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Become A Technical Writer

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Working As A Technical Writer

  • Interacting With Computers
  • Getting Information
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Repetitive

  • Stressful

  • $55,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Technical Writer Do

Technical writers, also called technical communicators, prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily. They also develop, gather, and disseminate technical information through an organization’s communications channels.

Duties

Technical writers typically do the following:

  • Determine the needs of users of technical documentation
  • Study product samples and talk with product designers and developers
  • Work with technical staff to make products easier to use and thus require fewer instructions
  • Organize and write supporting content for products
  • Use photographs, drawings, diagrams, animation, and charts that increase users’ understanding
  • Select appropriate medium for message or audience, such as manuals or online videos
  • Standardize content across platforms and media
  • Gather user feedback to update and improve content
  • Revise content as new issues arise

Technical writers create paper-based and digital operating instructions, how-to manuals, assembly instructions, and “frequently asked questions” pages to help technical support staff, consumers, and other users within a company or an industry. After a product is released, technical writers also may work with product liability specialists and customer-service managers to improve the end-user experience through product design changes.

Technical writers often work with computer hardware engineers, scientists, computer support specialists, and software developers to manage the flow of information among project workgroups during development and testing. Therefore, technical writers must be able to understand complex information and communicate the information to people with diverse professional backgrounds.

Applying their knowledge of the user of the product, technical writers may serve as part of a team conducting usability studies to help improve the design of a product that is in the prototype stage. Technical writers may conduct research on their topics through personal observation, library and Internet research, and discussions with technical specialists.

Technical writers are also responsible for managing the consistency of technical content and its use across business departments including product development, manufacturing, marketing, and customer relations.

Some technical writers help write grant proposals for research scientists and institutions.

Increasingly, technical information is being delivered online and through social media. Technical writers are using the interactive technologies of the Web and social media to blend text, graphics, multidimensional images, sound, and video.

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How To Become A Technical Writer

A college degree is usually required for a position as a technical writer. In addition, experience with a technical subject, such as computer science, Web design, or engineering, is important.

Education

Employers generally prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, English, or communications. Many technical writing jobs require both a degree and knowledge in a specialized field, such as engineering, computer science, or medicine. Web design experience also is helpful because of the growing use of online technical documentation.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some technical writers begin their careers as specialists or research assistants in a technical field. They eventually develop technical communication skills and assume primary responsibilities for technical writing. In small firms, beginning technical writers may work on projects right away; in larger companies with more standard procedures, beginners may observe experienced technical writers and interact with specialists before being assigned projects.

Training

Many technical writers need short-term on-the-job training to adapt to a different style of writing.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some associations, including the Society for Technical Communication, offer certification for technical writers. In addition, the American Medical Writers Association offers extensive continuing education programs and certificates in medical writing. These certificates are available to professionals in the medical and allied scientific communication fields.

Although not mandatory, certification can demonstrate competence and professionalism, making candidates more attractive to employers. It can also increase a technical writer’s opportunities for advancement.

Advancement

Prospects for advancement generally include working on more complex projects and leading or training junior staff. Some technical writers become self-employed and produce work on a freelance basis.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Technical writers must be able to take complex, technical information and translate it for colleagues and consumers who have nontechnical backgrounds.

Detail oriented. Technical writers create detailed instructions for others to follow. As a result, they must be detailed and precise at every step so that the instructions can be useful.

Imagination. Technical writers must be able to think about a procedure or product in the way a person without technical experience would think about it.

Teamwork. Technical writers must be able to work well with others. They are almost always part of a team: with other writers; with designers, editors, and illustrators; and with the technical people whose information they are explaining.

Technical skills. Technical writers must be able to understand highly complex information. Many technical writers need a background in engineering or computer science in order to do this.

Writing skills. Technical communicators must have excellent writing skills to be able to explain technical information clearly.

