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How to Become a Technical Writer

A writer on her laptop
How to get started

What is technical writing?

Seeing the word "technical," one might think technical writing relates to writing codes or a hardcore tech skill. Technical writing is a form of writing that communicates information to users or audiences about a product or service. The purpose is to help the target audience understand the idea behind a product or service and use it to their advantage or solve emergent problems.

The word "technical" means technology introduced into writing. Today, technology is massive and nearly all institutions and industries use technology both in operation and production. Inventors need the means to help users understand their products and use them effectively; what better way than to communicate the products to them?

Technical writing requires a substantial knowledge or familiarity with various kinds of technology, especially documented ones. For instance, if you are writing about a newly released Samsung Galaxy series, you need to understand the features that make it stand out and the problems they solve. Also, how to use the phone and how best users can understand and use it.

Technical writing is purposeful documenting or writing for an audience needing knowledge or information on a specific product, service, or skill. It is not limited to writing alone. It covers all means of communicating a technical subject: pictures, videos, animation, infographics, script, and any other creative means of communicating ideas.

Who are Technical Writers?

Who are Technical Writers?
Technical writers develop easy-to-use documents for end users

Technical writers are user assistants. From the user perspective, technical writers develop and compile relevant technical information and share it through the company's communication channels.

They are intermediaries between inventors and users. Technical writers are public communicators who interpret scientific and technical products initiated by scientists or engineers into words that are easy for a specific audience to read and comprehend.

A technical writer is a translator who breaks technical concepts and complex information into easy-understand. Thus, tech writers are consistent learners. For instance, as a technical writer, you must be eager to learn about technologies as they develop. Suppose a technical writer is to write about deep learning. In that case, the writer must have a piece of higher knowledge about it.

Technical writers are also called technical communicators due to the misconception that technical writing is limited to just the written word. Technical writers adopt visual forms of communication best for their audiences, such as illustrations, diagrams, charts, swim lane process flowcharts, screenshots, photos, slide shows, videos, and others.

A technical writer is part of a team. From the beginning, the writer is part of a project to be intimate with the project and understand all the technical detail and process to produce valid and quality documentation.

A technical writer works with designers, developers, product liability specialists, customer service managers, research scientists, and more to develop relevant technical content. These technical contents are grants, proposals, manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other technical documents that represent complex information to target users.

Although Technical writing is traced back to Aristotle (384–322 BC), the birth of the profession began in 1947 when Joseph Chapline wrote an instruction manual for BINAC Computer. Thus, solving the problem of the need for writers to document how to use computer devices.

By 1953, two organizations emerged - the society of technical writers and the association of technical writers and editors. These two groups are now called a society - Society for Technical Communication. Another authority in the technical writing field is the American medical writer's association.

Who should become a technical writer?

Who should become a technical writer?
Technical writers come from many different backgrounds

Tech writers come from varied educational backgrounds. Statistics from Data USA show that the most common bachelor's degree holders major in English, Biology, and Business administration. At the same time, the most specialized majors are English, Language & Linguistics, and Physical Science. Other significant areas are Communications, Social Sciences, Education, Computer Science, Psychology, Engineering, and others.

In addition, a bachelor's degree in technical communications, scientific writing, or journalism can improve your opportunities for more technical writing jobs. A technical background in software engineering and computer science can help one thrive better in the technical field.

Types of Technical Writing

there are multiple forms of technical writing or technical documents
There are multiple forms of technical writing or technical documents

Traditionally, technical writing scopes were instruction manuals, reports, and journal articles. Today, the technical writing field cut across various industries. Thus, there are multiple forms of technical writing or technical documents. Here are some common types:

End-User Documentation:

These technical documents primarily help users install, use, and troubleshoot a product, such as home appliances, devices, and applications. It also allows users to get the best out of service. End-User Documents are

  • User guides

  • service guides

  • installation guides

  • help

  • FAQ

  • technical support websites

  • reference guide

  • policies

  • procedures

Basic scientific and technical information: These are organized presentations of information or findings from an investigation or a research project. These technical documents are

  • technical reports

  • scientific articles

  • conference presentations

  • infographics

  • book-length projects.

Skill development documentation: These technical documents help the user develop knowledge and skills. These are

  • online tutorials

  • job aids (quick references)

  • materials for use in physical and virtual classrooms.

