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Jeffrey Walker, Chair PAR 3, Mailcode B5500, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-6109

Careers to Consider

What can you do with a major in rhetoric?

As so many of the quotes featured in our website indicate, writing and critical thinking are the skills most highly valued by employers today. It stands to reason, then, that rhetoric majors—who receive rigorous training in both—are likely to be much-sought-after candidates once they enter the job market. Although a few career paths stand out as logical choices, a major in rhetoric qualifies you for a broad spectrum of options.

Few people hear the term rhetoric without thinking about law. (The term “forensic” refers to anything related to legal systems.) Analyzing evidence, drawing conclusions, arguing about a defendant’s guilt or innocence, presenting a case in a way that informs and persuades a jury—these activities require rigorous training in logic, argumentation, audience analysis, and semantics, some of the key skills you will learn if you major in rhetoric.

Of course, the intensive writing required in rhetoric courses hones your skills for a variety of writing careers. Whether you hope to write carefully argued op-eds for The New York Times, winning business or grant proposals for the for-profit or nonprofit sector, advocacy materials for lobbyists, or art and music reviews for The Austin Chronicle, rhetoric courses will train you to tailor your style and tone to your audience and purpose. Moreover, you’ll develop research skills that are adaptable to both traditional library resources and online resources, and you’ll become adept at determining how to present others’ ideas fairly and give appropriate credit where credit is due. So whether the writing your future employer requires is chiefly argumentative, informative, or entertaining, you’ll have the experience necessary to tackle the task.

Equally viable opportunities exist in fields that employ visual rhetoric. Creating effective advertisements (for print or television) and materials for websites requires attention not just to words, but to how words and images interact to persuade readers/viewers. Many rhetoric courses provide opportunities to analyze visual rhetoric and learn the software and programs required to produce it. Such experience gives you a competitive edge in advertising, public relations, film, television, and other fields that make use of emerging technologies.

If you plan to continue your education after commencement (as many of our majors do), rhetorical training is excellent preparation for graduate or professional school. Whether your interests lie in English or paleontology, psychology or philosophy, public affairs or information science, your success in graduate school and your subsequent career will depend on how well you communicate your research to others—either in conference papers, journals, periodicals with an educated lay readership, boardrooms, or classrooms. Of course, if you discover you’ve developed a taste for rhetorical theory, the history of rhetoric, or the teaching of writing, graduate study in rhetoric may be the path for you.

Two offices on campus are dedicated to helping you explore possible careers:

The Liberal Arts Career Office coordinates job fairs and career expos on campus, and their website provides a searchable database of jobs and internships (local and international), guidelines for resume and cover letters, tips to help you prepare for an interview, and information about pre-law advising.

The Career Exploration Center offers career testing and career counseling, and it provides numerous resources to help you explore internships, graduate programs, and careers.

As you’re searching for the path that's right for you, feel free to consult the DRW professors with whom you’ve worked most closely. We support your efforts to find the profession best suited to your interests, training, and talents.

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