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34,594 Technical Writer jobs

Idaho Division of Human Resources
Boise, ID
Technical Writer

$55,000 Estimated

R&D Partners
Boston, MA
Technical Writer

$72,000 Estimated

Corestaff Services
Washington, DC
Technical Writer

$59,000 Estimated

Raytheon
Aurora, CO
Technical Writer

$44,518 Estimated

Raytheon
Aurora, CO
Technical Writer

$44,518 Estimated

Nc State University
Raleigh, NC
Temporary Technical Writer

$49,902 Estimated

Kelly Services
Irvine, CA
Technical Writer

$53,000 Estimated

General Dynamics Information Technology
Linthicum, MD
Writer, Technical

$51,246 Estimated

General Dynamics Information Technology
California, MD
Writer, Technical

$59,987 Estimated

University of Utah Medical Group
Salt Lake City, UT
Technical Writer

$40,374 Estimated

Destaco
Mount Juliet, TN
Technical Writer

$37,207 Estimated

Randstad
Bremen, GA
Technical Writer

$60,000 Estimated

Kelly Services
Cambridge, MA
SOP Technical Writer

$72,000 Estimated

Ukpeagvik Iupiat Corporation/Bowhead Family of Companies
Lanham, MD
Technical Writer

$54,026 Estimated

Sbg Technology Solutions
Arlington, VA
Technical Writer - Part Time

$54,026 Estimated

Textron
Huntingtown, MD
2018 Fall Co-Op Technical Writer

$54,026 Estimated

RLM Communications, Inc.
Washington, DC
Technical Writer Washington DC

$59,000 Estimated

Robert Half
Santa Clara, CA
Technical Writer

$84,594 Estimated

Kelly Services
Cambridge, MA
Technical Writer - Life Sciences

$72,000 Estimated

Cepheid
Sunnyvale, CA
Technical Writer, Technical Support

$85,000 Estimated

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Real Technical Writer Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Staff Technical Writer Google Inc. Mountain View, CA Oct 13, 2016 $178,400
Staff Technical Writer Salesforce.Com, Inc. San Francisco, CA Jul 02, 2015 $130,500
Staff Technical Writer Informatica LLC Redwood City, CA Apr 28, 2016 $130,000
Staff Technical Writer, Analytics Salesforce.Com San Francisco, CA Nov 29, 2016 $128,000
Technical Writer Healthstream Nashville, TN Aug 27, 2015 $115,000
Technical Writer III Amazon Corporate LLC Seattle, WA Sep 13, 2016 $115,000
Technical Writer Fortinet, Inc. Santa Clara, CA Jun 09, 2016 $114,400
Technical Writer Ama Multimedia, LLC Las Vegas, NV Jan 27, 2015 $110,240
Technical Writer Workday, Inc. Pleasanton, CA Jul 11, 2016 $108,000
Technical Writer Workday, Inc. Pleasanton, CA Sep 16, 2016 $105,000
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Top Skills for A Technical Writer

TestProceduresOnlineDocumentationTechnicalDocumentationWebSubjectMatterExpertsVisioSharepointSmesAdobeFramemakerTrainingMaterialsUserManualsPowerpointHtmlTechnicalManualsContentManagementSystemRobohelpSafetyEnd-UserDocumentationReleaseNotesWindows

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Top Technical Writer Skills

  1. Test Procedures
  2. Online Documentation
  3. Technical Documentation
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Proofread/Edited Manufacturing Assembly/Test Procedures and Travelers for existing products.
  • Updated online documentation for SST 2.0 presentation software.
  • Ensured accuracy and completeness of technical documentation.
  • Scanned and converted paper based documents into Adobe PDF format for web publication.
  • Collected, developed, modified, prepared, or validated documentation working with information security subject matter experts.

Top Technical Writer Employers

What Kind Of Companies Hire a Technical Writer

  1. Hewlett Packard
  2. Teksystems
  3. Bank of America
  4. Aerotek
  5. American Express
  6. Microsoft
  7. IBM
  8. Wells Fargo
  9. Lockheed Martin
  10. Northrop Grumman
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