With a focus on persuasive language, rhetoric programs instruct students in effective written and oral communication. These degrees often are the precursors to careers in law, teaching or public administration. Bachelor's degree programs offer a general examination of rhetorical theory and methods. Entry to a bachelor's program requires coursework in basic communication and a high school diploma.
Master's degree programs go more in-depth and may allow students to choose an area in which to concentrate their studies. Possible concentrations include rhetorical theory, rhetorical research, rhetorical discourse, intercultural rhetoric and education. Entry to a master's degree program requires GRE scores, a bachelor's degree and letters of recommendation. Some schools require students to complete a thesis paper or project exploring a particular aspect of rhetoric.
Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric
Students enrolled in a 4-year rhetoric degree program study the theory, philosophy and practical applications of rhetorical practice. They learn how to make persuasive arguments by studying language, dialogue, symbolism and discourse. Many programs also emphasize argumentative writing, comparative rhetoric and rhetoric in society. Some programs allow students to concentrate on electives that focus on the applications of rhetoric in law, politics or academia. Most of the courses in a bachelor's degree program in rhetoric are comprised of classroom lectures and individual research. Topics may include:
- Theory of rhetoric
- Argumentative writing
- Rhetoric in culture and society
- Language and dialogue
- Rhetoric of politics
- Rhetoric of legal theory
Master of Arts in Rhetoric
Graduate degree programs in rhetoric allow students to further pursue the study of persuasive communication. The majority of coursework is made up of elective courses from a student's chosen concentration. Many schools, however, do require at least 18 credit hours of core rhetoric courses such as:
- Comparative rhetoric
- History of rhetoric
- Discourse analysis
- Rhetoric of science
- Technical writing
Popular Career Options
A 4-year degree in rhetoric can prepare graduates for careers in the fields of communication, politics, law and professional writing. Some specific careers might include:
- Speech writer
- News announcer
- Public relations manager
- Advertising manager
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Many job opportunities exist for those who have a graduate degree in rhetoric. Some graduates may work as technical writers, preparing books, papers and manuals for a variety of technical industries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), technical writers held 55,700 positions in the United States in 2018 (www.bls.gov). These writers could expect job growth of 8%, faster than the average for all occupations, from 2018-2028, the BLS projected. The median annual salary for technical writers as of May 2018 was $71,850.
Professionals working in the fields of technical writing, speech writing, public relations, editing and advertising are rarely required to have certification in their field. No organization offers certification in the art of rhetoric.
Those professionals who are interested in taking advantage of additional resources, conferences and continuing education opportunities in the subject might consider membership in a professional organization, like the Rhetoric Society of America.
Bachelor's and master's degree programs in rhetoric teach students a wide range of skills, such as composition, technical writing and discourse analysis, that are useful in a variety of careers. Graduates may find employment ranging from advertising to speech writing.