Technical writing is perhaps one of the most lucrative options for those Lawrentians that wish to write for a living. Broadly speaking, technical writing is the act of taking complex technical information and simplifying it so that a broad audience can quickly comprehend the information. In this sense, technical writing is akin to bridgebuilding, in which the technical writer works to connect the layperson to the expert by allowing the layperson to effortlessly navigate a chasm that would otherwise take years of education or experience to cross. To learn more about technical writing, click this link!
Kinds of Technical Writing
Technical writing, as the name perhaps implies, is found primarily in industries that are technical in nature. Yet in practice, this broad definition assumes many different forms. Here are some common examples of jobs that one can expect a technical writer to be doing:
- User Experience: User experience technical writing typically sees the technical writer writing answers to common questions about a given software either within the software platform itself, or on a messaging board typically managed by the company. A good example of user experience technical writing can be found in Microsoft Word when one clicks “help.” All answers in the “help” tab are written by a technical writer.
- Academic Writing: Academia is one of the most jargon-rich industries in the world. Because of this, technical writers can often be found collaborating with researchers to explain research methodologies and results in a manner that can be understood by the regular public.
- Instructions: When purchasing a new dishwasher, or car, or really any other product, they tend to come with written instructions on how one can use/maintain/repair the given product. It is the technical writer that is responsible for creating this content, which ideally conveys all relevant information to the user in as efficient a manner as possible.
The list of jobs that a technical writer can be found doing seems to be nearly endless, so if you’re interested in technical writing but not interested in one of the three iterations of technical writing, I would recommend following this link to a blog post by freelance writer Elna Cain, who does a wonderful job highlighting the variety of jobs that technical writers can be found doing (Cain).
Requirements for Technical Writing
Technical writers, as the name implies, must have strong writing skills. Additionally, however, it is important for technical writers to have a deep understanding of the subject about which they are writing. Without an understanding of how an airplane functions, for example, it would be impossible for a writer to write documentation that will help the pilot better fly and land their plane (M.). Thus, many technical writers have an academic background in the subject they are writing about, or at least considerable experience working with the product. It is not expected that a technical writer has as much knowledge as the individual responsible for creating whatever the technical writer is writing about, however, the writer must be able to work well with others to gain a deeper understanding of the subject of their work. Finally, it is typically expected that technical writers have a college degree of some sort. Although it is certainly better if that degree is in a writing-intensive major or a major that pertains to the industry/subject for which they are writing.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the technical writing field is expected to grow by 12% in the coming decade (“Technical Writers”). Technical writers often work for companies; however, many also work as freelancers for smaller businesses that don’t have the need for a full-time writer. The median pay for technical writers in 2020 was $74,650 per year, making it one of the most well-paying writing jobs.
Jonathan is a Third Year German and Government major. He works as a Peer Educator to assist students in the CJW and GLI career communities. In addition to professional development, Jonathan is interested in the cultural construction of the modern nation-state, normative constraints on rational behavior, and all things German. You can schedule an appointment with him here to improve your resume, learn more about the CJW and GLI career opportunities, and work on anything else professional development-related.
Cain, Elna. “27 Technical Writing Jobs for Beginners.” Elna Cain, 4 May 2020, https://elnacain.com/blog/technical-writing-jobs/.
M., Saad. “What Is Technical Writing?” ContentWriters Blog, 30 June 2020, https://contentwriters.com/blog/what-is-technical-writing/.
“Technical Writers : Occupational Outlook Handbook: : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Media-and-Communication/Technical-writers.htm. Accessed 6 Oct. 2021.