Technical writers put technical information into easily understandable language. They work primarily in information-technology-related industries, coordinating the development and dissemination of technical content for a variety of users.
Technical writers take on bewilderingly complex technologies and highly sophisticated scientific processes and describe them concisely and accurately. The job of a technical writer is to bring clarity to subject matter that’s opaque at best and incomprehensible at worst. Depending on the sophistication of the audience, the technical writer may be called upon to provide meticulous detail or to simplify the basic concepts being described. Do you enjoy digging into and making sense of complex subject matter? Then a career as a technical writer could be for you!
Technical writers generally hold a bachelor’s degree, often with a major in communications, journalism, or English. Some technical writing jobs may require both experience and either a degree or knowledge in a specialized field-for example, engineering, medicine, or one of the sciences; others have broader requirements, such as a background in liberal arts. Knowledge of a second language is helpful for some positions. Experience in Web design and computer graphics also is helpful, because of the growing use of online technical documentation.
Technical writers can be responsible for operating instructions, how-to manuals, assembly instructions, and other documentation needed for online help and by technical support staff, consumers, and other users within the company or industry. They also develop documentation for computer programs and other information-technology products and set up communications systems with consumers to assess customer satisfaction and quality control matters. They’ll commonly work in engineering, scientific, healthcare, and other areas in which highly specialized material needs to be explained to a diverse audience, often of laypersons.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, technical writer positions will experience faster than average growth. Solid writing and communications skills, along with a technical background, will mean good job prospects. Competition is expected for positions with more desirable companies and for technical writers who are new to the profession.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual earnings for technical writers in May 2008 were $61,620, with the middle 50 percent earning between $47,100 and $78,910, and the highest ten percent earning more than $97,460.