Technical writers prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily.
What they do
Technical writers develop, gather, and disseminate technical information through an organization’s communications channels. They typically do the following:
- Determine the needs of users of technical documentation
- Study product samples and talk with product designers and developers
- Work with technical staff to make products and instructions easier to use
- Write or revise supporting content for products
- Edit material prepared by other writers or staff
- Incorporate animation, graphs, illustrations, or photographs to increase users’ understanding of the material
- Select appropriate medium, such as manuals or videos, for message or audience
- Standardize content across platforms and media
- Collect user feedback to update and improve content
Technical writers create paper-based and digital operating instructions, how-to manuals, assembly instructions, and “frequently asked questions” pages to help technical support staff, consumers, and other users within a company or an industry. After a product is released, technical writers also may work with product liability specialists and customer-service managers to improve the end-user experience through product design changes.
Technical writers often work with computer hardware engineers, computer support specialists, and software developers to manage the flow of information among project workgroups during development and testing. Therefore, technical writers must be able to understand and discuss complex information with people of diverse occupational backgrounds.
Most technical writers work full time. They routinely work with engineers and other technology experts to manage the flow of information throughout an organization.
Although most technical writers are employed directly by the companies that use their services, some freelance and are paid per assignment. Freelancers are either self-employed or work for a technical consulting firm and are given short-term or recurring assignments, such as writing about a new product.
Technical writing jobs are usually concentrated in locations with a multitude of information technology or scientific and technical research companies, such as ones in California and Texas.
How to become a Technical Writer
A college degree is usually required for a position as a technical writer. In addition, knowledge of or experience with a technical subject, such as science or engineering, is beneficial.
Employers generally prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in English or another communications-related subject. Technical writing jobs may require candidates to have both a degree and knowledge of a technical field, such as engineering, computer science, or medicine.
The median annual wage for technical writers was $72,850 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $44,320, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $117,250.
Employment of technical writers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.
The continuing expansion of scientific and technical products and growth in Web-based product support will drive employment demand for technical writers. Growth and change in the high-technology and electronics industries will result in a greater need for those who can write instruction manuals and communicate information clearly to users.
Employment in professional, scientific, and technical services firms is expected to continue to grow rapidly. These firms should be a good source of new jobs even as the occupation finds acceptance in a broader range of industries.
Similar Job Titles
Documentation Designer, Documentation Specialist, Engineering Writer, Expert Medical Writer, Information Developer, Narrative Writer, Requirements Analyst, Senior Technical Writer, Technical Communicator, Technical Writer, Content Developer
Cartographer and Photogrammetrist, Reporter and Correspondent, Editor, Copy Writer, Proofreader and Copy Marker
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Medical Writers Association - AMWA is the resource for professional medical communicators, promoting excellence in medical communication and providing educational resources in support of that goal.
- American Society for Quality - ASQ empowers people, communities, and organizations of the world to achieve excellence through quality.
- Society for Technical Communication - STC is the world’s largest and oldest professional association dedicated to the advancement of the field of technical communication
Magazines and Publications
- AMWA Journal
- Technical Writing Magazine
- Writing World (Technical)
When a nineteenth century British author wrote “the pen is mightier than the sword,” he was referring to the tremendous power of words used skillfully by writers and authors. Writers use their language skills to produce content for an audience. They compose books, movie screenplays, magazine articles, and web content. Writers need creativity to come up with ideas, critical thinking skills to convey their concepts clearly, and persuasively, when needed, and adaptability to understand their audience’s perspectives. The work of different types of writers varies significantly: creative writers like novelists, songwriters, poets, and playwrights are generally self-employed, and may labor for months or years before getting published, while technical writers and copywriters often work 9-to-5 jobs with a clear career path. Copywriters work on ad campaigns, and technical writers prepare instruction manuals and how-to guides. Using specialized skills, often learned on the job, they simplify complex ideas for the public, or write highly-technical material for a specific professional audience. Writers and authors often work in offices, but may work from any location with Internet access. Most writers have a bachelor’s degree in communications, journalism, or English, and lots of writing practice. Aspiring writers who want to enter the field often gain experience from internships, blogging about their personal interests, writing for school publications, small businesses or non-profits, or local news organizations.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org