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Technical or Copy Writer

Job Outlook: 8% (Faster than average)

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What Technical Writers Do About this section

Technical writers
Technical writers often create diagrams to show users how a product works.

Technical writers, also called technical communicators, prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily. They also develop, gather, and disseminate technical information through an organization’s communications channels.

Duties

Technical writers typically do the following:

  • Determine the needs of users of technical documentation
  • Study product samples and talk with product designers and developers
  • Work with technical staff to make products and instructions easier to use
  • Write or revise supporting content for products
  • Edit material prepared by other writers or staff
  • Incorporate animation, graphs, illustrations, or photographs to increase users’ understanding of the material
  • Select appropriate medium, such as manuals or videos, for message or audience 
  • Standardize content across platforms and media
  • Collect user feedback to update and improve content

Technical writers create paper-based and digital operating instructions, how-to manuals, assembly instructions, and “frequently asked questions” pages to help technical support staff, consumers, and other users within a company or an industry. After a product is released, technical writers also may work with product liability specialists and customer-service managers to improve the end-user experience through product design changes.

Technical writers often work with computer hardware engineers, computer support specialists, and software developers to manage the flow of information among project workgroups during development and testing. Therefore, technical writers must be able to understand and discuss complex information with people of diverse occupational backgrounds.

Technical writers may serve on teams that conduct usability studies to improve product design. Technical writers may research topics through visits to libraries and websites, discussions with technical specialists, and observation.

Technical writers are also responsible for managing the consistency of technical content and its use across departments including product development, manufacturing, marketing, and customer relations.

Some technical writers help write grant proposals for research scientists and institutions.

Increasingly, technical information is delivered online and through social media. Technical writers use the interactive technologies of the Web and social media to blend text, graphics, multidimensional images, sound, and video.

Work Environment About this section

Technical writers
Technical writers usually work in offices.

Technical writers held about 55,400 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of technical writers were as follows:

Professional, scientific, and technical services 36%
Manufacturing 13
Administrative and support services 9
Publishing industries (except Internet) 6

Most technical writers work full time. They routinely work with engineers and other technology experts to manage the flow of information throughout an organization.

Although most technical writers are employed directly by the companies that use their services, some freelance and are paid per assignment. Freelancers are either self-employed or work for a technical consulting firm and are given short-term or recurring assignments, such as writing about a new product.

Technical writing jobs are usually concentrated in locations with a multitude of information technology or scientific and technical research companies, such as ones in California and Texas.

Work Schedules

Technical writers may be expected to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines.

How to Become a Technical Writer About this section

Technical writers
Some technical writers work on a freelance basis.

Technical writers typically need a bachelor's degree to enter the occupation. In addition, knowledge of or experience with a technical subject, such as science or engineering, is beneficial.

Education

Employers generally prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in English, communications, journalism, or a related field. Technical writing jobs may require candidates to have knowledge of a technical field, such as engineering or computer and information technology.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some technical writers begin their careers as specialists or research assistants in a technical field. They eventually develop technical communication skills and assume primary responsibilities for technical writing. In small firms, entry-level technical writers may work on projects right away; in large companies, beginning technical writers may shadow experienced writers and interact with specialists before being assigned projects.

Training

Many technical writers need short-term on-the-job training to adapt their narrative style to a descriptive style of writing.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some associations, including the Society for Technical Communication, offer certification for technical writers. In addition, the American Medical Writers Association offers extensive continuing education programs and certificates in medical writing. These certificates are available to professionals in the medical and scientific communication fields.

Although not mandatory, these credentials demonstrate competence and professionalism, making candidates more attractive to employers. A professional credential also may increase a technical writer’s opportunities for advancement.

Advancement

Prospects for advancement generally include working on projects that are more complex and leading or training junior staff.

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. Technical writers must be able to simplify complex, technical information for colleagues and consumers who have nontechnical backgrounds.

Detail oriented. Technical writers create instructions for others to follow. As a result, they must be precise about every step.

Imagination. Technical writers must think about a procedure or product as if they are someone who does not have technical knowledge.

Teamwork. Technical writers must be able to work well with other writers, designers, editors, illustrators, and the technical workers whose procedure or product they are explaining.

Technical skills. Technical writers must be able to understand complex information. Technical writers may benefit from a background in fields such as engineering or science.

Writing skills. Technical communicators must have excellent writing skills to be able to explain technical information clearly.

Pay About this section

Technical Writers

Median annual wages, May 2021

Technical writers

$78,060

Media and communication workers

$62,340

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for technical writers was $78,060 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $48,890, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $125,010.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for technical writers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Professional, scientific, and technical services $80,150
Administrative and support services 77,940
Manufacturing 77,390
Publishing industries (except Internet) 75,710

Technical writers may be expected to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines. Most work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Technical Writers

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Technical writers

6%

Media and communication workers

5%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Employment of technical writers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 5,400 openings for technical writers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

As product innovation continues, technical writers will be needed to convert complex information into a format that nontechnical users of these products understand. The continuing expansion of scientific and technical products and growth in digital product support needs will drive employment demand for these writers.

Employment projections data for technical writers, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Technical writers

27-3042 55,400 58,400 6 3,100 Get data

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