Technical Writer: Job Description & Career Info

Read about the kinds of documents that technical writers work on and the job skills that they need. Get further information on educational requirements, salary and career outlook and related employment options.

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Career Definition for a Technical Writer

Technical writers translate complex data into user-friendly text for print and electronic publications, such as technical journals, government proposals, websites and podcasts. They gather information through research, statistical reports and interviews with technical staff. In smaller companies, tech writers may also perform editing, Web design and document publishing duties. Technical writers are often employed by defense contractors, software developers, scientific research organizations and government agencies. They may work as full-time employees, assigned to a particular department or as part-time independent contractors hired for a specific project.

Education Bachelor's degree in technical writing or related-field
Job Skills Communication, detail oriented, technical knowledge, writing skill
Median Salary (2017)* $70,930 (all technical writers)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 11% (all technical writers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Employers may require a Bachelor of Arts in Technical Writing or a related field, such as journalism or a Bachelor of Science degree in a technology-related discipline. Courses in Web coding and authoring systems, such as Extensible Markup Language (XML) or Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), as well as desktop and electronic publishing, can also enhance a technical writer's skill set. The Society for Technical Communication website offers online seminars as well as information about academic programs and scholarships in technical writing (www.stc.org).

Job Skills

Technical writers must be able to distill complex information into clear, concise text. They must have excellent writing and grammar skills and be able to work independently, delivering accurate documentation under deadline pressure. Tech writers must know a variety of software programs so they can write text, create charts and graphs, and incorporate diagrams and photos into documents. Some tech writing jobs also require editing, proofreading and document publishing abilities. Multimedia skills, such as blogging, Web design and video production, are becoming increasingly important.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported median annual earnings of $70,930 in 2017 for technical writers (www.bls.gov). The BLS projected a 11% increase in technical writer jobs in the 2016-2026 period. Technical writers with multimedia skills and experience in Web publishing may be qualified for additional opportunities.

Alternative Career Options

Individuals with education or experience in technical writing may consider similar occupations, including editing and copywriting.

Editor

An employment decline of 1% was estimated for editors from 2016-2026. Most editors are college educated and have a bachelor's degree in a related field. Some of their responsibilities include reviewing writers' work and making changes to grammar, tone and spelling. They made a median salary of $58,770 in 2017, as reported by the BLS.

Copywriter

A copywriter usually works in advertising, where they write text, slogans and jingles for print and television projects. Apart from excellent writing skills, a college degree may be required. In general, the career outlook for writers and authors was 8% growth from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS. January 2016 information from PayScale.com showed that the median salary for copywriters was $49,574.


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