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, a high school diploma, and may be actively 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 professional certification programs offered through nationally recognized organizations, which often have their own admission guidelines. All three types of certification typically take one year to complete.
Technical Writing Undergraduate Certificate
These certificate programs are usually geared toward professionals already working in such fields as information technology or human resources. 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:
- Technical writing standards
- Business writing
- Document creation
- Project management
Technical Writing Graduate Certificate
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:
- Website development
- Rhetorical theory
- Professional writing
- Visual communications
- Proposal writing
- Technical communications editing
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Technical Writing Certification Program
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.
Popular Career Options
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:
- Grant writer
- Independent consultant
- Technical editor
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that job openings for technical writers would increase 10% through the 2014-2024 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 2015, technical writers earned a median salary of $70,240. Technical writers with the highest average salaries worked in California ($87,760), Connecticut ($84,440), District of Columbia ($83,350), Massachusetts ($82,420), and North Carolina ($81,200).
Continuing Education Information
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.
Obtaining a certificate at the undergraduate, graduate, or professional level with help prospective technical writers enter a career field expected to grow 10% over the next decade. In order to maximize the potential of a technical writing career, students may elect to pursue a bachelor's degree as well.