What’s the difference between technical and general communication?

November 19, 2020 · 5 min read · By ASU Online
Effective communication is vital for organizations across the globe. That's why communication specialists are necessary in the modern business world. Strong communicators can improve relationships. They can also share complicated information with a variety of people.

Technical and general communication specialists play different roles in the global communication market. Do you know the differences between technical and general communication? Learning them can help you decide which degree or career you want to pursue.


Technical vs general communication

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 be similar.

Aside from these basic similarities, technical and general communication programs have distinct qualities. So, what is the difference between technical vs general communication? Technical communication degrees lend themselves to more specialized roles. Therefore, the classes and skills for a Bachelor of Science in technical communication are different than a Bachelor of Science in communication.

A public relations manager shares information with members of the media.

General communication degree classes

Students in a general communication program learn strategies to transform workplaces and communities. Graduates may pursue a range of careers. This flexibility can be helpful for those who 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.


Students build a strong knowledge base that focuses on communication in specific contexts. Sample courses in the communication degree 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 vast. The ability to communicate verbally and in writing with people inside and outside of an organization are highly sought after skills by employees in all job markets.

Communication specialists can fill a variety of positions. These include:

  • Human resources managers lead and develop administrative processes for staff members and leaders. This career offers a median salary of $113,300. There is also a faster-than-average growth outlook of 7% through 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Human resources managers generally have a bachelor’s degree and five or more years of experience.
  • Public relations managers focus on building the reputation of their enterprise. PR managers also attract the public and partners to their organization. The median pay for this role is $114,800, according to the BLS. This position has a projected career growth of 8% through 2028, which is faster than average. It commonly has entry requirements of a bachelor’s degree and five or more years of experience.

Technical communication classes

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

  1. Communicating about technical or specialized topics, like computer applications, medical procedures, or environmental regulations.
  2. Communicating by using technology, such as web pages, help files, or social media sites.
  3. 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.

Graduates are well-equipped to translate complex information, create instructions and documentation, and to help organizations deal with complex information systems and data.

Technical communications courses include the following:

  • Writing strategy courses focus on the key elements of understanding, analyzing, and strategizing the creation and distribution of technical information.
  • Visual communication courses teach design principles and concepts like document design and typography.
  • Data visualization courses help u students understand how complex data can be simplified and accurately represented to nonexperts.
  • User experience courses walk students through the UX research and design process.

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.

One common position for a technical communicator is technical writer. This job involves crafting manuals, guides, articles and similar material about complex topics. Technical writers earn a median salary of $71,850. The career has a faster-than-average projected job growth of 8% through 2028, according to the BLS. In some cases, employers provide short trainings for their product or industry.

Another common position for a technical communicator is information systems manager. This position involves planning information processes and systems for large organizations to help manage the information assets that these organization produce. Information systems administrators earn a median salary of $146,360. The career has a faster-than-average projected job growth of 11% through 2028, according to the BLS. This position normally requires a bachelor’s degree and several years of experience or a graduate degree.


Choosing a communications degree for your career

Communication professionals add value to businesses. They share technical information with colleagues and customers in meaningful ways.

Arizona State University offers two online degrees to help you pursue a career in communications. Choose from a Bachelor of Science in technical communication or a Bachelor of Science in communication. Through these programs, ASU Online can prepare you to communicate with a variety of stakeholders. An undergraduate degree in either of these fields can serve as the cornerstone of a career that uses communication.


ASU Online – Online Bachelor of Science in Communication
ASU Online – Communication, BS
ASU Online – Online Technical Communication Degree (BS)
ASU Online – Technical Communication, BS
Human Resources Managers by Bureau of Labor Statistics
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers by Bureau of Labor Statistics
Technical Writer by Bureau of Labor Statistics


Two technical writers work on a manual for a new device.


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