Technical writing is the art of communicating technical concepts in manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, instructional documents, and other support resources. Pursuing a career as a technical writer is a full time job, with median annual wage of $78,060 as of May 2021. Technical writers are in demand for a variety of industries, including computer, science, medicine, management, and more, which is why the demand for technical writers is projected to grow 12% from 2020 to 2030.
If you’re considering this path, you’d need to develop key skills to get qualified in the field. Typically, technical writers need a bachelor’s degree to enter the field, as they have to translate complex, extensive information into simpler terms so the intended audience can take the desired action. Much like with technical job interviews, applying for a role as a technical writer requires plenty of preparation. You need to be confident and knowledgeable to succeed. Here are three steps for beginning your career as a technical writer:
Build your credentials
Ideally, technical writers should have a degree in technical communications, scientific writing, or journalism to attract the attention of recruiters. Degrees like liberal studies, which usually have intensive English courses designed to help you write across disciplines, are also preferred for a solid academic background. Beyond your college degree, you would also need to undergo technical writing courses in computer science, data science, physics, or engineering to strengthen your professional profile.
You can opt to pursue additional certification through the Society for Technical Communication (STC), which offers three-tiered certification programs. The American Medical Writers’ Association (AMWA) likewise hosts training sessions if you want to specialize in medical writing. Certification would be good if you want to hone your skills and become more credible in the field.
Develop your industry knowledge
There is always something new going on in various fields around the world, so you would need to stay abreast of industry trends, advancements, scientific research, and new technologies to support your existing knowledge. It’s important to read extensively to enrich your vocabulary, and discover best practices for creating user manuals, white papers, or business plans. If possible, talk to professionals in relevant technical fields; this can be your network for advice, interviews, and opportunities to be a contributor.
Often, technical writers need to produce content for online platforms or websites, so it helps to familiarize yourself with coding languages and web development. Aside from research, technical writers should test products or platforms themselves. In one study on video game documentation, students were assigned to do a technical writing assignment on Minecraft for designing and documenting interactive learning environments. They were challenged to balance the critical awareness of the technical features with an understanding of how said features affect user experience. Evidently, technical writers must continue to pursue knowledge for accurate and effective communication.
Improve your writing capabilities
Technical writing skills are vital for many professionals in STEM, but they are admittedly difficult to master. Research on technical writing by engineering students saw that those with little previous experience in this style struggled with the task of writing. So, they were required to prepare 800-word reports after an experimental laboratory and include written reflection in the work. With feedback, practice, and self-regulation, the students were able to improve their capabilities.
Most writers — technical or not — are concerned with basic grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structures, yes. However, they are also constantly developing their skills in outlining, editing, and designing content. Technical writers face an even bigger challenge with complex terminology and jargon. For those working in a specific niche, you’d also have to familiarize yourself with the tone, style, and content appearance common to documents in that niche.
Remember, technical writing is a process of conveying views, instructions, and suggestions logically and technically. Everything must be honed to a fine point, so the writing can accomplish what it sets out to do.
Written exclusively for ReviewNPrep.com – By Allie Cooper