People who take courses in composition learn to write academic essays in which they make arguments based on facts they have culled from research. Many colleges around the world require students to take basic composition courses, often early in their academic careers, because many disciplines require that students are able to write clearly and concisely. Composition specialists are educators who help students to improve their composition skills, either as instructors who educate students directly or as administrators who help to develop and to implement curriculum related to composition.
A composition specialist who acts as an instructor commonly is responsible for teaching students about aspects of writing such as grammar, rhetoric, structure, and research. He or she will also assign papers that allow for assessment of students' writing abilities and levels of comprehension. When a composition specialist has a more administrative role, he or she might spend more time analyzing test results, learning about the writing related needs of other departments, and designing syllabi and curricula that composition instructors can use in their classes.
In most cases, a person who becomes a composition specialist has a graduate degree in field such as writing or education with an emphasis on writing. People who act as composition instructors may have master's degrees or doctorate degrees, while those in higher level positions almost always have doctorate degrees. It also is common to find composition specialists, however, who have graduate degrees in other subjects or who do not have graduate degrees at all but who have published well regarded books and articles. In short, a person who becomes a composition specialist has proven in one way or another that he or she is a proficient writer who understands the basic principles of writing education.
A composition specialist who acts primarily as an instructor might begin a class by assigning certain texts to students. It is common for instructors to choose issues for their students to write about. Instructors might provide students with some research, though also require them to find their own texts. It also is common for composition specialists to allow students to rewrite their papers after receiving initial grades since revision is considered by many composition experts to be an integral part of a writing process.
An individual who works as a composition specialist in an administrative position, on the other hand, commonly is responsible for dealing with big picture issues. For example, he or she might suggest texts and issues for instructors to cover in their classes. These composition specialists also might participate in recruiting processes.