How to Become a Technical Writer

Technical writers write technical manuals as well as other forms of supporting documentation. A technical writer needs to be extraordinarily precise and needs to be able to convey complex concepts in a concise and easy to understand manner. Technical writers need to be intelligent, as they need to fully understand the topics they are writing about. They also need to be very good at research and able to easily work under deadlines.

Bachelor's Degree
1 to 5 years
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Many technical writers will need to work directly with corporations to not only create an accurate text but also a text that accurately and positively represents a company’s product. Technical writers may also be required to get diagrams, charts, drawings or photographs that will assist in the understanding of their text, and they will often need to continually revise their documentation to reflect changes in the product or corrections. Technical writers make a median salary of $63,280 a year.

What Does a Technical Writer Do?

A technical writer will usually begin by researching a product thoroughly. They may also need to use the product to learn more about its design and functions. The company the technical writer is working with will often offer them specific information that they need added into the text, and they may also provide older documentation for the technical writer to build upon. The technical writer will begin writing their text at this time, and may provide multiple drafts to the company. Throughout this process, the writer will look for visual data to include with their text. The writer may also work with a technical illustrator for this portion.

Once the text is done it will usually be tested by customers as well as the manufacturer itself. The text may face multiple revisions to become more user-friendly and more accurate. The product itself may be altered if tasks prove too difficult even with proper documentation. The texts written by a technical writer will include how-to manuals, operating instructions and sometimes even technical support scripts.

How Do You Become a Technical Writer?

Most technical writers will have some form of college degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The most common types of degree for a technical writer are English, journalism or communications. However, engineers, programmers or computer science specialists may also be able to break into the technical writing field. Technical writers can also come from research writers or research assistants, and technical writers that acquire experience within the industry may be able to compensate for a lack of a degree.

Technical writers sometimes work as independent contractors and sometimes work for technical writing companies. Those that work as independent contractors may need to procure work on their own, while others may have companies come directly to them. Larger companies may employ technical writers on their staff on a permanent basis to provide texts for their product lines.

How Do You Advance As a Technical Writer?

Advancement as a technical writer includes developing success as a freelance writer, working on higher paying projects or leading a team of other technical writers. Technical writers can also move into related fields, such as library technicians, public relations specialists, journalists or copywriters.

O*Net Online notes that regulatory affairs specialists are very similar to technical writers and have a very bright career outlook. Many technical writers will be able to slowly build up a client list until they can operate completely under their own employment, and some may even be able to contract out writing to others and eventually form their own technical writing team

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