Become an Engineering Writer: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Aug 17, 2018

Research the requirements to become an engineering writer. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in technical writing.

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  • 0:04 Becoming an Engineering Writer
  • 0:46 Career Requirements
  • 1:30 Step 1: Earn a…
  • 2:34 Step 2: Gain Experience
  • 3:09 Step 3: Join a…
  • 3:37 Step 4: Consider…

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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.

Career Requirements

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

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.

Success Tips:

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.

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