Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What does a technical communicator do?
  2. What software programs do technical communicators use?
  3. What industries employ technical communicators?
  4. What companies employ technical communicators?
  5. How long is the Technical Communication program at Red River College?
  6. When do we start doing projects for real clients?
  7. Why do we focus on oral presentations?
  8. What is FrameMaker?
  9. Where and when are classes held?
  10. What is Co-op?
  11. How do I get a co-op placement
  12. Will studying and working in Technical Communication offer opportunities for creativity and problem-solving?
  13. Where might I find work as a Technical Communicator?
  14. What courses will I be taking if I register for the Technical Communication program, and what knowledge and skills will I gain?
  15. What is the time commitment necessary for completing the Technical Communication program?
  16. How much will it cost to complete the Technical Communication program?
  17. How big do the classes tend to be in Technical Communication?
  18. Do I need to know math to succeed in Technical Communication?
What does a technical communicator do?

A technical communicator will use a variety of software, write manuals, brochures, online help, newsletters, and a variety of other documents used to convey technical and scientific information to a non-technical audience.

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What software programs do technical communicators use?

Technical communicators will use various word processing and desktop publishing programs including Microsoft Word and Adobe FrameMaker. Technical communicators may use RoboHelp in designing online help files and Microsoft FrontPage for web documents.

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What industries employ technical communicators?

A technical communicator has the capability of working in many fields, including agriculture, aerospace, entertainment, and telecommunications.

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What companies employ technical communicators?

Companies that are currently employing technical communicators include the Canadian Grain Commission, Vansco, Ceridian, Nortel, CanWest Global, and many others.

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How long is the Technical Communication program at Red River College?

Two years. It begins in late August and finishes in late April, with each term lasting 16 weeks. There is also a May-to-August summer work term which lasts approximately 14 weeks.

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When do we start doing projects for real clients?

Normally, you will write a short manual for a client in the second term.

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Why do we focus on oral presentations?

As a technical communicator, you will constantly be presenting yourself orally to others, whether in a job interview or interviewing subject-matter experts.

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What is FrameMaker?

FrameMaker is the program of choice with many companies, mainly because it is very stable and reliable with fairly long documents and book files.

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Where and when are classes held?

Classes are held at Red River College's Princess Campus in downtown Winnipeg (also known as the Exchange District). You have the opportunity of seeing old and new mixed into one. Classes are held between 8:00am and 5:00pm, depending on your schedule.

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What is Co-op?

In this program co-op is the summer work term that is designed to give students work experience. Students will gain valuable work experience that will clarify their career choices while earning income.

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How do I get a co-op placement

There is a process to it. First of all, you will receive job offer forms from various employers. You must then craft a resume and covering letter for each job offer, and attach other documentation that the employers require, such as a transcript or writing sample. Next you will get interviewed by employers who choose you for further consideration. Finally you will be offered a job by one of the employers.

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Will studying and working in Technical Communication offer opportunities for creativity and problem-solving?

Yes! Creativity and problem solving are essential skills for a Technical Communicator. Technical Communication is highly involved with exploring how we communicate scientific, mechanical and instructional information through documents, digital delivery systems and other means. As such, learning to be an effective technical communicator means learning how to analyze communications, processes, products and problems and find the most efficient and effective ways to conceive, construct, solve, and use them, as well communicate with others about them.

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Where might I find work as a Technical Communicator?

Recent graduates of the Technical Communication program have gone to work for companies as diverse as IMRIS (MRI technologies), Kore Telematics (cellular network provider), Standard Aero, and Manitoba Public Insurance. We have also placed co-op students with organizations including Manitoba Housing, Loewen Windows, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, the Canadian Tumor Registry, Palliser Furniture, Canadian Grain and the Manitoba Government. As you can see, there is demand for the skills of technical communicators in many areas of industry, including, but not limited to, health care, aerospace, software development, manufacturing, engineering, government, finance and insurance. Furthermore, a 2007 report from Manitoba Job Futures (http://mb.jobfutures.org/home.cfm) identified reading technical documents, using documents and writing instructions, procedures and reports as three of the four most in-demand skills in the Manitoba work force—these are all skills that the RRC Technical Communication program focuses on developing.

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What courses will I be taking if I register for the Technical Communication program, and what knowledge and skills will I gain?

The technical communication program focuses on building student skills in writing, document design (including reports, proposals and manuals), project management, technical illustration and establishing a foundation of knowledge about the technical communication industry and its common practices. Students also study several software applications common in the industry, such as Word, InDesign, Inventor, FrameMaker, and IsoDraw, and undertake many individual and group projects geared toward developing skills in teamwork and professionalism. For a listing of the courses in the program, along with descriptions, please visit http://me.rrc.mb.ca/catalogue/CourseDescriptions.aspx?ProgCode=TECCF-DP&RegionCode=WPG

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What is the time commitment necessary for completing the Technical Communication program?

The Technical Communication program is a two-year, full-time program, with a 14-week paid co-op placement between first and second year. This means that students can expect to have full-time day classes between September and April (with breaks for Christmas and Reading Week), usually amounting to about 24 class hours per week. Co-op placements take place over the summer between first and second year. It is important to note that, in order to be successful in the program, students will frequently be required to spend time outside of class hours studying and working on individual and group assignments.

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How much will it cost to complete the Technical Communication program?

Costs for the Technical Communication program are currently approximately $4,416 for the first year and $3,703 for the second year for domestic students (a total of $8,119). For international students the cost is $11,700 for the first year and $11,000 for the second year. Please note that these costs are subject to change—for the most current information, please visit http://me.rrc.mb.ca/catalogue/ProgramDatesAndFees.aspx?ProgCode=TECCF-DP&RegionCode=WPG

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How big do the classes tend to be in Technical Communication?

Technical Communication classes tend to be between 5 and 20 students in size. Of course, some years there are more than that, and some years there are less, but the program is set up in such a way that class sizes allow for a lot of direct contact with instructors and other students.

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Do I need to know math to succeed in Technical Communication?

The short answer is no. To succeed in the Technical Communication program requires no exceptional skills or aptitude in math, though a comfort level with numbers is a definite must. You will need to do some simple calculations from time to time, and a sense of how numbers work is invaluable when working with clients and technical documents. There is the potential to get into industries such as manufacturing and software development that may involve documents with a lot of math, but the amount of math you want to be involved with after you graduate and start your career will, to an extent, be up to you. Poor math skills will not prevent you from graduating and having a career, but good math skills are a definite asset that will open doors.

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