Careers in Professional and Technical Writing

Intended for individuals who are considering a career in professional writing but aren't sure which field to choose, this course provides an overview of professional writing careers. The course describes marketing writing, technical writing, creation of software user interfaces, journalism, and grant and proposal writing.

Students learn best practices and key principles for each writing field and receive the opportunity, through in-class exercises and external assignments, to gain practice. They also learn principles common to all of the fields, including audience analysis, working with subject-matter experts, and working with editors.

The course consists of six weekly, 2-hour evening sessions, taught in real time to facilitate in-class exercises and allow interaction between students and the instructor.

The course instructor is a practicing professional writer with extensive experience in technical writing as well as experience in marketing and journalism.

On completing the course, students should have a clearer idea of the best practices and requirements for each of the professional writing fields, so that each student is better equipped to select the most suitable career.

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Curriculum & Course Details

The are no graded quizzes or tests. However, exercises, readings and writing assignments are used to reinforce key points and to assist the instructor in determining the student’s status as complete for the program. Students that meet course requirements will earn a certificate denoting this accomplishment.

Course Outline


Skills that are common to all nonfiction writing

  • Working with subject-matter experts
  • Accuracy
  • Audience analysis
  • Working on teams

Marketing Writing

  • The brand
  • Marketing is more than advertising
    • White papers
    • Corporate communications
    • Customer relations
  • The three P's and a fourth P
    • How the marketing profession is evolving
    • Marketing writers and product positioning
    • How marketing writers can influence the product


  • Overview and key principles
  • The differences between reporting and editorializing
  • Interviewing techniques
  • Structure of a news article

Technical writing

  • Overview and key principles
  • Kinds of technical writing
    • User instructions
    • Technical references
    • Policies and procedures
    • Others
  • Knowing your audience
  • Formats for presenting information

Creating software user interfaces

  • Screen design
  • Field names and labels
  • Integrated help
  • Specialized skills

Grant and proposal writing

  • Overview and key principles

Connections: Where the careers are similar, and where they differ

Working with editors

  • The role of the editor
  • Types of editing
  • The writer/editor relationship
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  • Fluency in English (including reading and writing)
  • Understanding that curriculum is based upon US laws and practices
  • Tuition paid in full prior to start of program
  • Computer literacy/comfortable with virtual learning via Zoom
  • Have an email account and regular access to the internet and a computer, preferably one with both microphone and camera abilities. Please note that if the student’s computer does not have microphone capability, they will need to log into Zoom using their smart phones. Students must have the means to both hear and speak to the instructor and other students during class time.

Admission is discretionary. Duke Continuing Studies-Professional Certificate Programs- requires students be a least 18 years of age and meet minimum suitability standards. Students are not matriculated Duke University students and university student privileges do not apply to Continuing Studies students.

Duke Continuing Studies reserves the exclusive right, at its sole and absolute discretion, to withhold registration or require withdrawal from the program of, any student or applicant

Certificate requirements

  • Attendance in full required for entire course (12 hours)
  • Complete all assignments, reading, exercises, etc. requested (whether in or out of class session) to the satisfaction of the instructor
  • Pay tuition in full at time of registration

Note: The certificate is noncredit and does not apply toward a degree.

Technical requirements

Students wishing to enroll in the program must have:

  • Computer (IBM Compatible PC or Apple Macintosh) with both microphone and camera capabilities. Students must have the means to both hear and speak to the instructor and other students during class time.
  • Internet Access
  • Internet Browser (Google Chrome is preferred)
  • E-mail (personal versus a company email to avoid firewall issues)
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • Microsoft Office Word or other word processing software
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Schedule & Registration


Wednesday(s), June 2, 2021 – July 7, 2021 

6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. (Virtual class)

  1. Register Online using a credit card with our secure, real-time registration system. Add the course to your shopping cart and follow the instructions for checking out.
  2. Register by Phone at 919-684-6259 during our business hours (Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm EST) to register.
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Frequently Asked Questions

Who should take this course?

Any individual, 18 years or older, considering a career in professional/technical writing.

Why should I enroll in this particular course?

This course, of which there are few available like it, provides insight into the industry on a broad level. Additionally, the instructor, himself, has years of experience in the writing industry which adds relevant value to the student learning experience.

Do students have to log in at a specific time to access the course?

Yes, this a “live” course and will be taught via ZOOM on Wednesday evenings from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., June 2 through July 7. Students are expected to attend each session in full and be ready to start each class session at 6pm.

Are textbooks needed for this course and if so, are they included in the cost of the tuition?

