Technical writers work in most industries: Engineering, finance, government, entertainment, education, medicine, electronics, manufacturing, and any other field that utilizes technical documentation. Technical writers prepare both common documents that are universal for any industry and highly specialized projects. Examples of the publications that technical writers make are user manuals, reference guides, online Help files, policies and procedures (P&P), and product inserts.
Some technical writers choose to work as freelance contractors. Others work on-site at corporations as employees. There are pros and cons to both of these work situations. Generally, contractors enjoy greater tax deductions and less direct supervision, whereas employees enjoy insurance and pension benefits and more stability. The department in which a technical writer works may be called Document Management, Information Architecture, Publications, User Assistance, Information Development, or a similar name. The technical writer's actual job title might be content developer, documentation specialist, API writer, or a similar name.
The education and training requirements for technical writers varies according to their specific jobs and industries. For example, a pharmaceutical writer has a very different skill set than a robotic engineering writer. Technical writers rely on interviews with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to supply them with highly specialized technical information. However, technical writers must understand their industry's terminology (jargon) well, and must recognize the tools of the trade and the normal workflow pattern.
Technical writers share a common language and a set of standards for their industry. Professional organizations that support and advocate for technical writers include: Society for Technical Communication; Association for Business Communication; Intecom; IEEE Professional Communication Society; and MITWA (Mentors, Indexers, Technical Writers & Associates).
The outlook for technical writing is bright. Our mechanized society requires technical writers to facilitate the use of technology. Technical writers have high earning potential if they are willing to dedicate themselves to the craft.
Last Updated: 08/20/2013