Technical writing degree programs are designed to teach students how to become effective writers, editors and visual designers in the field of technology, engineering, industry, health care or science. Technical writing degree programs are available at the associate's, bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. levels, each leading to various career options. Several schools offer online courses and programs in technical writing.
Associate of Applied Science in Technical Communication
The A.A.S. in Technical Communication program is designed to give students a general overview of technical communications and a related field, such as electronics, engineering, aviation maintenance, accounting and computer programming. Many programs require an internship or practicum. Students applying for enrollment in associate's degree programs typically need a high school diploma or GED. An admissions application and official transcripts from high school and for any previously attended colleges are usually required. Courses typically include:
- Technical composition
- Virtual documentation
- Business grammar and communication
- Web design
- Writing proposals
Bachelor's Degree in Technical Writing and Communication
Students enrolled in a bachelor's degree program in technical writing and communication generally choose between technical or medical and scientific tracks. Completion of an internship and development of a professional portfolio are requirements for most programs.
Prospective students need to have a high school diploma or GED. Other admissions requirements include an application, high school transcript, and test scores from either the American College Testing (ACT) program or Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). The test score requirement may be waived if the student has previous college credit. Students with previous college credits should submit official transcripts from the college or university they attended. Potential coursework may include topics such as the following:
- Technical communication fundamentals
- Professional and technical editing
- Document design
- Instructional design
- Marketing communications
Master's Degree in Technical Writing and Communication
A master's degree in technical writing and communication focuses on the history, principles, theoretical approaches, research methodologies, techniques, practices and genres of technical communication. Individuals can study several aspects of the field, including rhetoric, composition, science, health care, technology, visual design and new media. A master's program in technical writing and communication can be tailored to suit the student's career goals and interests.
Prospective students must have a bachelor's degree. It is helpful if the student majored in humanities, communications, business, natural or social sciences, engineering or computer science. Official transcripts and a minimum grade point average for undergraduate work are normally required. Other application materials may include a personal statement, writing sample, resume or curriculum vitae, letters of recommendation and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. Common course topics include:
- Rhetorical theory and criticism
- Technical editing
- Managing publications
- Visual design
- Technical and scientific communication
Doctor of Philosophy in Technical Communication
A Ph.D. in Technical Communication prepares students for academic teaching or research positions. The core curriculum focuses on technical communication, rhetoric, writing, composition and pedagogy. Students are required to complete a dissertation and an oral dissertation defense in order to graduate. Some programs also require a comprehensive examination.
Applicants are required to have a bachelor's degree. Students must usually submit official college transcripts, a personal or professional essay, letters of recommendation, a resume and GRE scores along with their applications. Some programs require students to have maintained a minimum grade point average during their undergraduate programs. Typical courses include:
- Teaching technical communication and professional writing
- Evaluation and usability testing
- Research methods in rhetoric and technical communication
- Composition theory and history
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 10% increase in technical writing jobs from 2014 until 2024. The demand for technical communication professionals is expected to increase to meet the growing need for instruction manuals, training materials and user's guides. The BLS reported a mean annual salary of $73,350 in 2015 for technical writers.
The average annual earnings in 2015 for technical writers in computer systems design and related services positions were $76,950, according to the BLS. Technical writers in employment services positions averaged $74,140. The BLS indicated that the demand for technical writers with technological and electronics knowledge was expected to grow from 2014-2024.
Master's degree holders can pursue careers as managers of technical communications or editorial departments. According to the BLS, technical writers in the management, scientific, and technical consulting services field earned an average annual salary of $76,150 as of May 2015. Graduates of this program also have sufficient qualifications to teach writing at secondary schools or community colleges.
According to the BLS, postsecondary teachers can expect a 13% growth in job opportunities from 2014 to 2024. Community colleges, vocational schools and technical colleges may see the highest demand for postsecondary educators due to significant increases in enrollment. The average annual salary for postsecondary educators in 2015 was $59,850 for instructors at technical and trade schools, and it was $70,110 for professors at colleges, universities and professional schools. Teachers at junior colleges earned an average of $73,380 in 2015.
Continuing Education Information
An Associate of Applied Science is generally considered a terminal degree for students wishing to go directly into the work force upon graduation. However, entry-level technical writers can advance in their careers by pursuing bachelor's degrees in technical writing and communication. Professionals who join the STC have access to specialized certificate programs and webinars.
Graduates of bachelor's degree programs have the option of pursuing a master's or Ph.D. degree in technical writing. Technical communications professionals can make themselves more valuable to employers by taking non-credit college classes that enhance their knowledge of subject areas, such as economics, health care or technology.
Individuals who wish to become technical writers can get the education they need for a career in technical writing by completing an undergraduate or graduate degree in the field. Work as a technical writer is available in a variety of industries.