How To Become A Technical Writer
Technical writers use their writing skills to convey information that is educational and informative in nature. They are often found in the sciences, health care, and technology industries, and other places where complex information is involved. This is a good job for somebody who enjoys writing about more serious, informative topics.
In order to become a technical writer, you should have a bachelor’s degree in a writing field such as English or creative writing. A portfolio also helps to impress employers with your writing abilities.
Why Become A Technical Writer
Technical writers receive many different kinds of assignments, depending on the industry they are working with. Companies may ask a technical writer to help write their employee handbook. Medical companies employ technical writers to write up the pamphlets that come with prescription drugs. Education companies may ask technical writers to help develop textbooks. All of these are examples of the various kinds of assignments technical writers take on.
Technical writers work with clients to determine their needs. They work on teams, studying product samples and developing a plan. They write and organize content for the project. Projects often include graphic components, such as illustrations, graphs, and charts, as well. These products they create may be paper based or digital. Much of this job requires research.
A technical writer has to be clear and exact in what they write, and accuracy is key, because they are writing about complex subject matters. If they are incorrect in anything they write, it could have an adverse effect on the reader. After a product is released, they continue to update the product as necessary.
Today, technical writing jobs, like many other types of writing work, are often available in a freelance position. This allows technical writers to work for themselves in a remote role. This is a great career choice for people who enjoy writing, and want to write educational and informative products.
Technical Writers should possess the following qualities and skills:
- Scientific Mind
- Great Writing Skills
- Communication Skills
- Detail Oriented
- Teaching Skills
- Critical Thinking
Technical Writer Work Environment
Technical writers work in an office environment. They spend much time on the computer, writing manuals, brochures, and books. They work on teams with many different departments. This is not a job that works directly with customers or other people. Being a technical writer is a good job for people who like working by themselves.
Many technical writers are now employed as freelancers, and work on a remote basis. This is a good job for people who enjoy the flexibility of a job that allows them to work from anywhere they choose.
Technical Writer Salary
The median salary for technical writers was $69,850 in 2016.
Technical writers earn a considerably higher annual salary compared to other types of writing professions. There are many things to factor when considering annual salaries. Salary may vary depending on what industry a person works in, what types of writing they do, and their education and experience level. The higher the education and years of experience a person has, the higher the salary they will be able to earn typically.
Average Technical Writer Annual Salary
The average annual salary for technical writers is $74,440 a year. Salaries start at $42,410 a year and go up to $113,810 a year.
Average Technical Writer Hourly Wage
The average hourly wage for a technical writer is $35.79. Hourly wages are between $20.39 and $54.71 an hour.
Stats were based out of 49,960 employed technical writers in the United States.
Highest Paying States For Technical Writers
- 1. California $43.65 / hr $90,780 / yr
- 2. Massachusetts $41.41 / hr $86,130 / yr
- 3. District of Columbia $40.56 / hr $84,370 / yr
- 4. New Jersey $40.02 / hr $83,240 / yr
- 5. Washington $39.33 / hr $81,810 / yr
Top Paying Cities For Technical Writers
- 1. San Jose, CA $51.68 / hr$107,490 / yr
- 2. Lowell, MA $49.63 / hr$103,230 / yr
- 3. San Francisco, CA $45.23 / hr$94,070 / yr
- 4. Oxnard, CA $44.63 / hr$92,830 / yr
- 5. Framingham, MA $43.51 / hr$90,500 / yr
Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Technical Writer Career Outlook
Employment for technical writers is expected to increase by 11 percent from 2016 to 2026. This is a faster rate of growth than other professions in the United States. Altogether, there will be about 5,000 new jobs created within this field within the next 10 years.
The scientific field continues to grow. This will drive the need for technical writers, who can provide technical materials for the science and healthcare and other information industries. As these industries continue to expand, there will be a continued need for support in the form of people who specialize in creating these materials.
Technical writers are able to craft content that is educational but also stimulating to read. Because of the nature of the profession, many technical writer positions are found in areas where tech companies are highly concentrated, such as California and New York.
Technical Writer Degree
Many companies prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree. A degree in a field such as English, journalism, or creative writing is highly desirable for any professional writer. Writers will likely be able to gain more employment opportunities when they can show they have a diverse portfolio of experience.
Writers should start early in their careers developing a writing portfolio to showcase to prospective employers. There are some technical writing certification programs offered by vocational schools. Prospective students can earn these certifications in as little as six months.
Technical Writer Coursework
Below are listed some of the classes that are taken in a typical certification program for technical writers.
Types of Technical Correspondence: Students will learn about many different types of technical writing, and how each kind is suited for a different audience. Students will learn how to write memos, letters, reports, instruction manuals, proposals, and more.
Ethics: There is a lot to keep in mind when writing for science, health, and technology companies. This class covers the basis of ethics in the field.
Writing as a Process: If you are in a technical writing program, chances are you are already a pretty good writer. But there is always room for improvement. In this course, students learn about writing and how to write specifically for the technical writing profession.
Technical Writer Career Path
|Technical Editor||Editors oversee the process of creating manuals, books, brochures and more for a technical writing team.||Their responsibilities include planning what will be written, they assign roles to various writers on their team, they proofread and revise content, and supervise layout of publications.||A bachelor’s degree is required for this position, plus extensive experience in the writing field.||A good choice for somebody who is interested in the editing side of the field, rather than writing.|
|Publications Manager||A person who is responsible for handling all of the publications on the team, from start to finish.||A publications manager coordinates with department members, supervises people associated with publication, provides resources necessary for publication, handles finances, and more.||A bachelor’s degree, plus several years of management experience.||This is a good career for somebody who is interested in advancing their career and enjoys management.|
Related Technical Writer Careers
Technical writers are one of many careers that involve writing. If you are interested in this profession, there are many other careers to consider. The following is a brief list of other related careers.
Author: If you truly enjoy writing, you may want to consider becoming an author. Authors publish books on a variety of subjects, from fiction to non-fiction.
Editor: Editing is a different side to the writing industry. Editors proofread, plan, review and revise content before it is published.
Translator: A translator is a writer who converts written words from one language into another. This job takes a high level of knowledge and technical skills.