The difference between technical communication and general communication and the types of jobs for each

June 27, 2023 · 5 min read · By ASU Online
Effective communication is vital for organizations in every industry. Learn about the differences between general and technical communication, the importance of each, and the online degrees that can prepare you for roles in each.

Technical communication vs general communication degree programs

Technical and general communication degrees have a few foundational elements in common. For example, both programs focus on building skills for successful interactions with stakeholders. Career outcomes for these communication programs can also have some overlap.

But technical communication degrees lend themselves to more specialized roles, such as technical writers and instructional specialists. General communication programs are better suited for a wider array of roles in public relations, human resources, corporate communications and more.


General communication degree courses and career paths

In a general communication program, you’ll learn strategies to transform workplaces and communities. This flexibility these programs allow for can be helpful if you don’t have a specific career in mind, but want communication skills that can be applied broadly to a number of careers.

These may include:

  • Business management.
  • Event planning.
  • Human resources.
  • Nonprofit management.
  • Public relations.

You’ll build a knowledge base that focuses on communication in specific contexts. Sample courses in Arizona State University’s online bachelor's in communication program include:

  • Communication, Conflict and Negotiation emphasizes recognizing, managing and mitigating conflicts.
  • Gender and Communication looks at the effect that gender has on a person’s communication competence in social, educational, and professional settings.
  • Persuasion and Social Influence helps students understand the techniques and factors that lead to changes in human attitudes and behaviors.
  • Quantitative Research Methods courses look at ways to measure and analyze communication methods.

Communication is ranked as one of the top five most sought-after career skills and job opportunities for generalists are plenty. The ability to communicate verbally and in writing with people inside and outside of an organization are skills by employers in most all job markets. Jobs in this line of work include:

  • Human resources managers lead and develop administrative processes for staff members and leaders. HR managers generally have a bachelor’s degree and five or more years of experience.

    The media annual salary for this role was $126,230 in 2021 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And the role is projected to see job growth of 7% from 2021 - 2031.
  • Public relations managers focus on building the reputation of their enterprise. PR managers also attract the public and partners to their organization. The role commonly has entry requirements of a bachelor’s degree and five or more years of experience.

    The median annual salary for a PR manager was $119,860 in 2021, according to the BLS. This position also has a projected career growth of 8% from 2021-2031, which is faster than average.


Technical communication courses and career paths

Technical communication degrees emphasize producing, designing and managing information to help people do things. Technical communication generally deals with three main things:

  • Communicating about technical or specialized topics, such as computer applications, medical procedures, or environmental regulations.
  • Communicating by using technology, such as web pages, help files, or social media sites.
  • Providing instructions about how to do something, regardless of how technical the task is or even if technology is used to create or distribute that communication.

Upon graduation, you’ll be well-equipped to translate complex information, create instructions and documentation, and to help organizations deal with complex information systems and data.

Courses in ASU Online’s bachelor's in technical communication program include:

  • Content Strategy explores concepts, techniques, strategies and technologies for authoring, managing, and publishing re-usable content in online documentation, help files and other types of technical communication..
  • Principles of Visual Communication teaches the principles and tools of visual communication in print and electronic media, with an emphasis on document design, including typography and color.
  • Visualizing Data and Information covers how to process data and information in ways that help discover what's important about the information and what the clearest way is to communicate that information.
  • User Experience explores principles, techniques and tools of user experience (UX), including user and task analysis, user-centered design and usability testing.

Graduates with this degree are generally interested in technical communication careers. Technical communicators typically focus on specialized and complex topics in business, science and technology. This field is also smaller than the field of general communication.

Careers for technical communication majors include:

  • Technical writers craft manuals, guides, articles and similar material about complex topics. Technical writers earned a median annual salary of $78,060 in 2021 according to the BLS. And the career has a projected job growth of 6% from 2021-2031.
  • The role of an information systems manager involves planning information processes and systems for large organizations to help manage the information assets that these organizations produce.

    The BLS reports computer and information systems managers earned a median salary of $159,010 in 2021. The career also has a much-faster-than-average projected job growth of 16% from 2021-2031. This position normally requires a bachelor’s degree and several years of experience or a graduate degree.


Earn an online communication degree from Arizona State University

ASU Online offers the following bachelor’s degrees to help you pursue a career in communication.

  • In the Bachelor of Science in technical communication, you’ll learn how to apply effective writing and visual design to produce and manage content that helps others understand complex information. Additionally, you can focus your studies with these concentration of the technical communication degree:
    • Data visualization: You’ll learn how data management, data analysis and graphic design play a role in communication across a variety of industries.
    • Social media management: Develop the skills you need to manage social media strategy and implementation in organizations across industries.
    • User experience: You'll develop interdisciplinary knowledge about UX design and development while building a foundation in communication and learning applied skills.
  • The Bachelor of Science in communication provides a liberal arts grounding and a social science focus to prepare you to communicate effectively across relationships, within workplace teams, in the community, and between civic and cultural groups.

Everything you need to know about ASU Online classes and degree programs

We’ve compiled what you need to know about online classes and degree programs at Arizona State University. Read on to learn all about what to expect from the ASU Online learning experience.


About ASU Online

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