Missouri S&T offered Killian Knowles two things that few universities in the U.S. could: a top-notch education in technical communication and the kind of personal attention that comes through small class sizes and knowledgeable, friendly instructors. That he could get his bachelor’s degree from a school renowned for preparing students for the real world and rewarding, well-paying jobs was a bonus.
S&T consistently ranks among the top universities in the country in terms of return on investment and graduate starting salaries. In a December 2015 report, S&T came in at No. 2 among public colleges on Kiplinger’s list of Best College Values in regards to “salary yardstick” at $65,500. The measure is “based on the median earnings of workers who started at a particular college 10 years earlier and who received federal financial aid.”
Knowles had little trouble starting a rewarding career upon graduating in May 2015. He landed a job as a technical writer at Visa in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, less than a month later. He even had time to travel Europe with some high school friends before settling into his new office at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.
He credits his former instructors in the technical communication program – Drs. Ed Malone, Kathryn Northcut and David Wright – with his continued success. As a field of study, technical communication, whether written, oral, or visual, helps people use technology effectively, understand technology and make effective decisions about real-world problems. “Technical communicators bridge the gap between the IT staff of a company and the business and sales people,” Knowles says.
So, Knowles says, it was helpful that his instructors had industry experience with the software he was learning to use. “No matter what software you’re using – whether you’re using an Adobe program or something else – you’re going to get hands-on education, especially with the technical communication professors” at S&T, he says. “It was so easy to learn because they were actually in the field using these products. They all have the professional expertise.”
The small class sizes made it easier for him to get the individual instruction he needed. “When you’re sitting in a class of 10, you’re going to have hands-on computer training. And you’re going to have someone looking over your shoulder making sure you’re doing what’s right, whether you’re creating the right newsletter, or setting up the right help system,” he says.
He adds that the program is “second to none as far as getting the hands-on training and actually learning the software.”
Leading up to graduation, Knowles attracted the attention of companies looking for technical writers and communicators because “I do have the experience with this software. And I do know how to work with (IT), and have project management.”
Knowles, a native of the Hill neighborhood in St. Louis, transferred to S&T from another university after his freshman year because he was looking for a more technical degree at a highly-regarded school.
“My parents and everyone I talked to from St. Louis, when it came down to figuring out where I was going to go next, it was really interesting to hear their opinions on S&T and how great of a school it is and the reputation it has in St. Louis and across the Midwest,” he says. “Everyone was happy with my decision because it was a good school, a good program and a good community.”
Knowles says the adjustment to the technical communication program at S&T was seamless. “It was so easy to get acclimated to the technical communication degree, just because I fell in love with the professors,” he says. “The professors all knew exactly what they were talking about. They kind of sold me on how unique this field can be.”
Knowles had three internships while at S&T — as a marketing and brand ambassador at Uber in Chicago, a junior executive in marketing and public relations at San Jose Group, also in Chicago, and a marketing, social media and copywrite intern at Back 2 Basics Marketing in St. Louis.
He was also heavily involved on campus, working as a student ambassador for the university and participating in student organizations like the Spanish Club and Society for Technical Communication.
“When I talked to admissions counselors, and when I went on tours (at S&T), they talked about having that name on your degree and having that name on your resume is something that definitely pays off.
“And it has.”