This career does not require a specific college degree. Most technical writers have at least an Associate's Degree. Many have Bachelor's or Master's Degrees. Those technical writers who hold degrees typically majored in English, Journalism, Creative Writing, Computer Science, Engineering, or Chemistry. In addition to English school degrees, many technical writers complete Professional or Technical Writing certificates from accredited institutions. Many universities offer these programs online or through their Continuing Education programs.
The technical writer needs an impeccable command of grammar, spelling, and syntax, and benefits from editing and indexing courses. Some technical writers are former lawyers, teachers, or technical professionals. Essentially, the writer teaches the audience, so educators make excellent technical writers. A lawyer is trained to research and present facts, which translates well into technical writing.
Technical writers are not necessarily computer experts, but they do need to be well versed in technology, especially emerging concepts and products. Technology is constantly changing and evolving, so technical writers must keep their skills up-to-date.
Inexperienced technical writers should emphasize any type of writing experience on their resumes. For example, present college essays or newspaper articles as writing samples to a prospective employer. A new graduate who hopes to become a technical writer should also emphasize knowledge of technology.
The technical writer routinely interacts with many different types of people, for example: Clients; project managers; editors; graphic artists; Web designers; Subject Matter Experts (SMEs); photographers; accountants; engineers; marketers; and programmers. Sometimes, a technical writer must pilot teach a course to a test audience to debug a textbook. Therefore, the successful technical writer must have strong interpersonal, communication, organizational and timekeeping skills.
Although the technical writer performs the actual writing alone, he or she often interviews people and attends team meetings. Remember, the tech writer requires the input of others to create quality work. The technical writer must be able to elicit cooperation and must be responsive to the needs of others.
The technical writer must gracefully accept constructive criticism from the editor and client. Rewrites and deadlines are routine parts of the job. A successful tech writer has a "thick skin" when reading reviews of his or her work and strives for continuous quality improvement.
A junior technical writer seldom gets a private office. The successful tech writer has good concentration and is able to block out the disruptions of a busy office.
Last Updated: 07/29/2014