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Documentation Specialist vs. Technical Writer: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Documentation specialists and technical writers are both professionals who create content for use in various settings. The main difference between these two roles is the type of content they produce. Documentation specialists typically create user manuals and guides, while technical writers produce articles, tutorials and other forms of documentation. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between documentation specialists and technical writers, and we provide tips for those interested in pursuing a career in either field.

What is a Documentation Specialist?

A Documentation Specialist is responsible for creating and maintaining accurate and up-to-date documentation for a company’s products, services and processes. They work with subject matter experts to gather information and create comprehensive documentation that is easy to understand and follow. Documentation Specialists use different authoring tools to develop different types of documentation, such as user guides, installation guides, online help files and training materials. They also work with different teams to ensure that the documentation meets the needs of all stakeholders.

What is a Technical Writer?

Technical Writers create user manuals, how-to guides, assembly instructions and other types of documentation to help people understand and use complex products or systems. They often work closely with product developers, engineers and other technical experts to gather accurate information. Technical Writers use their strong writing and editing skills to translate complex technical information into clear and concise language that non-experts can understand. They also use visual aids, such as diagrams and charts, to make complex information more accessible. Technical Writers typically have a background in a specific field, such as engineering, computer science or medicine.

Documentation Specialist vs. Technical Writer

Here are the main differences between a documentation specialist and a technical writer.

Job Duties

Technical writers create documentation for internal or external use. They may write user guides, installation guides, reference materials and troubleshooting documents. The documents they create are designed to help users understand how to use a product effectively.

Documentation specialists work with technical writers to ensure that the written materials created for a product are accurate and complete. Their job duties include conducting research, interviewing stakeholders and editing documents. While technical writers typically create the initial documents, documentation specialists provide feedback throughout the writing process to ensure quality.

Job Requirements

Documentation specialists and technical writers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in English, communications or another related field. Some employers prefer candidates to have a master’s degree as well, but it is not required for entry-level positions. Additionally, many documentation specialists and technical writers pursue certifications through the Society for Technical Communication (STC). These programs offer training that teaches professionals how to use different writing software and other tools they might need on the job.

Work Environment

Documentation specialists and technical writers often work in different environments. Technical writers may work in an office setting, but they also have the opportunity to travel to meet with clients or attend conferences. They may also work from home if they’re self-employed. Documentation specialists usually work in an office environment, but some companies allow them to work remotely.


Both documentation specialists and technical writers use writing skills in their jobs. They also both need to be able to understand complex information and be detail-oriented. However, there are some key differences in the specific skills each position uses.

Documentation specialists typically use editing and proofreading skills to revise documents for clarity, conciseness and accuracy. They may also use desktop publishing software to format documents. Technical writers usually create original content from scratch and may use graphic design skills to create visuals that accompany their writing, like charts or infographics.

Both of these positions require research skills. Documentation specialists often research to update existing documents with new information. Technical writers may also research as they develop new content, but they may also interview subject matter experts to gain insights and understanding about the topic they are writing about.


The average salary for a documentation specialist is $55,264 per year, while the average salary for a technical writer is $81,518 per year. The average salary for both positions may vary depending on the size of the company, the location of the job and the level of experience the employee has prior to taking the position.


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