How to Become a Technical Writer
If writing is a talent of yours, you may be thinking about a career as a Technical Writer. If you do not know what it takes to get this job, the educational experience required as well as the average pay and job prospects for this career choice, this article will help educate you on all these matters.
What Does a Technical Writer Do?
A Technical Writer is responsible for communicating technical, detailed and often complex information in easier ways. These professionals often write operating and assembly instructions, articles and other documents, as well as create images, such as diagrams, photographs and drawings. The majority of Technical Writers work in offices for organizations in industries such as manufacturing, scientific, medical, technical, electronic and remediation services. As well, some Technical Writers are freelancers, either working on a per-project basis with various clients, or consulting companies.
A Technical Writer needs to have excellent writing skills, including good spelling and grammar. They need to be able to write specific content, such as instruction manuals, articles, etc., and must know the general structure and purpose of each document. Additionally, they need to have good comprehension of the subject they are writing about, and be familiar with technical terminology to be able to translate complex ideas into language common people can understand. Typical Technical Writers duties include:
- Communicating with clients and product designers to understand the product or service
- Decide on the right medium for the audience, such as written instructions or online videos
- Be able to communicate technical and difficult language in an easier way
- Work troubleshoot potential pitfalls and make corrections
- Create professional designs
Technical Writer Skills
Technical Writers work with a variety of people, such as product developers and designers, manufacturers, clients, etc. As such, they must possess communication skills to be able to take an abstract idea or a technical concept and communicate about it in a concise and clear way. They need to have the confidence to voice concerns about a product or service, and suggest possible improvements. They must be able to gather feedback from users to amend instructions to make them more comprehensive and readable.
Other key Technical Writer skills include:
- Technical knowledge
- Attention to detail
- Knowledge of computers and electronics
- Reading comprehension
How Do You Become a Technical Writer
Education and Training
Employers mostly look for two things when picking candidates for a Technical Writer position. First, they seek someone with at least a bachelor’s degree in communications, journalism or English; a degree where the individual would be taught to speak and write well. Second, this person will also need experience in the field they will write about, such as science, medicine, engineering, etc.
In our search of Technical Writer jobs across the U.S., we found that some employers preferred their candidates to have web design experience to create images as well as written content.
There are certifications you can attain to help your chances of finding a job as well as advancing in your career as a Technical Writer. The Society for Technical Communication and the American Medical Writers Association offer various certifications in specific fields.
Finding a job
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates a 10 percent growth in demand for Technical Writers through 2024, with 1,720 new job openings. This job growth is fueled by advancements in fields such as medicine, science, electronics and manufacturing. As product developers make more complex and technical inventions, Technical Writers will be needed to provide easy instructions to the public.
JobHero’s library of Technical Writer resumes can help you learn what education, work experience and skills to include to impress prospective employers.
Once you have your resume perfected, you can start searching for Technical Writer jobs. Utilize connections you have made along the way in college or university, or in mentorship programs, to help find employment.
It is advantageous to create personalized cover letters for each job you apply to in order to stress your interest in the position and what qualifies you to be a member of their team. JobHero’s cover letter examples will provide samples of excellent cover letters.
Insights from a Technical Writer
We interviewed Shayrgo Baraz, an automotive engineer, Writer and founder of CarSumo.com, to provide us with an inside look into becoming a Technical Writer.
What is the common career path for a technical writer?
Most technical writers typically don’t start out their career in technical writing. Rather, they start off in field that requires technical skills obtained from real-world experiences or from schooling. Some examples of positions previously held by technical writers include technicians, engineers, builders, and software developers. Once the skills and experience in a particular industry have been acquired, the job candidate can then seek out a technical writing position in their relevant field.
What should someone consider before becoming a technical writer?
There are two factors that need to be heavily considered prior to becoming a technical writer. First, you should be confident and skilled in the topic that you’ll be writing about. Without having the in-depth, industry related knowledge of the topic you intend on covering, it will be a challenge to accurately convey information in an acceptable and palatable format.
Secondly, the ability to write quickly, clearly, and free of grammatical errors is a fundamental part of being a technical writer. If you struggle writing about technical topics (or just writing in general), then consider taking a technical writing course at your local community college or University to help you get up to speed with the skills you need to be successful in your new role as a tech writer.
What type of person excels in this job?
Technical writing isn’t for everyone as it requires mastery over highly technical concepts as well as experience writing skillfully and clearly without grammatical errors. Most people are either very technical or are very good at writing – it’s the merging of the two that is the challenge.
The types of people that would find the most success and who would find technical writing to be the most rewarding are highly analytical, technical, able to absorb and digest a plethora of information quickly, and who enjoy writing about different topics within their industry.
What are some of the most important skills for a technical writer to have?
The most important skills for a technical writer to have include in-depth knowledge, skills, and experience in the topic that they’ll be writing about, ability to write effectively on various topics, and the ability to consume and digest information quickly.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a technical writer?
The most rewarding part of technical writing is being able to take data and disparate pieces of information and turning it into content that provides value for the target audience reading what I’ve written. In many cases I write for a non-technical audience – so being able to translate highly technical information and cover the topic in a way that most people can understand is very rewarding.
How Much Do Technical Writers Get Paid?
Technical Writers make an average of $33.77 per hour; with the highest-paid Technical Writers earning $53.95 and the lowest-paid $20 per hour.
Top 10 States for Technical Writer Salary
Interpreters in the following states make the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.
- California – $41.25
- District of Columbia – $40.70
- Connecticut – $39.74
- Massachusetts – $39.46
- New Jersey – $29.12
- Maryland – $38.37
- Oregon – $38.14
- New York – $38
- Washington – $37.10
- New Hampshire – $36.62
Technical Writer Resources
To find more information about a career as a Technical Writer, check these additional resources.
Technical Writer Forum – A forum to discuss trends and issues affecting Technical Writers and the technical communications world, with over 27,000 members.
Technical Writer – A group who can provide solution to various Pros and Cons pertaining to Technical Writing in all the Industries, with over 13,000 members.
@TechWriterJobs – Find technical writing jobs at this job board, which is updated daily.
@TechWriterInfo – Advice from a Technical Writer.
On the Web
California State University East Bay – Information about obtaining a certification in technical writing.
Society for Technical Communication – Information about pursuing a professional certification through the Society for Technical Communication.