What Does a Technical Writer Do?

Technical writers translate highly complex information into simpler terms for consumer and non-technical audiences. They might also perform editing, design and research duties. Keep reading to find out more about job duties for technical writers and decide if you want to pursue this career. Schools offering English Reading & Writing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Description

Technical writing, also known as technical communication, mainly involves writing and editing product publications, such as instruction manuals, for the average consumer. As a technical writer, you might work in multiple industries, including computer software, engineering, information technology, medicine, and/or science. Because these industries deal with complex information that isn't typically understood by the general public, technical writers are used to help people understand intricate information and technical terms.

Important Facts About Technical Writers

Key Skills Interpersonal communication writing and reading, critical thinking, deductive reasoning
Professional Certification Available through the Society for Technical Communication
Work Environment Office setting, may work for an employer or on a freelance basis; travel is sometimes needed
Similar Careers Editor, Journalist, Public Relations Specialist

Job Duties

As a technical writer, your main job is to clearly explain specialized information, such as medical, scientific and engineering terminology, into everyday language for wide audiences. You must make this information concise and presentable to individuals, often for customer service, consumer assembly, or technical support purposes. In addition to writing, you might also edit and approve information that appears in a company's product manuals.

Additional Responsibilities

If you become a technical writer, you could work in research teams to streamline information and oversee the design of visual charts, diagrams, and illustrations for product publications. These publications might include assembly instructions, operation manuals, how-to guides, and multimedia web pages. Other job duties might include:

  • Creating websites
  • Performing usability tests on products
  • Creating software programs
  • Writing grants, proposals, manuals, brochures, and newsletters
  • Conducting product research
  • Managing document production
  • Researching technical specifications

Education Requirements

To become a technical writer, you might benefit from an educational background in English, journalism, or communications. You can seek a certificate in technical writing, though most employers require you to have at least a bachelor's degree in a communication or writing discipline, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Experience with a specific technical area, such as computer software or web design, can increase your job prospects and supplement your education.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

According to the BLS, the median annual salary earned by technical writers was $69,030 in May 2014. Employment growth for these writers is expected to be 10% between 2014 and 2024, per the BLS.

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