Your Complete Guide to Technical Writing Jobs
Do you have excellent writing skills? Do you have years of experience from your previous technical-based career? If so, you may want to combine these skills into a technical writing job. Currently, full-time technical writing jobs are in high demand. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about technical writing so that you can determine if it’s a career option moving forward.
What Is Technical Writing?
The Society for Technical Communication defines technical writing as any communication that has at least one of the following qualities:
- Provides instructions on how to complete a task, regardless of whether the job is technical or if any technology is involved
- Uses technology, like web pages, social media, or help files, to communicate
- Involves communicating about specialized or professional topics, like medical procedures or computer applications
Technical writing is essentially any writing that communicates complex information. The goal of this style of writing is to present technical information in a way that’s easy for the end-user to understand, therefore making the overall user experience enjoyable.
The writing style is much more formal than the ones you would use to write a blog post or a book. When’s the last time you read a joke in an instruction manual? Likely never!
Technical writers use their communication skills to convey difficult topics to others. To do so, their work must be concise, easy to understand, and tailored to a specific audience. They often tend to remain neutral, as they are not trying to sway or persuade a reader.
Technical writing, in a nutshell, sets itself apart in two ways. The first is the writing style, which is to-the-point. It’s possible for technical writing to exist in an array of different industries, including business settings like marketing or finance.
The second way technical writing sets itself apart is by subject matter. While anyone could begin blogging tomorrow, not everyone could start writing professionally. Technical communication involves advanced topics.
What Type of Documents Do Technical Writers Produce?
As we’ve mentioned, technical writing is a broad umbrella that covers an array of topics and documents. Below are some of the most common forms of technical documents. You may find that you have already written technical documents in your previous job without realizing that you’ve done so.
Procedures and Instructions
One of the most common forms of technical writing involves crafting procedures or instructions for users. Documents of this nature include things such as troubleshooting guides and user manuals.
The first step of many projects is a bid or proposal. Not only do proposals outline the anticipated cost of the project, but they also describe the work that will be completed. Describing what work will a company will do is where technical communication comes into play. For instance, technical writers could write a proposal for installing a new computer network.
If a company is releasing a new product or service, a technical writer could be useful. The writer will describe the product in a way that’s easy for others to understand, while also explaining how the product will deliver value to the end-user.
Communicators can write technical reports to provide analysis or information about a task. Companies could use technical reports to evaluate a product’s success or determine which course of action it should take next. A white paper is an example of a technical report.
Specifications and Descriptions
Technical communicators could be tasked with describing a specific product. Not only will this involve writing, but it could also include diagramming as well. Having a background in graphic design will serve you well when doing this type of writing.
Technical Writing Career Outlook
The career outlook for technical writers is quite bright. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2018 median pay for technical writers was $71,850, which amounts to a bit more than $34.54 an hour. Furthermore, the expected job growth from 2016 to 2026 is 11%, which is significantly faster than average.
How to Become a Technical Writer
If you consider yourself a subject matter expert and an excellent communicator, you’ll want to consider making the jump into a full-time writer role. Below are some of the steps and requirements to do so.
Obtain an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree
Typically, you’ll need a college degree to begin technical writing. Some firms may be willing to forgo this requirement if you have years of experience in a particular field. This could especially be the case if you have worked in highly complicated areas such as:
- Computer science
- Web design
The best technical communicators have a strong writing background. Degrees in English, journalism, or communications are useful.
Additionally, more colleges and universities have begun offering master’s degrees in technical communication. If you are looking for a career change, investing in your education could set you apart from your peers.
In addition to receiving your education, you could also excel as a technical writer if you become certified. Organizations like the Society of Technical Communication offer certification programs that can help boost your resume.
These certifications are not necessary, but they can help you stand out against other job applicants. Not only will you become more attractive to employers, but you’ll also boost your writing profile and become a better technical communicator as a result. We touch more on various technical writing associations below.
Have the Right Characteristics
Whether you’re working from home or in a factory, there are some essential characteristics that you’ll need to have if you’re going to make it as a technical writer.
Since the goal of technical writing is to simplify the user experience, technical communicators must know how to create detailed instructions that explain every step of the process. The goal is for the user not to be confused when reading technical documentation.
Critical-Thinking Skills and Imagination
Technical writers must be able to comprehend complex topics and portray them in a way that’s easy to understand for those who do not have a professional background.
Doing so tends to require creativity. Technical writers need to be able to put themselves in the shoes of the end-user to consider how that individual would process the document.
Ability to Work With Others
When working in technical writing, you’ll be dealing with team members who will contribute and collaborate when crafting a document. You’ll need to be able to work with multiple personalities while also meeting strict deadlines.
Ability to Take Constructive Criticism
The editing process plays a significant role in technical writing. What might make sense to you may not make sense to others who are reading the document. Additionally, clients may have strict formatting guides for their documents.
Technical communicators should be willing to take constructive criticism. They must be ready to adapt and make changes to their work. If you’re an author who enjoys writing books because of the freedom that you have, technical writing may not be the role for you.
Assistance When Technical Writing
If you’re interested in becoming a technical writer, there are numerous resources available. One of the best resources for technical communicators is the Society for Technical Communication. According to their website, they’re a “professional association dedicated to the advancement of technical communication.”
Through the Society of Technical Communication, you can purchase a membership, research certificate programs, and connect with other subject matter experts. This is the broadest association available for those interested in technical writing.
You could also look into associations that are more specific to the writing that you’re going to be doing. Examples of more specific technical writing associations include:
- International Association of Business Communicators
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
- Association of Teachers of Technical Writing
- American Medical Writers Association
Joining one of these trade groups will provide you with the resources that you need to become successful as a technical writer. No matter if you have ample writing experience and are looking to produce more technical documentation, or have some writing experience but are looking to take advantage of your years of experience in a technical field, these associations will prove worthwhile.
Find Technical Writing Jobs
If you’re interested in finding remote technical writing jobs, be sure to check out our job search board. We routinely update our job board with both part-time and full-time positions, allowing you to find something that’s an ideal fit.