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Online Technical Writing Degrees and Certificate Programs

Technical writers figure out how to convey complex technical information in clear and concise terms. You can find many levels of technical writing programs available through online learning, from certificates to graduate degrees. Most offer courses in document design, business writing, and other forms of professional communication.

What Can I Expect from an Online Technical Writing Program?

Technical writing, also known as technical communication, is a specialized field that has become essential in the modern business world. With the rise of technology, more and more companies need writers who can communicate highly-specialized technical instructions to the average consumer. Think about the last time you read a manual in order to program an electronic device. If the instructions made sense, that's the work of the technical writer who wrote the manual.

Technical writing programs focus on learning how to communicate effectively in a clear and understandable written format. In addition, programs can include other formats for presenting content, such as online writing, multi-media presentations and video.

Technical writing is well-suited to online study. Several programs allow you to complete all degree requirements totally online or in a combination of online and on-campus coursework.

Program Formats Fully online or online with on-campus components
Degree Levels Undergraduate certificate, bachelor's, graduate certificate, master's, doctoral
Common Courses Document design, manual writing, usability studies, business writing
Median Salary (2018)$71,850* (for technical writers)
Job Outlook (2016-26)11% growth* (for all technical writers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Levels of Study are Available Online?

Both undergraduate and graduate certificate programs in technical writing are available at many colleges and universities. These programs typically provide you with basic training in the field or may allow you to specialize in a specific type of writing, such as medical, financial or online. Professional organizations also offer certificate programs in technical writing. For example, the Society for Technical Communication (www.stc.org), offers online certificate courses in topics like instructional design and technical communication management.

If you are interested in getting a bachelor's degree, online programs are also available for that. Programs are typically listed as either technical writing or technical communication and often include coursework in basic writing skills, such as grammar, punctuation and sentence structure, with specialized courses in areas such as Web presentation, pharmaceutical or video screenwriting. In most programs, you'll study technical writing for both traditional print outlets and the Web.

You can also get a master's degree or Ph.D. in this field fully online, but Ph.D. programs are rare. Most graduate programs are designed for people with work experience in writing. For a Ph.D. program, you may specialize in a specific research topic, such as rhetoric (the use of language to effectively communicate), technical communication or usability.

What Courses Will I Take?

Technical writers must know how to write and effectively communicate ideas in a written format. You'll also need to know the variety of methods of presenting that information, which can include print, Web and visual sources. You might take classes that can include:

  • Newsletters and brochures
  • Usability studies
  • Document design
  • E-commerce
  • Writing manuals
  • Business writing