited about how well these two courses fit with my current career needs and future path in writing, editing, and information design. The unit working with Plain Language in the Digital Audiences course has strengthened my ability to pare down and tighten up my sentences. In the Advanced Tech Writing course, a current lesson on writing descriptions and instructions is teaching me to write clearly with my audience in mind to avoid miscommunication.

What might you tell someone who is currently writing professionally and thinks that he or she doesn’t need an MA or even a certificate in professional writing?

I would say that if you’re as successful in your writing career as you want to be, if you’re satisfied with your level of expertise in all aspects of writing (including editing and client communication), and if you feel that discovering new and emerging technologies would be a waste of your time, then you’re very lucky, and I wish you all the best. However, if you want to improve your credibility in the field, and you see the benefit in staying current in the professional writing industry, the MA or Certificate in Professional Writing is your ticket to future success.

Why online?  Don’t you miss face-to-face interaction?

As a working professional, I appreciate being able to do my school work on my own time. A graduate degree or certificate would not be possible in my world if I had to go to a campus two or three times a week. In addition, I like the online certificate program because I feel that I actually learn more in online courses than I would in a classroom. I have the time to ponder my responses to my professors and classmates, and I can carry on conversations with many of my classmates about the same topics and get many perspectives on the material. In a classroom setting, you may never hear from someone who is shy or uncomfortable speaking in a group. I feel I get more out of the material and everyone has a voice.

How are you different since you started the Professional Writing Certificate?

I’ve doubled my level of expertise and knowledge in comprehensively editing the writing I am tasked with. My confidence is high and I feel surer of the work I do professionally with every course I take in the Professional Writing program. I have applied some of my learning in the Professional Writing program to my blog sites over the past two semesters. Focus on my audience–another skilled honed in this program–has helped me to write more precise and pertinent text. As I said before, although I am just halfway through my graduate career, I am already using skills in my workplace that I have learned in the Professional Writing certificate program.

If Janet’s experience resonates with you, we invite you to join the NAU Professional Writing program. You can start as a non-degree student with no obligation.  Take just one course to see if our program fits your needs.  In the meantime, visit us for more information about the courses we offer.

Also, feel free to post questions for us here about our program… or about where to release large dust bunnies into the wild.  We would love to get to know you.

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