CHOOSING A CAREER / AUG. 23, 2014
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How to Become a Technical Writer

Do you have outstanding writing skills and an ability to explain intricate matters in a simpler way? Then you are set to be a technical writer. Technical writers also referred to as technical communicators prepare journal articles, instruction manuals and various other documents for the purpose of communicating technical and complex material more easily.

What do Technical Writers do

Technical writers can work in a wide array of industries but are more concentrated in engineering and computer industries. They mostly work full time in offices where they are responsible for the following tasks:

  • Studying product samples and talking with designers and developers of various products
  • Working with technical staff to fabricate products that are easy to use with fewer instructions
  • Organizing and writing supporting documents for various products
  • Using drawings, photographs, charts, animation and illustration that enhance the users’ understanding
  • Selecting the relevant medium for various audiences
  • Standardizing content across media platforms
  • Gathering usability criticism from users, manufacturers and designers
  • Revising documents once new issues arise

Salary

Earnings for technical writers vary according to their area of specialty. By May 2012, technical writers earned a median annual salary of $65,500. Below is the summary of their earnings in various fields:

Information

 

$70,460

Administrative

 

$67,140

Professional, scientific and technical

 

$66,440

Manufacturing

 

$64,170

Source: BLS

Skills

The role of technical writers requires individuals with the following qualities:

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to work alone and as part of a team
  • High imagination abilities
  • Ability to understand and explain highly technical data
  • Time consciousness

Qualifications

The position of a technical writer generally requires you to secure a college degree. You also need additional experience in various specialties such as:

  • Computer science
  • Web design
  • Medicine
  • Engineering

A large number of employers prefer candidates who pursued bachelor’s degree in journalism or communications.  Due to the increase in the online utilization of online technical documentation, technical writers with web design skills stand at a better chance as far as job opportunities are concerned.

A few technical writers begin their career as research assistants or specialists in a technical field. As they develop their technical writing skills, the finally take up primary technical writing responsibilities.  When working in small firms, starting technical writers can start working on various projects right away. However, in larger companies that have more standard processes, beginners might observe veteran technical writers and interact with experts before they are assigned projects to work on. Since some institutions have different styles of writing, technical writers need to acquaint themselves to these styles they can start writing. Some employers might require technical writers to be certified by various associations such as STC. Other associations such as AMWA provide broad continuing education curricula and certificates in medical writing.

Career Prospects

The BLS projects a 15% increase of job opportunities for technical writers between 2012 and 2022. This growth is due to the continuous expansion of technical and scientific products as well as the increase in Web-based Support for various products. Change in electronics and high-technology industries has created a rise in the need for technical writers to communicate information and write manuals for users.

Candidates with excellent technical skills are open to higher chances of employability due to the growing dependence on technologically complicated products in the workplace and at home.

If you want to take your technical writing skills to another level, this career is meant for you!

Image Source: SG

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