How To Become A Technical Writer
Technical writers translate highly complex information into content that’s accessible to the average reader.
Very few people have time to scour highly technical or scientific writing for the information they need. The content length aside, most complex texts use specialized terminology and stilted syntax that make them difficult to understand. When you learn how to become a technical writer, you make complex technical and scientific content more accessible to the average reader.
So, is technical writing a good career choice for you? It depends on where you excel as a writer. When you write for technical purposes, you're not exactly writing the Great American Novel. Writers who are research oriented and can parse complex or convoluted content are usually a good fit for a technical writing career.
If you have a writing or technical background, the opportunities are vast. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates technical writer opportunities to grow by 7% over the next 10 years.
What Is Technical Writing?
Technical writing is a form of communication used in information technology, engineering, science, finance, and technology. Technical writing takes complex language in technical and scientific fields and simplifies it for the average reader.
What Are the Different Types of Technical Writing?
The most common types of technical writing are:
- User guides and instruction manuals, which are pamphlets and booklets containing written "how-to" guidelines.
- Medical and scientific papers that are often published in medical journals.
- Technical descriptions used to describe how products, processes, or concepts work.
- White papers that convey complex issues and present solutions.
- Case studies that focus on surveys and consumer experiences.
How Is Technical Writing Used?
Technical writing is used to educate and inform readers on complex topics. The purpose of technical writing is to communicate specific skills, instructions, and knowledge. Some examples of how technical writing is used include:
- Informing employees of how to conduct safety procedures.
- Teaching consumers how to assemble the parts of a product.
- Breaking down research data into accessible text.
- Explaining complex product features to consumers.
- Simplifying instructional or FAQ content.
What Does a Technical Writer Do?
Technical writers put together instruction manuals, user guides, frequently asked questions, and easy-to-read journal articles. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The typical duties and responsibilities of a technical writer include:
- Writing technical documents tailored to users' needs.
- Writing instructional material for technical staff or other staff across a wide range of industries.
- Examining product samples and describing them to consumers in easy-to-read text.
- Working with technical personnel to simplify complex product descriptions and instructions.
- Writing and revising product copy.
- Editing content from other writers.
- Utilizing visual references (graphs, images, animations, etc.) to help readers better understand reading material.
- Deciding which medium (manuals, videos, diagrams, etc.) best conveys content for your audience.
- Standardizing content across all media platforms.
- Researching topics by visiting libraries and websites, working directly with technical specialists, and making observations.
- Updating and improving content based on user feedback.
Most technical writers work for professional, scientific, and technical services. Some work for manufacturers, administrative and support services, and publishing companies. Take a look at Monster's technical writer job description to get an idea of what employers expect from a technical writer.
How to Become a Technical Writer
Most employers hire technical writers who have a college degree and some specialized technical or scientific knowledge, such as knowledge of computers or medical procedures.
There are many different paths that technical writers can take, however. Some technical writers start out assisting with research in a specific technical or scientific field. Eventually, they develop technical communication skills and learn how to write technical documentation.
Entry-level technical writers who work for large companies often shadow experienced writers initially. Entry-level roles at small firms may not provide you with the same level of training before you take on independent assignments.
Do You Need a Degree to Be a Technical Writer?
Technical writers usually have bachelor's degrees in English or communications or a double major in English and a scientific or technical field. If you don't already have a related college degree, consider earning one at any of these top colleges and universities.
Expect to take courses that cover:
- English composition
- Literary studies
- Writing workshops
- Contexts of writing
- Business writing
Many colleges offer minor concentrations in technical writing, which can be added as college credit when you pursue a bachelor's degree. A technical writing minor will help you hone your writing, editing, and presentation skills for technical content. You’ll learn how to write specifically for business, technology, and science.
Completing a technical writing internship can help you get hands-on experience and fast-track you to your first job. Be sure to check with your college for open internship opportunities.
Education is key to becoming a technical writer. Help to cover the costs of your education by checking out these scholarships for technical and business writing majors.
Technical Writer Certification
Certification isn't mandatory to become a technical writer. It does, however, demonstrate increased professionalism and competence to potential employers. You can obtain certification from the Society for Technical Communication at three levels: foundation (for beginners), practitioner (intermediate), and expert (advanced). You must pass an exam to be eligible for certification at each level.
You can also get certified in specialized areas of technical writing. For example, the American Medical Writers Association offers continuing education and certificate programs for medical writing.
What Is the Average Salary for a Technical Writer?
According to Monster data, the median technical writer salary is $33.68 per hour. Salaries range from $25.89 to $44.53. You can look up the average salary for technical writers in your location by using the Monster Salary Guide.
How to Find Technical Writer Jobs
Now that we've covered how to become a technical writer, you may be wondering what your next step should be. Having solid writing and technical skills is only half the equation when seeking a technical writer job. Most employers look for technical writers who are critical thinkers, detail orientated, imaginative, and good at working on teams. Be sure to highlight those crucial skills and qualities in your resume and cover letter.
Once you've collated your application materials, let Monster simplify your job search with an in-depth list of technical writer jobs.
If you can't find the right job in your area, consider these top five states with the highest technical writer employment:
Also consider these top five metro areas with the highest technical writer employment:
Convey Your Technical Writing Skills to Potential Employers
Now that you know how to become a technical writer, what are your next steps? Monster can help simplify your job search and match your skillset with open positions. Sign up for free to upload your resume and get notified of new technical writing jobs.