The Bureau Labor of Statistics (BLS) states that jobs for technical writers are expected to grow faster than other occupations in the United States. A technical writing degree will qualify you to work in this ever increasing profession. If you have a firm understanding of technological and scientific subjects, have excellent communications skills and have multimedia experience, then a career as a technical writer may just be the niche for you to fill.
What is Technical Writing?
Technical writing has become a field that has transcended traditional print publications and reports. Now technical writers compose for various forms of media and translate complex scientific and technological material into information that is accessible to the average reader. Technical writing ranges from composing operations manuals and material that improves communications to writing content for engineering, healthcare, IT and other scientific entities. A technical writer may work with various stakeholders including customers, product liability experts, computer scientists, researchers, engineers and software developers. His or her role may go beyond writing and researching – a technical writer may also develop the medium, such as a website, that he or she is writing for.
Technical Writing Degree Programs
A technical writing program may be taken as a degree (either a major or minor) or as a certificate. Numerous journalism or communications degrees also offer technical writing courses as part of the curricula. Some journalism schools, as well as other types of colleges and universities, offer technical writing programs online to give you the flexibility to complete your degree or course(s) at your own pace.
As part of a technical writing degree or certificate program, you will learn how to effectively write technical documents, such as reports, proposals, manuals and web copy. You will also learn the fundamentals of editing, persuasive/business writing, multimedia and mass communication. Most programs offer at least one internship, which is where valuable ad experiential learning takes place; it’s also an opportunity to build up your technical writing portfolio. Such hands-on training could also lead to a future career with that employer.
Technical Writing Careers
Completing a technical writing degree (or a journalism degree with a technical writing emphasis) plus related experience, will lead to various successful careers. Most technical writers work for technological and scientific industries, including computer, software, engineering, pharmaceutical and other related manufacturers or companies. Other careers include being employed as a technical columnist or expert for a print or online publication or being the lead communications officer for a university lab or hospital. Technical writers may work for one sole employer or as a freelancer. As more new forms of multimedia develop, the demand for technical writers will continuously increase. According to the BLS, the number of technical writer jobs is expected to increase by 18% over the next five to six years.
Technical Writer Salary
As of 2008, the median salary for technical writers was around $61,000 with the potential of making up to $100,000, according to the BLS. Specifically, technical writers working for computer and software companies made between $64,000 and $71,000; those who worked for scientific and technical consulting firms made around $63,000; and those for engineering and architectural firms made around $60,000 on average.