Professional Writing and Digital Communication

man typing

The Certificate in Professional Writing and Digital Communication is a flexible program designed to serve students who are interested in pursuing careers in technical, professional, and digital communication and students who see the development of communication skills as advantageous to their professional and educational goals.

Students may enroll independently in the Certificate program. That is, they do not need to be pursuing another graduate degree at the University. However, students can complete the Certificate while enrolled in another degree program. Depending on the degree one chooses to pursue, courses in the Certificate may also contribute to the requirements of that degree.

Our Mission

Our program has two closely aligned missions. The first mission is to prepare students to enter careers as communication professionals. From technical writers to social media specialists, there are an expanding array of professions that demand adept writing skills, keen rhetorical awareness, and flexible digital literacy. These careers span virtual every industry: medicine, computers, finance, entertainment, non-profits, and so on. Our four-course certificate is designed to give students a competitive advantage in entering these professions by providing them with writing skills, digital literacy, and proven methods for adapting and succeeding in new communication situations.

The second mission recognizes that it is not solely communication professionals who require these skills in order to find professional success. A degree in science, engineering, or business provides students with the necessary education to enter those fields, but, as is widely acknowledged, it is often the “soft skills” of communication that make a difference in one’s long-term career. Similarly, for those pursuing graduate degrees in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, this certificate offers an opportunity to adapt one’s disciplinary research and communication skills for a broader range of public and professional audiences and careers.

Our Digital Focus

Though professional and technical communication have been clearly identified career paths for decades, the development of the internet and especially the innovations of the past decade have transformed these careers in terms of the expertise they require, the variety of texts and media objects they produce, and the ways in which professionals work. Our Certificate views digital communication as foundational to its curriculum.

Our digital focus has four key elements:

  • Developing skills to produce a range of multimedia, digital objects—document design, visual communication, web design, usability, video and audio podcasting, etc.;
  • Creating and managing complex data resources;
  • Understanding and interacting with social media, mobile media, and other web technologies as mechanisms for reaching and interacting with audiences;
  • Learning practices for online collaboration and project management in an increasingly global and diverse workplace.

Our Degree

Students may take the Certificate as a standalone program or combine it with other graduate degrees. In particular, students who choose to pursue an MA or PhD in English will find that the coursework in the Certificate also satisfies MA/PhD requirements.  Qualified undergraduates may begin the Certificate in their senior year and thus complete the program with only one additional semester of coursework.

The Certificate has one required course, ENG 503: Professional Writing and Digital Communication. This course introduces students to the breadth of the certificate and begins the focus on digital communication that is the centerpiece of the curriculum. Depending on their interests, students then take either ENG 510: Technical Communication or ENG 520: Professional Writing. ENG 510 focuses primarily on communication for STEM professionals and in STEM industries, while ENG 520 more broadly examines strategies for communicating with the general public and a wider variety of workplace scenarios.

From there, students take two more elective courses from our growing list of courses. Students can continue a focus in technical or professional communication or integrate these interests with coursework in literacy education, rhetorical theory, or digital humanities.


The Certificate in Professional Writing and Digital Communication is comprised of four graduate courses (12 credits).

Required Course (6 credits)

ENG 503: Digital Communication (3 cr.)

One of the following:

ENG 510: Technical Communication (3 cr.)

ENG 520: Professional Writing (3 cr.)

Elective Courses (totaling a minimum of 6 credits)

ENG 510: Technical Communication (3 cr.)

ENG 520: Professional Writing (3 cr.)

ENG 602: Digital Communication and Rhetoric (3 cr.)

ENG 605: Media Curating (3 cr.)

ENG 653: Critical Theory (3 cr.)

LAI 536: Digital Video as Literacy Learning (3 cr.)

LAI 673: New Literacies Seminar (3 cr.)

LAI 678: Digital Media in Education (3 cr.)

Our Faculty

Alexander Reid, Certificate Director

David Bruce, Learning and Instruction

Arabella Lyon, English

Elizabeth Mazzolini, English

Ryan Rish, Learning and Instruction

Kristen Moore, English

How Do I Apply?

Apply Online

Any student already enrolled in a graduate program at the University at Buffalo may apply for admission to the Advanced Certificate in Professional Writing and Digital Communication.

Students not already enrolled in a graduate program at the University at Buffalo will also be allowed to apply to the Advanced Certificate and complete the program of study without concurrent enrollment in a graduate degree program. Such a “certificate-only” student must have a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Please note according to Federal law, international students may not be admitted to standalone Certificate programs. Only international students who are enrolled in a Master’s or Doctoral program may be granted admission to the Certificate.

To apply to the Certificate, the Department requests the following materials:

  • Resume or CV (no more than 3 pages)
  • Statement of Educational and Career Goals (less than 1000 words)
  • Unofficial transcripts from each college or university attended as a full-time student
  • GRE or GMAT (optional)
  • $75 Application Fee. See if you qualify for an application fee waiver