How To Become A Technical Writer

How To Become A Technical Writer

If you have the penchant for distilling highly technical information into language that the non-technical person can understand, then you could have a career as a technical writer. In this profession, you will have the opportunity to put together instruction manuals and other forms of technical documentation for customers, designers or manufacturers.

You will be collaborating with a company’s technical staff as well as with a product’s developers to put together a clear and concise manual for end-users. You will be using your expertise in a technical subject to come up with a clear guide which will be posted on the Web or printed on paper.

Aside from having an excellent command of the English language, you must also have the ability to simplify technical information into simple and clear-cut language, particularly if you are writing an instruction manual for regular customers who only need to know basic information. You also need to be precise and detail-oriented since the documentation you will produce will need to be accurate.

Why Become A Technical Writer

One reason to become a technical writer is the fact that it is a fast-growing field, driven largely by the expansion of high technology and electronics industries. It also pays relatively well. In addition to good wages and improved growth prospects in the coming years, the career is also very fulfilling for those who love to combine their love for the written word with their passion for technology.

Technical Writer Work Environment

Technical writers are hired mainly by companies providing professional, technical and scientific services. Manufacturing firms and those that provide information services also have need for technical writers. Salaried technical writers work fulltime in comfortable offices with their main tool—a desktop computer or laptop. Those who are self-employed work in their own home offices. They can extend work on weekends or in the evenings, especially when they are racing to beat deadlines.

Technical Writer Salary

Technical writers receive a mean annual wage of $70,290 in May 2013, according to the Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency reported in 2012 that technical writers working in the information industry were paid the highest at $70,460.

Those in administrative and support and waste management and remediation services followed closely with $67,140. Meanwhile, those employed with professional, scientific and technical services and manufacturing industries were paid $66,440 and $64,170 respectively.

Average Technical Writer Salary

Technical Writer Salary By State

Rank State Hourly Rate Annual Salary
#1 California $41.60 $86,530
#2 Massachusetts $40.66 $84,580
#3 District of Columbia $40.30 $83,820
#4 Connecticut $40.28 $83,790
#5 New Mexico $39.79 $82,760
#6 North Carolina $39.49 $82,150
#7 Washington $38.66 $80,410
#8 Virginia $37.81 $78,650
#9 Maryland $37.51 $78,010
#10 New York $37.39 $77,770
#11 New Jersey $37.37 $77,730
#12 Rhode Island $36.27 $75,430
#13 New Hampshire $36.09 $75,070
#14 Colorado $35.83 $74,520
#15 Oregon $35.40 $73,640
#16 Texas $35.05 $72,890
#17 Georgia $35.02 $72,840
#18 Delaware $34.90 $72,600
#19 Pennsylvania $32.77 $68,160
#20 Alaska $32.59 $67,780
#21 Minnesota $32.46 $67,520
#22 Michigan $32.23 $67,040
#23 Illinois $31.93 $66,410
#24 Utah $31.61 $65,740
#25 South Carolina $31.35 $65,210
#26 Arizona $31.22 $64,930
#27 Alabama $31.20 $64,900
#28 Nevada $31.15 $64,790
#29 Florida $30.51 $63,460
#30 Kentucky $30.49 $63,420
#31 Missouri $30.16 $62,740
#32 Ohio $29.91 $62,220
#33 Kansas $29.16 $60,660
#34 Tennessee $28.95 $60,230
#35 Louisiana $28.70 $59,700
#36 Wisconsin $28.55 $59,390
#37 Indiana $28.37 $59,010
#38 North Dakota $28.17 $58,590
#39 Nebraska $28.12 $58,490
#40 Maine $28.04 $58,320
#41 Mississippi $28.01 $58,250
#42 Vermont $27.61 $57,430
#43 West Virginia $27.54 $57,280
#44 Idaho $26.45 $55,010
#45 Montana $26.03 $54,150
#46 Oklahoma $25.98 $54,030
#47 Iowa $25.50 $53,040
#48 Arkansas $23.35 $48,560
#49 Hawaii $23.34 $48,550
#50 South Dakota $22.76 $47,330
#51 Puerto Rico $18.68 $38,850

Technical Writer Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that the employment rate of technical writers is set to grow faster than the average rate for all occupations. From 2012 to 2022, the job growth of technical writers is 15 percent. The demand will be spurred by the continuing growth of products that need Web-based support. In addition, the growing demand of technologically advanced products as well as the need to simplify increasingly complex medical and scientific information will open up avenues for employment for technical writers.

Technical Writer Degree

Technical writers typically have a bachelor’s degree in a course that gives them writing proficiency. This can be in journalism, English, communications or any other related field. This will not be sufficient. Employers also look for technical writers who have knowledge in and/or experience in areas like computers, medicine, engineering, web design and the like.

To enhance credentials and make themselves more credible to potential employers and clients, technical writers can get certification attesting to their ability from various organizations. The Society for Technical Communication offers one. The American Medical Writers Association also gives courses and certificates for those who want to go into medical writing.

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