Training in Professional Technical Writing

Writers who would like to work in scientific or technical fields might want to consider completing a degree or certificate program to become a technical writer. Programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate level, and some are available online. Read on to learn about topics these programs cover and career prospects for technical writers. Schools offering English Reading & Writing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Training Programs Are Available in Technical Writing?

Bachelor's degree, master's degree and certificate programs are available in professional and technical writing. These programs are designed for students new to the field and professionals seeking to advance in a current technical science-related job. Undergraduate programs might require you to take prerequisite math and computer science courses before enrolling. Graduate programs usually require you to hold a bachelor's degree, meet a minimum GPA requirement and submit a strong writing sample.

Degree Levels Bachelor's, undergraduate certificate, master's, graduate certificate
Common Undergraduate Courses Science and technology writing, editing, writing for the web, grant writing
Common Graduate Courses Legal writing, rhetorical grammar, document design
Online Options Certificate programs available online
Average Salaries (2018) Technical writers: $75,500, editors: $69,480

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does an Undergraduate Program Cover?

In an undergraduate certificate or bachelor's degree program, you'll learn how to write business and grant proposals. You'll study scientific research methods and practice writing for both print and Web formats. Most programs require you to complete an internship at a technology firm as part of the coursework. Bachelor's degree programs often allow you to choose your own concentration, such as scientific or medical writing. Common topics that you'll study during an undergraduate program include:

  • Grant writing
  • Ethical professional writing
  • Research practices
  • Science and technology writing
  • Editing and revising
  • Computer science
  • Web writing

What Does a Graduate Program Involve?

Graduate degree and graduate certificate programs in technical professional writing are usually more theory-based than undergraduate programs and require you to attend seminars and workshops. During a master's degree program, you'll work on developing a portfolio to pass on to employers after graduation.

Some master's degree programs have a thesis option, in which you must write a 70-100 page research paper from a variety of topics like healthcare, new media or communications theory. Written and oral final examinations may be required to graduate. Typical topics that you'll explore can include:

  • Web-based writing
  • Software documentation
  • Legal writing
  • Rhetorical grammar
  • Nonfiction writing
  • Document design

Can I Learn Online?

Many schools offer technical and professional writing certificate programs that can be completed entirely online. You also might be able to conduct some of the courses for a master's degree program through distance learning, but completely online programs are very rare.

During an online program, you'll typically work in teams. Coursework is generally downloaded from online learning platforms and communication is conducted through e-mail and chat sessions. To participate in a program, you might need to install specific web browsers and applications. Additionally, you'll be required to download online files onto a hard drive.

What Can I Do?

With a background in professional technical writing, you can apply for jobs as a technical writer for the government, private businesses, industries and research facilities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that you usually must hold at least a bachelor's degree for the best employment opportunities; therefore, you might want to use a technical writing certificate to complement a degree rather than to substitute one (www.bls.gov).

According to the BLS, technical writing positions were predicted to increase 11% from 2016-2026, which was higher than average. Technical writers earned a mean wage of $75,500 per year as of May 2018, reported the BLS. With a degree in professional technical writing, you can also work as a copy editor. The BLS stated that editors made a mean annual salary of $69,480 as of May 2018.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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