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Technical Writers picture    Technical Writers image

Technical Writers

Technical writers, also known as technical communicators, develop a wide array of technical written materials including catalogs, manuals, proposals, part listings and instructions. They often explain scientific, technical, engineering and healthcare issues using easy to understand language.

Technical writers are increasingly utilizing various multimedia formats to provide information in a manner that makes complicated concepts easily understood. Technical writers work in almost every industry. In addition some technical writers are self-employed.

They prepare documentation for computer programs. Some technical writers develop reports and articles regarding scientific research for magazines and web sites. Many technical communicators work in information technology related businesses. A growing number of technical writers are utilizing technical content to resolve business communication problems in a number of industries.

Some technical writers collaborate with scientists, engineers, software developers and computer specialists in order to manage the flow of information among project workgroups during development and testing. Technical communicators may also collaborate with call center or customer service managers to enhance the quality of end-user assistance and product support.

Responsibilities

  • Collect information
  • Organize materials for projects
  • Develop written materials
  • Meet deadlines
  • Edit materials prepared by other writers or individuals
  • Revise their text to improve it
  • Meet with customers or others to establish technical specifications and determine subject material
  • Choose photographs, drawings, diagrams and charts to illustrate material
  • Confer with publishers and clients to discuss revisions

Job Characteristics

Writers are able to work from their home and other locations due to laptop computers and advances in electronic communications. The Internet provides more flexibility in where and how technical writers complete their assignments. Some writers work from offices. Some writers set their own hours, however some writers do have regular office hours. Sometimes writers work in the evenings and on weekends in order to meet deadlines.

Being knowledgeable about desktop or electronic publishing software, scanners and other types of electronic communications equipment is important for the occupation. Those that develop material for the Internet should be knowledgeable about page layout, graphic design and multimedia software. They should also be knowledgeable about interactive technologies of the Web in order to combine text with graphics, animation, video and audio.

Technical writers should have good writing and communication skills and have the ability to express ideas clearly and logically. They should also be detailed oriented and have the ability to comprehend complex materials and explain it in easy to understand language.

Some common job titles are information developer, documentation designer, technical communicator, engineering writer and documentation specialist.

Employment Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecasted an 18 percent employment growth for technical writers between 2008 and 2018 which is faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for technical writers is projected to increase due to the continuing expansion of technical and scientific information and the growth of customer service and web based product support networks. Growth and changes in electronic and high-technology industries and the increasing amount of information provided on the Web will also increase the demand for technical writers.

The median annual earnings for salaried technical writers in 2008 was $61,620. Regarding the industries employing the largest number of technical writers, the software publishing industry is one of the highest paying sectors.

Many firms and freelance technical writers provide technical writing services on a contract basis. Building a reputation and meeting deadlines are important factors for getting more assignments.

Education, Certification, and Licensing

Employers typically seek candidates that have earned a bachelor's degree and often prefer degrees in journalism, communications or English. Some technical writing jobs require experience along with either a degree or knowledge in a specialized field such as medicine or engineering. Knowledge about web design and computer graphics is also useful due to the growing use of online technical documentation.

Resources

Major Employers

The top industries for employment are computer systems and software, computer and electronics manufacturing; architectural, engineering and related services; management, scientific and technical consulting services; scientific research and development services; publishing, and information technology related sectors.

Schools for Technical Writers are listed in the Browse Schools Section.

Technical Writers Skills

Below are the skills needed to be technical writers according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Skill NameImportanceCompetence
Writing4.885
Reading Comprehension4.124.88
Speaking3.753.75
Active Listening3.753.88
Critical Thinking3.623.88

Technical Writers Abilities

Below are the abilities needed to be technical writers according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Ability NameImportanceCompetence
Written Expression4.255.12
Written Comprehension4.124.5
Near Vision44.12
Oral Comprehension3.884.25
Deductive Reasoning3.754

Technical Writers Knowledge

Below are the knowledge areas needed to be technical writers according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Knowledge AreaImportanceCompetence
English Language4.815.39
Computers and Electronics4.294.86
Clerical3.765.15
Communications and Media3.254.17
Administration and Management3.243.82

Technical Writers Work activities

Below are the work activities involved in being technical writers according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

   
Work ActivityImportanceCompetence
Interacting With Computers4.614.15
Getting Information4.334.05
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events4.194.64
Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge4.095.35
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates4.034.6

Technical Writers Work styles

Below are the work styles involved in being technical writers according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

   
Work StyleImportance
Attention to Detail4.74
Dependability4.64
Integrity4.25
Initiative4.2
Cooperation4.2

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Technical Writers

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Technical Writers jobs , as of 2017

   
Metro AreaTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Salary
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington1,760 $74,840
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim1,730 $86,510
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara1,560 $107,490
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward1,110 $88,960
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land1,040 $77,830
San Diego-Carlsbad970 $81,480
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell930 $72,280
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue930 $83,670
Baltimore-Columbia-Towson910 $77,750
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn810 $70,900

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Total employment and salary for professions similar to technical writers

Source : 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; O*NET® 22.1 Database, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, onetonline.org

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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Technical Writers.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.