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There are undergraduate and graduate certificate programs available in technical writing that appeal to writing professionals of all education levels and work experiences. Graduates of these programs are prepared for jobs as technical writers and editors for a variety of employers.
Students in technical writing programs learn how to translate specialized information into user-friendly formats. To be eligible for the undergraduate certificate program, candidates often have technical experience and may be pursuing a bachelor's degree. Those interested in the graduate certificate frequently have bachelor's degrees in English, communications, or a technical-related field. Another option available is certification programs offered through nationally recognized organizations, which often have their own admission guidelines.
These certificate programs are usually geared toward professionals already working in such fields as information technology or human resources. Over the course of one year, students learn how to turn highly technical information into documents, such as instruction manuals and user guides. Students may also take elective courses in computer science or business. Common courses include:
Graduate certificate programs provide professionals with the skills needed to design digital and print documents for a variety of audiences. Many programs allow students to choose electives in grant writing, multimedia applications, graphic design or linguistics. Internship opportunities may be available in some programs. Common core classes include:
Some professionals choose to earn certifications through nationally recognized professional organizations. These credentialing programs are often established as a way for technical writers to demonstrate their competency to prospective employers.
Certification programs may include eligibility requirements. For example, the Society for Technical Communication (STC) requires applicants to have a bachelor's degree in a field such as English or computer science and three to four years of experience. Applicants with a high school diploma can qualify with five years of experience. The Certified Professional Technical Communicator credential is awarded once applicants' work samples are approved by the STC.
Other organizations, like the Procedure Professionals Association, require applicants to complete its Writer Certification Program. This entails a 3-day class followed by an exam.
According to some schools, students who complete graduate-level certificate programs in this field can work for businesses, government agencies or corporate publishers. Possible job titles are:
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that job openings for technical writers would increase 15% through the 2012-2022 decade (www.bls.gov). This was due to the increasing need for training materials by customer service and support systems. Businesses' ability to constantly revise online materials was also expected to drive demand.
The BLS reported that, as of May 2014, technical writers earned a mean salary of $71,950. Technical writers with the highest average salaries worked in California ($84,960), Connecticut ($81,330), Maryland ($80,010), District of Columbia ($79,950) and Washington state ($79,890).
While certificate programs can provide students with the training needed for entry-level positions as technical writers, the BLS states that the majority of employers prefer to hire applicants who hold bachelor's degrees. Additionally, technical writers may need training or experience in fields such as biology, physics, medicine, computer science or engineering. Graduates of technical writing programs might consider pursuing degree or certificate programs in one of these areas to improve their job prospects.