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Graduate Certificate in Plain Language (Online)


MSTC Degree Director
Joe Sample, Ph.D.
Room: S1051

Graduate Degree and Graduate Certificate Application Deadlines

Summer 2024 - May 15, 2024

Fall 2024 - August 1, 2024​


The Graduate Certificate in Plain Language is the first and only program of its kind in an institution of higher education in the nation and was developed in response to the Plain Writing Act of 2010 and the Executive Order 13263 in 2011 which mandated clear communication in plain writing from all federal government agencies. Plain language is a set of guidelines used to simplify and clarify communications addressed to the general public. The guidelines include the use of simpler vocabulary, shorter sentences, lists, active voice, and shorter paragraphs, to name a few.  Although developed in response to the mandate for federal government agencies, plain language is an approach that is effectively used in many other areas, fields, and sectors besides federal government including:

  • State and local government offices, in addition to federal government
  • Medical and health communication
  • Web design and web writing
  • Public relations and marketing
  • Nonprofits
  • Business communication
  • Science and engineering
  • Law

This 9-hour graduate certificate can be completed fully online and is designed to enhance students’ writing, design, and organization skills which can increase employability and/or help students reach new heights in their careers. Any professional working for an organization that distributes information to the general public can benefit from developing and implementing skills in using plain language.

Curriculum and Requirements

The Graduate Certificate in Plain Language consists of 3 courses (9 semester credit hours) which are outlined below.

Required Courses 

TCOM 5304 - Foundations of Professional & Technical Communication (3 credit hours)
TCOM 6324 - Writing in the Professions Using Plain Language (3 credit hours)

Elective Courses Options (choose 1):

TCOM 5325 - Advanced Medical Writing
TCOM 5330 - Visual Design Theory
TCOM 5340 - Project Management
TCOM 6303 - Public Relations & Media
TCOM 6310 - Intercultural & World Communication
TCOM 6318 - Stylistics & Editing
TCOM 6322 - Instructional Design
TCOM 6328 - Hypermedia Theory & Design
TCOM 6330 -  Usability Research
TCOM 6331  - Grant Writing for Nonprofit Management

Please visit the UHD Catalog for more detailed information on degree requirements, course offerings, and course descriptions.

Admissions Criteria

Applicants must hold a BA, BS, or an equivalent degree from an accredited college or university in the US or overseas and have proficiency in English (if a graduate of a university in which English is not the native language) provided by adequate TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores. The recommended/preferred GPA for applicants is 2.5 or higher.

How to Apply

Complete and submit all of the following items in order to be considered for admission. Resumes and personal statements can be uploaded through the applicant portal, emailed to

Office of Admissions – Graduate Admissions
University of Houston-Downtown
One Main Street, Suite GSB 308
Houston, Texas 77002-1001

  • Submit an application 
  • Pay the $35 application fee
  • Request/submit official transcripts from all colleges and universities previously attended to the email or mailing address above (including community college work and prior graduate work).
  • Provide a professional / personal resume detailing your work experience and education
  • Provide a personal statement of approximately 300 words that addresses the following:
    • What interests you about this program?
    • How will the program further your professional, academic, and/or personal goals?
    • What do you hope to get out of the program?
  • Provide TOEFL scores of 550 with section scores of 50 or higher (if a graduate of a university in which English is not the native language).