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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

  • $56,626

    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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Technical Writer Jobs

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Technical Writer Career Paths

Technical Writer
Program Manager Management Consultant Change Management Consultant
Change Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Communications Specialist Communications Manager
Communications Project Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Writer Managing Editor
Content Director
7 Yearsyrs
Office Manager Instructor Editor
Content Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Marketing Manager Marketing Communications Manager
Content Marketing Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Information Technology Project Manager
Delivery Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Business Analyst Information Technology Project Manager Program Manager
Deputy Program Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Staff Writer Managing Editor Content Manager
Digital Content Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Business Analyst Product Manager Marketing Manager
Digital Marketing Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Project Coordinator Writer And Editor Senior Technical Writer
Knowledge Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Writer And Editor Communications Manager Communications Director
Marketing And Communication Consultant
10 Yearsyrs
Senior Technical Writer Business Analyst
Product Owner
9 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Program Manager Business Development Manager
Proposal Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Senior Technical Writer Senior Writer Managing Editor
Publications Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Communications Specialist Writer And Editor Content Manager
Senior Content Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Proposal Writer Proposal Manager
Senior Proposal Manager
14 Yearsyrs
Senior Technical Writer And Editor Senior Technical Writer
Technical Publications Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Contract Technical Writer Senior Technical Writer
Technical Writer Lead
7 Yearsyrs
Writer And Editor Content Manager
Web Content Manager
5 Yearsyrs
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Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Technical Writer 3.0 years
Lead Writer 2.9 years
Technical Editor 2.8 years
Engineering Writer 2.4 years
Top Careers Before Technical Writer
Editor 5.1%
Consultant 4.1%
Internship 3.0%
Teacher 2.8%
Writer 2.8%
Instructor 2.4%
Top Careers After Technical Writer
Consultant 4.2%
Editor 3.6%
Writer 2.5%
Owner 1.9%

Do you work as a Technical Writer?

Technical Writer Demographics

Gender

Female

49.9%

Male

48.0%

Unknown

2.1%
Ethnicity

White

63.8%

Hispanic or Latino

12.9%

Black or African American

11.4%

Asian

7.9%

Unknown

4.0%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

38.3%

French

15.1%

German

10.3%

Japanese

5.7%

Mandarin

4.3%

Italian

4.1%

Chinese

4.1%

Russian

3.5%

Portuguese

2.7%

Korean

2.1%

Hindi

1.7%

Carrier

1.6%

Arabic

1.4%

Greek

1.1%

Hebrew

0.9%

Cantonese

0.8%

Swedish

0.6%

Vietnamese

0.6%

Urdu

0.6%

Romanian

0.5%
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Technical Writer Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

14.2%

George Mason University

6.0%

Northeastern University

5.9%

University of Houston

5.5%

University of Texas at Austin

5.4%

University of Washington

5.3%

San Jose State University

5.2%

University of North Texas

5.1%

University of Maryland - University College

5.0%

George Washington University

4.7%

Pennsylvania State University

4.5%

University of Central Florida

4.2%

Arizona State University

4.0%

Utah State University

3.7%

Michigan State University

3.7%

Brigham Young University

3.7%

University of Colorado at Boulder

3.6%

Carnegie Mellon University

3.5%

University of South Florida

3.5%

University of Maryland - College Park

3.3%
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Majors

English

21.0%

Business

13.5%

Writing

10.1%

Communication

7.1%

Public Relations

6.0%

Journalism

5.5%

Computer Science

5.3%

Electrical Engineering

3.8%

Computer Information Systems

3.1%

Psychology

2.9%

Education

2.9%

Management

2.5%

Project Management

2.5%

Information Technology

2.2%

Biology

2.0%

History

2.0%

Liberal Arts

2.0%

Graphic Design

1.9%

Political Science

1.9%

Marketing

1.8%
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Degrees

Bachelors

45.0%

Masters

25.3%

Other

14.5%

Certificate

5.8%

Associate

5.7%

Doctorate

3.0%

Diploma

0.6%

License

0.1%
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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
Technical Writer Aivvy Inc. Redwood City, CA Sep 08, 2015 $104,350
Technical Writer Apple Inc. Cupertino, CA Jun 14, 2016 $104,187
Tech Yahoo, Technical Writer Yahoo! Inc. Sunnyvale, CA Oct 05, 2015 $103,170 -
$134,100
Tech Yahoo, Technical Writer Yahoo! Inc. Sunnyvale, CA May 10, 2015 $103,170 -
$134,100
Technical Writer (Legal) Tab Networks, Inc. Woodcliff Lake, NJ Sep 30, 2015 $68,000
Technical Writer Qtech Solutions Inc. Somerset, NJ Jan 10, 2016 $68,000
Technical Writer NMK Global Inc. Milpitas, CA Sep 01, 2015 $67,933
Technical Writer Apple Inc. Cupertino, CA Jul 15, 2015 $67,933
Technical Writer Apple Inc. Cupertino, CA May 18, 2015 $67,933
Technical Writer Mobirocket, Inc. Cupertino, CA Aug 23, 2015 $67,933
Technical Writer Wipro Limited Bellevue, WA Feb 23, 2015 $67,787
Technical Writer Ls Cable America, Inc. Atlanta, GA Nov 16, 2015 $59,779
Technical Writer Larsen & Toubro Technology Services Ltd McConnellsburg, PA Sep 04, 2015 $59,700
Technical Writer L&T Technology Services, Ltd. Greencastle, PA Apr 01, 2015 $59,700
Research Technical Writer/Translation Specialist Research Corporation of The University of Hawaii Urban Honolulu, HI Aug 15, 2016 $59,584
Technical Writer I American Institutes for Research Washington, DC Sep 21, 2016 $59,322 -
$74,235
Technical Writer 1 X.Commerce Culver City, CA Oct 06, 2016 $59,160
Technical Writer 1 X.Commerce Culver City, CA Jun 21, 2015 $59,160
Technical Writer Aerosol Gas Company Inc. San Ramon, CA Sep 24, 2016 $58,436

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Top Skills for A Technical Writer

  1. Test Plans
  2. Online Documentation
  3. Technical Documentation
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Edited software requirements specifications, use-case specifications, test plans, glossaries, user manuals, and other development-related documentation.
  • Analyzed and organized large amounts of new highly technical information to then successfully complete large, complex online documentation projects.
  • Designed and developed the technical documentation needed for supporting the Technical Services and Application Development groups of the Information Technology department.
  • Created graphics including trend representations and historical histograms for published data points of Web Farm environments.
  • Collected, developed, modified, prepared, or validated documentation working with information security subject matter experts.

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Top 10 Best States for Technical Writers

  1. Massachusetts
  2. Washington
  3. Maryland
  4. Virginia
  5. District of Columbia
  6. Pennsylvania
  7. North Carolina
  8. Georgia
  9. New Jersey
  10. California
  • (203 jobs)
  • (148 jobs)
  • (243 jobs)
  • (388 jobs)
  • (132 jobs)
  • (164 jobs)
  • (170 jobs)
  • (116 jobs)
  • (137 jobs)
  • (674 jobs)

Top Technical Writer Employers

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