Spotlight on This Career

Are you a college student exploring job options? A professional desiring to change careers? Consider technical writing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an increase in this field through 2018.

What Do Tech Writers Do?
Tech writers make information both available and meaningful to a number of audiences. Communication skills are a must for tech writers because they not only have to write clearly and effectively, but interact with a range of people. For instance, a tech writer, assigned to create a software manual, gets information from his supervisor, the engineering team, and the production team. Then, the tech writer must transmit this knowledge to users of varying skill and knowledge levels.

What Does It Take to Be a Tech Writer?
In addition to good communication skills, tech writers must have an acute awareness of audience. This means being able to write the same document for two different groups of people, such as engineers and the general public. An understanding of science and technology is crucial in making technical information meaningful and useful.

Personal characteristics also play a role in success. Being motivated, determined, detail oriented, and able to work on a team help tech writers accomplish their goals. Lastly, computer skills are a must not only because hardware and software companies hire tech writers, but because many companies require skills in word processing, document design, graphics, and, in some cases, knowledge of programming languages. To stay on top of their field, tech writers have to make a commitment to learning.

What Types of Documents Do Tech Writers Create?
Tech writers create a broad range of content including:

  • Reports
  • Proposals
  • Instructions
  • Descriptions
  • Specifications
  • Online help
  • Websites
  • Graphics
  • Presentations
  • Brochures
  • News releases
  • Magazine articles
  • Scripts for videocasts and podcasts
Who Employs Tech Writers?
Software and hardware companies hire tech writers, as well as pharmaceutical firms, industrial companies, research groups, and government agencies. Other employers include publishing companies, consultants, and colleges. Tech writing jobs can be found throughout the U.S., with higher numbers in the more technological regions, such as Massachusetts, California, and Washington, DC.

What Are the Salary Ranges?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a tech writer is around $62,000, with the lowest range being $37,00 and the highest range being $100,000.

What Kinds of Environments Do Tech Writers Work?
Tech writers can work in a small company, or a small division of a larger company, where they are the sole person responsible for creating documents. Or, they can work with a team of writers, producing documents collaboratively. In other cases, tech writers are part of the engineering department, involved in the creation and design of a product. Some tech writers freelance, working on one project for a few months, then moving to a new project with a different company.

What’s the Job Outlook?
As companies feel the pressure to make technological advancements, their need for tech writers increases. The Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms this, stating a “faster than average growth” for this field. If you have strong writing skills and a technical background, job prospects are expected to be good even in our current economic climate.

How Can You Learn More?
Check out this site and resources like the Society for Technical Communication (STC). STC has over 14,000 members, including tech writers, editors, graphic designers, multimedia specialists, and web designers.


Works Cited

Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Technical Writers." Occupational Outlook Handbook, 17 Dec. 2009. Web. <http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos319.htm>.