There are no textbooks associated with this course and therefore students do not incur any additional expense for participation in this course.

Is this program affiliated with any other office at Duke University?

This program is not affiliated with any other Duke office. As a non-credit professional training course, it is offered exclusively through Duke Continuing Studies.

Does Duke Faculty serve as instructors/mentors/subject matter experts for this course?

The course is taught by an instructor from the Duke Continuing Education's Technical Writing certificate program. The instructor is a practicing professional writer and is not a member of the Duke faculty. Refer to “Instructor section” on this site for more detail.

After registering, when will students receive additional program details?

Should the course meet minimum enrollment requirements, a link to access the program and other program details will be emailed to students the weekend prior to the course start date.

How long does the course take to complete?

The course duration is 12 hours, spread over 6 weeks. You will be attending class virtually. Outside the class sessions, assignments and supplemental reading may also be assigned.

Are extensions granted to students who request them?

This program is live and instruction ends on Wednesday, 7/7.Therefore, there are no “makeup” classes. Should there be outstanding work due it is at the instructor’s discretion to determine 1) if late coursework will be accepted and 2) if the late submission meets program standards.


What are the requirements to earn a certificate of completion for this course?

To earn the certificate the student must:

  • Attend class sessions (six)
  • Participate in in-class exercises and discussion and/or complete any other assignment requested by the instructor
  • Pay tuition in full upon registration

What is the computer technical requirements to access and participate in this online, virtual program?

Please refer to the “Requirements” section listed on this site.

Whom do students contact if there are technical issues or have general questions while enrolled in the course?

Please contact the individual managing the program. That individual’s contact information will be provided in the welcome email containing the ZOOM link to the course.

How will I receive my certificate of completion?

Students will be US postal mailed their certificate. Allow 14 business days for this certificate to be mailed. Students residing outside of the country may have a longer delay in receiving.

Is this course transferrable to a degree?

No. This course is non-credit bearing and is not applicable to a degree.

What is the refund policy for this course?

Please refer to the “policies and procedure” section of this website for those details.

Can I transfer my tuition to another course if I prefer to enroll in another offering?

No, each course is a standalone offering and transfers are not allowed.

Will I receive a grade for this course?

Due to the non-credit (non-degree) status of the course, students earn only a complete/incomplete status based on requirements of completion. Letter grades are not issued and nor recorded in the student file.

Can I earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for this course?

Yes, this course will award 1.2 CEUs. CEUS are designated on the course transcript.

How do I request a transcript?

Contact the Continuing Studies registration team at learnmore.duke.edu and place your request. A $10 transcript fee will be charged.

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Larry Kunz

Photograph of Larry KunzLarry Kunz is a Lead Technical Writer with Extreme Networks, a leading producer of networking hardware. He creates user guides and other customer information in printable, online, and video formats. Larry is a seasoned trainer and facilitator, and has worked more than 30 years in technical communication as a writer, marketer, manager, and project leader. He holds the rank of Fellow in the Society for Technical Communication (STC) and received the STC President's Award for leading the Society's strategic planning effort. Read more about Larry on LinkedIn.

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Tuition & Funding Sources



Duke Employee Discount

  • $25 off the fee of $375
  • Duke employee pays fee of $350 
  • Student must register and pay tuition in full prior to the program start date in order to reserve space in the program for that term.

Discount must be requested and applied during the registration process and cannot be applied in addition to any other discount that may be offered. You may be asked to verify your status as a Duke employee.

Group Discount

Do you have a group (Duke or non-Duke entity) interested in training?

Contact the Program Manager for details.

Company Pay

Many companies will reimburse employees for educational expenses. Contact your manager or HR department for more information.

Funding Sources

The funding options listed below may not be applicable to all programs at this time. Please contact the organization offering the funding to see if you qualify and if the funds can be used for the program in which you are interested.


Our Professional Certificate programs are non-credit (not degree applicable); therefore, they are NOT eligible for federal education loans. DO NOT SUBMIT FAFSA FORMS for these programs. Some of our programs may offer payment plans. Please see individual program web pages for those details.

Duke Continuing Studies courses are non-degree offerings. Therefore, loans (Wells Fargo Graduate loan, Sallie Mae Smart Option Undergraduate loan, etc.) cannot be construed to imply any degree-seeking status.

Duke Continuing Studies (DCS) will not certify (approve) loan amounts greater than the amount of the tuition, regardless of the amount approved by the lending agency. DCS reserves the right to reject any loan which exceeds the tuition amount. DCS will not be responsible for refunding monies in excess of the tuition. Students needing to secure loan funding for books or other items in relation to the program are responsible for making separate loan arrangements with the funding agency. No loan funds will be refunded to the student.

