Technical writers communicate complex technical information in a way that is easy to understand. They generate instruction manuals, appendices, journal articles, maintenance procedures and other support documents for a product line.
They consult with designers and developers and may also observe manufacturing processes or product experimentation. They create material that is tailored to a specific group, like consumers or sales departments, or useful to the widest audience possible.
Duties and responsibilities
- Consult with design and production staff; observe manufacturing or experimentation processes
- Determine the needs of technical documentation users; select appropriate tone and medium
- Organise information and complete assignments according to writing standards and company guidelines
- Maintain files of work and revisions
- Create or select photographs, diagrams, charts and other illustrations to enhance documentation
- Edit, improve and standardise contributions from other writers and personnel
- Collaborate with technical staff to make products and instructions easier to use
- Collect user feedback to improve or add to documentation
- Track developments in production and industry to evaluate need for updating existing materials
- Assist in layouts for publication and facilitate distribution to users,/li>
- Create and maintain online help indexes, FAQs and other product information
Skills and knowledge
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS
Some nights and weekends
Most technical writers work full time in an office environment. Some work freelance, either self-employed or for a writing or consulting firm. You may need to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines.
Over a third of technical writers are employed by scientific, medical or technical services. Many jobs are available in scientific and technical research epicentres, like those in California and Texas. In addition to consulting with technical staff, you may observe production, development or experimentation in manufacturing plants or labs.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Bachelor’s degree in English or communications
Employers typically prefer technical writers with a bachelor's degree in English, communications or a related field. They may also require additional knowledge of a specific technical subject like engineering, medicine or computer science. Technical writers may receive on-the-job training, including shadowing more experienced writers before contributing to a project.
The Society for Technical Communication (STC) offers certification for technical writers. The American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) offers continuing education and certification for medical writing. Though not required, certification can help you establish your knowledge and stand out from other job candidates.
Technical writers may begin as specialists or research assistants in a particular field. Excelling at communication skills can help you progress to a primary role as technical writer for that department or the entire organisation. Other writers begin at an entry-level job, receive training, and eventually gain enough experience to helm their own projects.
Specialised education in your field and certification can help you land better jobs or advance in your current one. Experienced technical writers typically move up to more complex projects and supervisory roles. Larger companies may offer better opportunities to advance and work on more lucrative projects.
Freelance writers often work on a greater variety of assignments and have more control over their schedule and workload. Quality results can lead to repeat business from clients as well as referrals.