Rhetoric and Professional Communication (old)

Join a program committed to studying the rhetorical and technological complexities of contemporary communication practice. We embrace multimodal composition, new media, and digital collaboration. Our breadth of faculty expertise, robust technology infrastructure, multimodal pedagogy, and responsive curriculum make possible a comprehensive approach to graduate education. Our PhD program was founded in 1991 as one of the first PhD programs in the U.S. to feature the role of rhetoric in technical and professional communication.

Doctoral and masters students in the RPC program have a positive, enriching experience. Graduate students specialize in professional communication, multimodal composition, or rhetoric. The graduate student experience is enhanced by

  • engaged faculty
  • collaborative research opportunities
  • myriad courses
  • guided teaching opportunities
  • graduate student workshops

Explore the adventure of the PhD in Rhetoric and Professional Communication or the MA in Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Communication.

Three reasons you should consider applying to our master’s or doctoral degree programs:

  1. Contemporary coursework.
    The digital information age is the energy driving education, commerce, and government. It’s the latest in a long history of communication-rich eras, going back to the golden age of Greece. In the MA program of study, you will explore rhetoric’s historical origins; sample the latest theories; develop skills for teaching, Web designing, document production, and visual communication; learn to write proposals; produce manuals and in-house publications; and edit technical and scientific documents, whether print or online.
  2. Engaged faculty.
    Our faculty have won numerous awards in both teaching and research. Award-winning teachers teach classes regularly and interact closely with graduate students in the classroom and on thesis committees. Faculty members, such as David Russell and Charlie Kostelnick, have won national awards for outstanding research. Our RPC faculty even founded and continue to edit one of the major academic journals in the field: Journal of Business and Technical Communication.
  3. Opportunities.
    You can shape your interest in communication into a career that’s right for you. Want to be a technical writer for the computer industry? Want to teach business and technical communication at the community college level? Want to be an editor for a corporate newsletter? Want to go beyond the MA (half of our MA graduates have gone on to study for their doctorates)? Want to participate in a workplace internship to help you decide which direction to take as well as prepare your portfolio for a successful job search?

What Makes Our Program Distinctive?

The Breadth of our Faculty

Our rhetoric faculty is among the most multifaceted anywhere. Our breadth gives students the opportunity to master a diverse range of perspectives on rhetorical issues, as well as the chance to work closely with faculty mentors.

Our faculty focus on a wide range of issues within rhetoric and professional communication, including multimodal communication pedagogy, visual rhetoric, workplace communication, technology, the history of rhetoric, and public address.

We integrate communication with various forms of subject-matter expertise; as a result, we have students with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from a wide range of fields.

Impact on the Profession

The numerous publications that ISU faculty members have produced and edited are heavily cited in other publications and have earned faculty members many national awards.

100% Placement Rate for PhD Graduates

Among our PhD alumni who have looked for an academic position, there is a 100% placement rate. Our graduates serve in departments across the country and around the world and are well prepared for positions in both academia and industry.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

The English Department at ISU is large, with programs in Creative Writing and Environment, Literature, English Education, Teaching English as a Second Language, Applied Linguistics and Technology, Communication Studies, and Speech Communication. Students in RPC have the opportunity to study and work with faculty in a wide range of specialties. The ISU Human-Computer Interaction Initiative as well as major NSF-funded initiatives like Iowa EPSCoR and Symbi have proven excellent sites for study and collaboration among our graduate students, as have the College of Business and the Department of Agronomy.

Technology Resources

Digital technologies are an essential part of professional communication. The skill to use them to produce high-quality communication products is not a talent; it is mastered by working in communities that foster such skills. The Rhetoric and Professional Communication programs have access to some of the best computer/technology resources available to any rhetoric program in the world; our technology resources are far superior to those in many other rhetoric programs.

The English Department at ISU has excellent multimedia facilities including state-of-the-art computer classrooms, numerous servers with high-end Web application development frameworks for students’ use, as well as multimedia suites available for graduate students. Our students work with the ISU Human-Computer Interaction Initiative and the Studio for New Media, as well as with the EServer.


The RPC program is known for a warm collegiality among graduate students and between graduate students and faculty members.

Information for Applicants

Applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree prior to their first semester in either program and must meet stated application preferences and English proficiency requirements (for nonnative speakers only) according to our How To Apply information. The only way to be considered for admission is to complete an application.

Application Deadline: January 5 (fall entry for both PhD and MA programs); October 15 (spring entry only available for the MA program).

Financial Aid

The majority of our students are funded through graduate assistantships, which provide a full tuition waiver (PhD) or half tuition waiver (MA), a monthly stipend for teaching courses or for conducting research, and health insurance benefits. Applications for assistantships are part of the graduate admission application process.