Should a student choose to borrow less than the tuition amount, the balance must be paid prior to the close of the registration period.

Sallie Mae Smart Option Loan

To apply for this private student loan, visit Sallie Mae’s website, and click the I’m ready to apply buttonThe following application should populate with the pertinent information for Duke Continuing Studies.

  • Under Loan Needs, select Student and then Undergraduate degree.
  • Select Career training school. 
  • Select North Carolina from the drop down menu.
  • Under name of school begin typing DUKE PROFESSIONAL, then select DUKE PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATES, DURHAM, NC, 00292099 when it populates.
  • Click Continue.
  • Next, You've confirmed that you want a Smart Option Student Loan for DUKE PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATES will appear.
  • Click Continue.
  • Fill out Basic Information.
  • Fill out Permanent Address section.
  • Fill out School Information.
    • DUKE PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATES, DURHAM, NC, 00292099 should already have populated for the school.
    • Select Certificate for Degree/Certificate of Study.
    • Select your Specialty or select Other if it is not shown in the options.
    • Select Half Time for Enrollment Status.
    • Select Certificate/Continuing Ed for Grade Level.
    • Enter your Loan period begins and loan period end dates.
    • Enter your Anticipated Graduation / Completion.
    • Enter loan amount. NOTE: This may not exceed the cost of tuition.
    • Estimated financial assistance should be $0.00.
    • Under Loan request, click Use calculated need.
    • Do not check any box in typical school expenses.
  • Follow the remaining loan application prompts.

Wells Fargo Graduate Loan

Please note that Wells Fargo is no longer accepting new applications for their private student loans. However, students with an outstanding balance on a Wells Fargo private student loan may be eligible to be borrowers on a new private loan. See here for details.

Duke Hospital Employees

Duke University Hospital employees may be eligible for support from the Employee Development Initiative (EDI), which helps employees pay for short-term career-related programs, workshops, and seminars. For more information, visit the Employee Development Initiative site or call Duke Hospital Human Resources at (919) 668-2170.


AmeriCorps Education Awards are available only for AmeriCorps volunteers and can be used for educational expenses for non-degree courses, such as Continuing Education courses offered by qualified schools. For more information on qualified schools and programs, contact the National Service Trust at 1-800-942-2677, or visit the FAQ page of the AmeriCorps website.


The Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) program provides up to $4,000 (over 2 years) of Financial Assistance for military spouses who are pursuing a license, certification, or Associates degree in a portable career field and occupation. For more information, please visit the MyCAA website.

Wire Transfers

Contact our registration office at learnmore@duke.edu for details on how to send wire transfers. Very specific instructions must be followed in order for our office to receive a successful transfer.

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Policies & Procedures

Refund Policy

Refund and Change Requests must be in writing. To receive a refund, minus a processing fee for each course cancelled, we must receive your written cancellation request at least two weeks prior to the start of the program or course. Should you cancel your registration after you have been given your books and online access, we can only refund the portion of your tuition minus the cost of the books. The books/online access will remain yours. Processing fees are:

  • $20 for course fees under $500
  • $100 for course fees $500 or more

To submit a cancellation request:
Email: learnmore@duke.edu
Fax: 919-681-8235
Registration - Duke Continuing Studies
Box 90700
Durham, NC 27708-0700

Include your name, address, phone number, and course title to be dropped. Refunds will be made in the manner you paid us.

Course is Filled / Waiting List

If a course is already filled, a waiting list is usually available instead. If you are interested in placing your name on the waiting list, follow the checkout instructions to do so. If a space becomes available, a registration staff member will call you and ask if you are still interested. If you are interested, registration staff can take your payment information over the phone and complete your registration at that time.

If We Cancel a Course

Sometimes we have to cancel a course that does not meet minimum enrollment, or due to unforeseen events. If that happens, you will receive a full or pro-rated refund. Duke Continuing Studies reserves the right to substitute instructors or change the day a course meets.

Tax Deductions

Course fees and expenses are sometimes tax deductible. Please consult an accountant concerning this matter. Non-credit programs at Duke Continuing Studies do not generate 1098-T forms, in accordance with the following IRS guideline:

Instructions for Forms 1098-E and 1098-T published by the Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, states “You do not have to file Form 1098-T or furnish a statement for: Courses for which no academic credit is offered, even if the student is otherwise enrolled in a degree program…”

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