Degree Programs in Technical Writing
Technical writing programs can teach students how to create instructional manuals for computer software programs or assembly instructions for a desk or bookshelf. Programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate level, and some are online. Read on to learn more about common courses and possible occupations after graduation.
What Types of Degree Programs Are Available for Technical Writers?
Technical writers are professionals who put complex scientific, mechanical or industrial information into simple language for readers to understand. A technical writer may create assembly instructions for a crib, a how-to manual for a computer software program, or other materials designed for consumers. Technical writing has expanded from the development of print materials to include the design of websites, multi-media materials and support systems. These individuals may work closely with software developers, engineers, computer specialists and scientists to ensure that information is easily understandable and accurate as well.
If you're interested in a career in technical writing, you have a variety of educational options, including degree programs and certificates. Degree programs in technical writing and technical communications are available at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels. In some cases, technical writing is offered as a specialization within a bachelor's or master's degree program in English. Both undergraduate and graduate certificate programs in technical writing are also available. Finally, students pursuing a bachelor's degree in English may choose to minor in technical writing, which is similar to completing a certificate program.
|Degree Levels||Associate's, bachelor's, undergraduate certificate, graduate certificate, master's|
|Common Courses||Word processing, information design, document formatting|
|Average Salary (2018)||$75,500 for technical writers*|
|Online Availability||Many programs available in online formats|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Will I Study?
Program length, requirements and prerequisites will vary significantly depending upon the level of degree program or certificate that you pursue. Most undergraduate degree, graduate degree and certificate programs in technical writing and technical communications share similar topics of study. In addition to a variety of technical writing and communication courses, you may take courses in information design, computer graphics, word processing, document formatting and Web coding. You'll learn how to determine the needs of your audience and write for clarity. You'll also learn about effective researching and editing techniques.
Associate's and bachelor's degree programs also have general education requirements. Some bachelor's degree programs in technical writing allow you to customize your degree by selecting either a technical communication or scientific and medical communication track.
What Might I Earn?
Although technical writing associate's degrees and certificate programs are available, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that most employers require applicants to have a bachelor's degree (www.bls.gov). If you have a specialized major in engineering or medicine, a certificate in technical writing may be sufficient to gain entry into this field. The BLS also notes that knowledge of computer software or a second language can be helpful in finding a technical writing job.
As of 2016, there were roughly 52,400 technical writers employed in the country. This field is expected to grow at a rate of 11% between 2016 and 2026, according to the BLS. A continued increase in new technical and scientific information is cited as an impetus behind this growth. As of May 2018, the mean annual salary for a technical writer was $75,500, also per the BLS.
Can I Earn My Degree or Certificate Online?
Several schools offer technical writing undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees and certificate programs entirely online. These programs allow you to study largely at your own pace, from anywhere that has a high-speed Internet connection. Online programs offer the same curriculum as on-campus programs. You will have more flexibility in this program, but you'll still typically have assignment deadlines and scheduled exams. You'll access lectures and coursework via the school's website and communicate with instructors and fellow classmates through e-mail, Web chat or discussion boards.