Online Degree Programs for Aspiring Technical Writers

Find out about online technical writing courses and in which degree programs they're most commonly offered. Get course descriptions, program info and online requirements to make an informed decision.

Essential Information

Compared to other fields of study, distance-learning technical writing programs are popular. Many online master's degree programs in technical writing and technical communication are available. Online certificate programs are commonly available and are also discussed in this article. These programs can often be completed entirely online, though some programs have a mix of both campus-based and computer-based coursework. Some master's programs may require specific prerequisite courses in speech, linguistics or literature.

Certificate in Technical Writing

A certificate program in technical writing is more limited in scope than a full degree program. Many programs lean toward a specific emphasis, such as writing for the Web. People who have some writing experience at work or who have already earned a degree may derive the most benefit from them. Nearly all industries employ technical writers.

Program Information and Requirements

Online certificate programs in technical writing may be completed in 10-24 weeks. Some online technical writing certificate programs specify a high school diploma or GED as an admission requirement. Others require only fluency in English and the ability to write grammatically coherent sentences.

Students taking the courses online log in to a school's website to retrieve assignments and lecture content. They also participate in chat sessions with professors or fellow students.

Common Courses

Courses are offered both on campus and online. They are typically completed in sequence, generally at the student's own pace.

Technical Communication

This course covers the basics of conveying technical information in clear, functional prose. Topics covered include usability, forms of technical documentation and page layout.

Research Techniques

In a research techniques course, students learn to locate supplementary information for documentation projects. Web search, print sources and attribution are among the topics covered.

Web Publishing Tools

Students learn to use applications that facilitate the presentation of information via the Internet. Many courses emphasize Adobe software products, such as Dreamweaver, InDesign and Flash.

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Master's Degree in Technical Writing

Technical writing master's degree programs have multiple objectives. Their primary aim is to help writers understand technical and scientific information. Writers who complete the course can then explain scientific material to non-technical readers. A secondary aim is to give writers greater facility with a range of authoring tools that enable the presentation of technical documents across multiple platforms. Technical writers work in nearly all industries, but especially in computing, software, the sciences and engineering.

Program Information and Requirements

Some technical writing master's degree programs are available exclusively online; others occur both online and in a traditional classroom. An online master's degree is typically completed in two years. Some programs may be intended for current technical writers; others may accept recent college graduates. Students generally need an undergraduate degree to enroll in a master's degree program in technical writing. Some schools may specify prerequisite courses in speech, linguistics or literature.

Access to lectures, tests, chat sessions and other course-related material is achieved by visiting a school's website. Schools may use Internet course management software like Blackboard.

Common Courses

A typical format for an online technical writing degree program entails the assignment of one lesson per week per class. Students work on and finish assignments at their own pace.

Technical Editing

Students practice reviewing and correcting technical documents in this course. Topics covered include document types, writing styles and editing guidelines.

Visual Communication

This course explores design, layout and composition in the presentation of visual information. Assignments are a mix of theory and hand-on practice.

Project Management

In this course, students practice planning and implementing documentation projects, such as user guides for a company's product, from beginning to end. They learn to estimate a project's resource needs and track their progress.


Career Information

An online certificate in technical writing can improve a certificate holder's job prospects if it supplements an existing degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, employers who are considering hiring technical writers want candidates with at least a bachelor's degree in communications, journalism, or English. Specialized knowledge in one of the hard sciences, medicine or engineering is even more helpful.

People who earn a master's degree in technical writing can find employment in multiple industries either on staff or as independent contractors (freelancers). The BLS projects that employment opportunities for technical writers will grow 10% over the years 2014-2024. The median salary for these professionals $70,240, with most earning between $41,610 and $112,220.

Continuing Education Information

Mid-career technical writers can earn a master's degree to update their skills. Some graduate degree programs in technical writing are offered online.

Aspiring technical writers can enroll in online certificate programs or master's degree programs to study technical communication, research methods and technical editing. Graduates may choose to work as freelancers, or find work on staff within various industries.


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