What They Do: Technical writers prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily.
Work Environment: Most technical writers work full time. Although technical writers work in a variety of industries, they are concentrated in the computer and management, scientific, and technical industries.
How to Become One: 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.
Salary: The median annual wage for technical writers is $78,060.
Job Outlook: Employment of technical writers is projected to grow 12 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of technical writers with similar occupations.
Technical writers, also called technical communicators, prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily. They also develop, gather, and disseminate technical information through an organization's communications channels.
Technical writers typically do the following:
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 complex information and communicate the information to people with diverse professional backgrounds.
Applying their knowledge of the user of the product, technical writers may serve as part of a team conducting usability studies to help improve the design of a product that is in the prototype stage. Technical writers may conduct research on their topics through personal observation, library and Internet research, and discussions with technical specialists.
Technical writers are also responsible for managing the consistency of technical content and its use across business departments including product development, manufacturing, marketing, and customer relations.
Some technical writers help write grant proposals for research scientists and institutions.
Increasingly, technical information is being delivered online and through social media. Technical writers are using the interactive technologies of the Web and social media to blend text, graphics, multidimensional images, sound, and video.
Technical writers hold about 52,300 jobs. The largest employers of technical writers are as follows:
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||37%|
|Administrative and support services||8%|
|Publishing industries (except Internet)||6%|
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.
Technical writers may be expected to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines.
Get the education you need: Find schools for Technical Writers near you!
A college degree is usually required for a position as a technical writer. In addition, experience with a technical subject, such as computer science, Web design, or engineering, is important.
Employers generally prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree in journalism, English, or communications. Many technical writing jobs require both a degree and knowledge in a specialized field, such as engineering, computer science, or medicine. Web design experience also is helpful because of the growing use of online technical documentation.
Some technical writers begin their careers as specialists or research assistants in a technical field. They eventually develop technical communication skills and assume primary responsibilities for technical writing. In small firms, entry-level technical writers may work on projects right away; in larger companies with more standard procedures, beginners may observe experienced technical writers and interact with specialists before being assigned projects.
Many technical writers need short-term on-the-job training to adapt to a different style of writing.
Some associations, including the Society for Technical Communication, offer certification for technical writers. In addition, the American Medical Writers Association offers extensive continuing education programs and certificates in medical writing. These certificates are available to professionals in the medical and allied scientific communication fields.
Although not mandatory, certification can demonstrate competence and professionalism, making candidates more attractive to employers. It can also increase a technical writer's opportunities for advancement.
Prospects for advancement generally include working on more complex projects and leading or training junior staff.
Critical-thinking skills. Technical writers must be able to take complex, technical information and simplify it for colleagues and consumers who have nontechnical backgrounds.
Detail oriented. Technical writers create detailed instructions for others to follow. As a result, they must be detailed and precise at every step so that the instructions can be useful.
Imagination. Technical writers must be able to think about a procedure or product in the way a person without technical experience would think about it.
Teamwork. Technical writers must be able to work well with others. They are almost always part of a team: with other writers; with designers, editors, and illustrators; and with the technical people whose information they are explaining.
Technical skills. Technical writers must be able to understand highly complex information. Many technical writers need a background in engineering or computer science in order to do this.
Writing skills. Technical communicators must have excellent writing skills to be able to explain technical information clearly.
The median annual wage for technical writers is $78,060. 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 $48,890, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $125,010.
The median annual wages for technical writers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||$80,150|
|Administrative and support services||$77,940|
|Publishing industries (except Internet)||$75,710|
Technical writers may be expected to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines. Most work full time.
Employment of technical writers is projected to grow 12 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations.
About 5,500 openings for technical writers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
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.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2020||Projected Employment, 2030||Change, 2020-30|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.