Become an Engineering Writer
So you think you might like to become an engineering writer? Engineering writers are specialized technical writers who turn complex engineering information into easy-to-understand user manuals and other support materials. Writers often work according to deadlines, which can mean working long hours. However, they can usually write from almost anywhere, allowing for greater flexibility in scheduling. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, society's growing dependency on electronic technology is expected to lead to an above-average increase in job opportunities from 2012-2022 for technical writers, including engineering writers.
So what are the career requirements? Starting with the right education is important.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Fields||Communications, English, journalism, or a related field|
|Key Skills||Excellent verbal communication and writing skills, attention to detail, ability to work as part of a team, imaginative-thinking skills, desktop publishing programs, software development programs, database and query interfaces, graphics and web development software, familiarity with the engineering industry|
|Salary||$70,240 yearly (median for all technical writers)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine
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Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Aspiring engineering writers usually must earn a four-year degree in English, communications, or another applicable major, like journalism. Some colleges offer bachelor's degree programs specifically in technical writing and communications. Curricula in these programs might cover topics like report writing, web design, usability testing, information design, instructional materials development, and technical editing.
Complete an internship. Internships provide college students with the opportunity to acquire additional knowledge and skills through hands-on experience. Some schools offer internships in technical or engineering writing as course options.
Take specialized coursework. Aspiring engineering writers should consider taking college coursework that can provide them with the skills needed to write technical documents with a focus on the engineering industry. Some technical writing programs offer coursework focused on engineering design as well as workshops and other resources for aspiring engineering writers.
Step 2: Gain Experience
Entry-level engineering writers can pursue employment with technical and scientific research companies, computer system design firms, engineering and architectural firms, and scientific and technical consulting firms. Engineering writers often start out as technical specialists or research assistants and, after gaining expertise in the field, are promoted to technical writer positions. This is particularly true of engineering writers in large firms. Entry-level engineering writers who work in smaller firms might get to write technical documents directly after being hired.
Step 3: Join a Professional Association
Membership in industry organizations, such as the Society for Technical Communication (STC), can provide engineering writers with many benefits. STC offers access to industry tools and resources as well as job postings and networking opportunities. Association members also can take advantage of continuing education resources, like conferences, publications, and webinars.
Step 4: Consider Self-Employment
Engineering writers might choose self-employment. A self-employed technical writer needs a strong reputation for meeting deadlines and providing quality materials in order to attract repeat and new customers. He or she might find work through companies and firms that outsource their technical writing to freelance writers on a contract basis.
Earning a bachelor's degree, gaining experience, joining a professional organization, and considering self-employment are great steps to follow to make the most of a career as an engineering writer.