Writing Careers 5 – Technical Writing

Posted on February 14th, 2013 by

By E. W.  2-14-13

            If you see writing as part of your future, but would also like to keep a hand in technology, medicine, or environmental protocols, perhaps you should look into the field of technical writing. According to the Society for Technical Communication, technical writing is defined as have one of three of these characteristics. One, it communicates about specialized or technical topics. Two, it communicates by using technology, such as help files on a computer or web pages. Or three, it provides instructions to aid the consumer to do something regardless of the consumer’s background in that area (any manual you have ever read-or ignored).
            Becoming a technical writer, or technical communicator, means that you must have skill sets in several areas. First, you must be a good writer. The very point of your writing is often to make sense of something that is confusing to the general population. To ease frustration, your writing must bridge a gap in as clear and concise way as possible (because, let’s be honest, who enjoys reading lengthy manuals?). Completing a major, or at least a minor, in English will show employers you know how to write coherently and to an audience. Secondly, you must have a firm background in what you are writing about. If you hope to write about the medical field, it would be logical to major or minor in chemistry or biology. Likewise, if you want your writing to focus on computers or other technology, consider computer science.
            Gustie alum Molly Dueber ’93 has worked as technical communicator writing websites and works on social media outlets. She has done everything from writing manuals to job aids that help people with computers. Just as technical writers help to develop websites and create manuals, they may also play a part in technical editing, visual design, or technical illustrating.
            Because of the wide range of jobs classified under technical writer, it is difficult to pinpoint a specific salary. However, the average is about $61,000 a year. As for education, while most employers do not look for anything over a bachelor’s, it is important to keep in mind the background you will need to write well and competently about a given topic. Specializing in something might not be a bad idea, but it also might require two more years of school.
            Technical writing will continue to grow as our world becomes more dependent on technology. And as long as there is technology, there will always be a need for people to make sense of all the little switches, buttons, and wires. 


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