Technical Writer

How to Become a Technical Writer
Technical Writer Job Duties
Skills and Qualities Needed to Become a Technical Writer
Technical Writer Salary
Influential Technical Writers
Leading Organizations for Technical Writers
Top Cities for Technical Writing Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Technical Writer

Most technical writers need to be knowledgeable and have an education in a specific field in order to be able to write about it with expertise. Generally a college degree is required and writers must be accustomed to and knowledgeable about computers and communication equipment. Additionally, of course, technical writers must possess the ability to communicate clearly through the written word. Like any other professional working in the writing world, technical writers must possess excellent spelling, punctuation and grammatical skills.

Employers look for two things when hiring a technical writer. They want writers with either a broad liberal arts background or a degree in communications, journalism, or English. If you are looking to write for a specific field like engineering, business, or science, additional education or knowledge in that field is a must.

Understanding web design, computer graphics, and other technology will give technical writers a leg up on the competition because they often use these resources in order to stay in touch with their sources, editors, and other writers while working on their assignments at home or out in the field.

Many technical writers begin their careers as scientists, technicians, or engineers letting their writing ability allow them to transfer into the technical writing field. Other writers start out being research assistants or trainees in a technical information department.

What does a Technical Writer do?

Technical writers use their understanding of technology in their specific field of expertise to write information in simple terms so that everyone can understand it. Most people do not understand technology unless they have been educated or trained in how to use it. Technical writers take technical information and put it into easily understandable language.

They are responsible for writing both operating and maintenance manuals, assembly instructions, catalogs and project proposals. Writers oversee and edit technical materials, illustrations, photographs, designs, and charts. Many write for online help menus and instructions for computer software. Some technical writers find work helping a team to conduct studies of an existing product to see how it can be improved.

Technical writers can also be found writing information for the internet. Electronic editions of newspapers, short fiction and poetry, and online technical information are some of the items that can be written. These writers have knowledge about web design, page layout, graphic design and multimedia software.

All technical writers conduct research on their topics. They get their information through personal observation and usage of a product, library and internet usage, and interviews with scientists and engineers who created the product or idea.

Some technical writers work full time, while others like bloggers or online chatters work part time and use their writing as a supplement to another job.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Technical Writer?

It is of the utmost importance that technical writers enjoy writing. Writing needs to be something that they are passionate about and something that expresses their creativity. They must be able to clearly express ideas and to logically explain procedures. Possessing a wide rang of knowledge, self motivation, and perseverance are also important qualities that employers will be looking for.

Technical writers must be able to work under pressure because they often have to finish projects quickly in order to meet a deadline or publication date. Knowing how to use electronic publishing programs, graphics, and video production materials is becoming more and more of a requirement, especially of you are looking to work for an online newspaper or magazine. Online publications expect their writers to know how to use computer software that combines online text with graphics, audio, video, and animation. Employers also want their writers to be familiar with wireless communication equipment so that they can always be in contact for emails with last minute reviews and edits.

Most employers want writers with some prior experience. Newspapers produced for a local community, college and school journals and local television and radio stations will give you a leg up on the competition.

How much does a Technical Writer make?

Most technical writers earn between $45,130 and $73,750 per year. In May of 2006 the median annual earning was determined to be $58,050.The lowest ten percent earned $35,520 while the highest ten percent earned $91,720.

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Susan Dakin has been an independent consultant since 1984 and is one of North Carolina's most influential and highly esteemed technical writers. She has had over 20 years of experience in the field and has a PhD in Zoology that she earned from Duke University. While serving on North Carolina's Board of Writer's Network she established the network's Center for Business and Technical Writing and developed a teacher writing program for the center.

Jim Seymour was the founding editor of PC Computing Magazine and had served in his post since 1988. While he recently passed away in 2002 his expertise and knowledge of his field lives on in his two books: Jim Seymour's PC Productivity Bible (1991) and Jim Seymour's On the Road (1992). He was a consultant to Dell Computer in Austin and graduated from the University of Texas.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

The Society for Technical Communications (STC) is organization for individuals and is committed to advancing technical communication in all its guises. It is the biggest organization of its type in the world. Its many thousands of members include people from all branches of the technical communications industry.

What are the top cities for Technical Writing jobs?

The technical writing field is expected to grow at the average speed of all other occupations. It isn't in all that much high demand, but companies and businesses are always looking for writers who can explain to their customers the uses and benefits of their products. There is much competition because there are many people who have the ability and training for this job.

Currently Houston, Pittsburgh, New York, San Diego, and Chicago employ the most technical writers, but work can be found throughout the U.S.

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