Technical writing is the process by which advanced technical jargon, processes and documents are translated into easily readable materials. Distance learning programs in technical writing generally lead to a Bachelor of Science in Technical Communications or Business and Technical Writing, and programs are available fully online. Since technical writing is closely related to general business, many online programs combine the two fields. It is also possible to earn an associate's degree or certificate in the field.
Schools offering technical writing programs usually do not have any special admission requirements; however, students may need to have completed all or a portion of their general education coursework prior to enrollment.
Although there are several schools that offer online technical writing programs at the bachelor's level, there are far more certificate and associate's degrees awarded in this field. Many community and technical colleges offer online Certificates of Completion and Associate of Science programs, including degrees in technical communications, technical writing, telecommunications and business writing.
Most online technical writing programs include basic writing courses, along with courses in technical interviewing, proper source reporting, document formatting and computer technology. Because of the emphasis on direct communication with engineers and technology specialists, technical writing programs cover public speaking, business communication and organizational aspects of business management. Some programs may include coursework focused on writing in certain genres or industries, such as the following:
- Software technical writing
- Media writing
- Web writing
- Science writing
- Biotechnology writing
- Technical writing for regulatory agencies
Distance learning programs in technical writing are similar to in-person programs in terms of coursework. However, students may not be able to interact directly with technology specialists and take in-person writing seminars. On the other hand, online programs allow students to interact through Internet-based forums, facilitating quick and efficient communication. Students can also share technical writing resources and upload assignments and technical writing projects to online course management systems.
Technical writers create user guides, training manuals, internal business documents, product or service reports and business analyses. Potential job titles can include document specialist, information technologist, engineering writer, technical editor and knowledge author.
Online bachelor's degree programs introduce students to the field through a combination of writing and technology coursework. While the online format makes traditional writing seminars impossible, students still take the usual classes and participate in class discussions through virtual platforms, so they graduate with the same expertise in the field as they would if they had enrolled in a campus-based program.