Career Development

What Does a Technical Writer Do?

Find out what a technical writer does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a technical writer.

Technical writers are responsible for creating and maintaining clear, concise documentation that explains how to use a product or service. They write instructions, manuals, and other materials that help people understand how something works.

Technical writers may work on any number of different projects throughout their careers. However, they commonly focus on one specific industry or area of expertise. This allows them to build up an extensive knowledge base in a particular subject area.

Technical Writer Job Duties

A technical writer typically has a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Writing technical manuals, guides, or other documents that describe complex technical processes or procedures
  • Researching topics related to projects in order to understand industry terminology and trends
  • Developing diagrams and illustrations to help explain complex concepts or processes
  • Editing drafts of technical documents for grammar, spelling, punctuation, clarity, and consistency with company standards
  • Reviewing technical materials for accuracy and completeness, identifying any errors or inconsistencies
  • Providing technical support by answering questions or resolving problems posed by customers or users of a company’s products or services
  • Interviewing subject matter experts to gather information about new technologies or processes
  • Writing technical documentation such as user guides or training manuals
  • Developing training materials such as course modules or quizzes

Technical Writer Salary & Outlook

Technical writers’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of company or organization they work for. They may also earn additional compensation in the form of bonuses.

  • Median Annual Salary: $70,100 ($33.7/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $127,500 ($61.3/hour)

The employment of technical writers is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

Demand for technical writing services will stem from the need to communicate complex information clearly and simply. As technology continues to change rapidly, technical writers will be needed to explain how new products and processes work and to write user guides and manuals for them.

Technical Writer Job Requirements

A technical writer typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Technical writers are typically required to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Some companies prefer to hire technical writers with a master’s degree. Technical writing programs are offered by colleges and universities and can be found in the disciplines of English, journalism, computer science and communications.

Training & Experience: Technical writers often receive on-the-job training to learn the specific software and processes of the company. They may also receive training in the specific industry the company works in. For example, a technical writer who works for a technology company may receive training in the latest technology products.

Certifications & Licenses: Technical writers do not need certifications to earn their position. However, some employers may prefer candidates who have certifications. Certifications show a technical writer’s knowledge of a specific program, method, software or industry.

Technical Writer Skills

Technical writers need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication skills: As a technical writer, you communicate with many different people, including other technical writers, subject-matter experts, managers and clients. Your communication skills can help you collaborate with others, share ideas and explain complex topics. Effective communication can also help you build relationships with others and improve your teamwork skills.

Research skills: As a technical writer, you may be required to research topics for your audience. This may include researching the topic you’re writing about or researching to find the best way to explain a complex topic. Your research skills can help you find the information you need to write an informative and engaging document.

Editing and proofreading skills: Technical writers should be able to edit and proofread their work to ensure it’s free of errors and easy to understand. This is especially important if you work with engineers or other professionals who may have a more advanced understanding of the subject matter.

Computer programming skills: Technical writers who have computer programming skills can create computer programs and scripts to illustrate their technical documentation. This can be useful for creating interactive technical documentation that engages the reader.

Project management: As a technical writer, you may be responsible for managing the production of your documents. This may include ensuring that the right people are involved in the process, that the project is on schedule and that everyone is working together effectively. You may also be responsible for managing the budget for your projects.

Technical Writer Work Environment

Technical writers usually work in an office environment, although they may occasionally travel to the customer’s site to gather information or to attend conferences. They typically work a regular 40-hour week, although they may occasionally work overtime to meet deadlines. Technical writers need to be able to work independently, as well as be able to work well with others, such as engineers, scientists, and marketing personnel, to get the information they need. They also need to be able to clearly and concisely communicate complex technical information in writing.

Technical Writer Trends

Here are three trends influencing how technical writers work. Technical writers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Growth of Digital Content

The growth of digital content is a trend that is having a major impact on the publishing industry. As more and more people read content online, publishers are shifting their focus towards creating digital content that can be consumed on tablets and smartphones.

This shift is opening up opportunities for technical writers to work with publishers to create digital versions of their publications. Technical writers who are able to create high-quality digital content will be in high demand as publishers continue to move towards digital publishing.

Content Marketing Becomes More Important

As content marketing becomes more important, technical writers will need to develop skills in this area.

Content marketing involves creating and distributing content that is designed to attract and retain customers. This includes things like blog posts, videos, and social media posts. By developing skills in content marketing, technical writers can help their companies to better connect with potential customers.

More Focus on User Experience (UX) Design

User experience (UX) design is becoming increasingly important in the world of technology. As users become more accustomed to using products that have been carefully designed with their needs in mind, businesses are beginning to realize the importance of hiring professionals who can create great user experiences.

Technical writers can capitalize on this trend by learning how to write about UX design. This will allow them to communicate the value of good design to their employers and clients, and may also lead to opportunities to work on projects where they can directly influence the user experience.

How to Become a Technical Writer

A career as a technical writer can be both rewarding and challenging. It’s important to consider the many facets of this profession before jumping in headfirst.

One of the most important things to consider is the type of writing you want to do. Do you want to write user manuals, white papers, or marketing materials? Each type of writing has its own unique challenges and requirements. User manuals require a strong understanding of how users interact with products; white papers require an extensive knowledge of the subject matter; and marketing materials require a knack for creative writing.

Another important consideration is the industry you want to work in. Some industries have more demand for technical writers than others. If you want to work in the software industry, for example, you’ll need to have a strong understanding of programming languages and coding techniques.

Related: How to Write a Technical Writer Resume

Advancement Prospects

Technical writers typically have a bachelor’s degree in English, communications, or a technical field. They also should have strong writing skills. Some employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree in technical writing or communication.

As with most occupations, technical writers advance with experience. They may move into managerial or supervisory positions, or they may become independent consultants. Some technical writers become technical editors, who review and revise the work of other writers. Others may specialize in a particular field, such as medical writing or writing for the Web.

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