Technical marketing content:

These are materials such as

  • proposals

  • marketing websites

  • executive summaries

  • white papers

  • catalogs

  • brochures

  • newsletters

Technical Writer Job Outlook and Average Annual Pay

Technical Writer Job Outlook and Average Annual Pay
How much can you make as a technical writer?

There are many different technical writing job postings available in the job market suitable for freelance writers and entry-level technical writers. Technical writing jobs offer technical internships for beginners or experienced technicians as well.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, the employment of technical writers to grow by 12 percent from 2020 to 2030. Thus, faster than the average for all occupations.

Data USA projected 10-year job growth of 7.36% in the number of technical writing jobs, which is more than 3.71%, the average rate of national job growth.

According to glass door pay trajectory, the average salary of a technical writer is:

Technical writer - $78,741 /yr

Senior Technical Writer - $111,587 /yr

Lead Technical Writer - $90,067 /yr

Technical Writing Skills

Technical Writing Skills
Skills technical writers possess

Some essential technical writing skills to develop as aspiring technical writers are:

Research skills: The surest way of developing knowledge and passing the authentic information is the habit of conducting research. Technical writers are knowledge providers. Thus, you must have all-around technical details and other relevant information on the product or service you are writing about.

Organization Skills: writing a technical document requires lots of processes before the actual writing, such as research, collaboration, and planning; thus, it is vital to be able to manage your time and tasks efficiently

Communication Skills: this is a significant skill for simplifying complex technical topics and concepts into simple words. Breaking them into easy-to-understand headings and paragraphs, then linking them to other issues.

Technical writing goes beyond written communication skills that incorporate images, note boxes, lists, diagrams, and other tools to convey technical information. Sometimes technical writers communicate technical knowledge through instructional videos.

In addition, tech writers ensure effective communication and uniformity among teams and stakeholders by providing easy-to-understand documentation such as Business Requirement Document (BRD) and standard operating procedure (SOP).

Detail Skills: attention to detail requires knowing the suitable writing style, correct syntax, and tenses, fact-checking, and adjusting grammatical errors. Detail skills are essential in editing and proofreading technical content before publishing.

Technical Skills: the type of technical skills to develop depends on the subject matter, product or service, and industry in which a technical writer chooses to specialize. For example, tech writers specializing in developing technical content for developers develop basic programming skills.

How to become a technical writer

How to become a technical writer
How to become a technical writer

Understand the technical field and be certain of your interest

Understand the technical field and be certain of your interest
Develop an understanding of the field

There are several types of writing, such as academic writing, business writing, copywriting, and ghostwriting. Technical writing differs from all these forms of writing. Ensure to understand the practical details of technical writing and be confident in building a technical writing career.

Some of the approaches to understanding the field are:

  • Study technical writing job descriptions to note the skills and abilities hiring managers need.

  • Get familiar with the several types of technical writing and technical documents. Look for samples of written instructions on a particular subject in the technical writing niche you are interested in.

  • Connect with industry professionals such as freelance writers or senior technical writers on social media platforms

  • Check out technical writing associations' websites and social media platforms.

Develop necessary skills

Develop necessary skills
Develop relevant skills

Technical writing jobs require skills essential for you to become a successful technical writer. You can learn technical writing skills through online courses and boot camps.

Writing is the heart of technical writing. It is necessary to develop creative writing skills that can attract and impress the users to interact with a product or service.

Read more on skills to get a job.

Take technical writing courses

Take technical writing courses
Take courses to develop your technical writing competencies

One does not necessarily need to get a college degree in technical communication. There are online courses that can help you develop technical writing competencies. Numerous online courses and certifications help you build your career from entry-level technical writer to senior technical writer.

Various technical writing courses on Udemy, Coursera, and Keystone can help you start your technical writing career.

Learn with the right tools for technical writing

Learn with the right tools for technical writing
Get familiar with your tools

A good technical writer knows the right tools to create a technical document.

Some technical writing tools are Confluence, Document 360, Oxygen XML Author, Markdown, Google Docs, Grammarly, Camtasia, Madcap Flare, Doc-To-Help, Adobe Dreamweaver, DITA, Github, and Snagit.

Master the technical writing process

Master the technical writing process
Master the technical writing process

Tech writing requires some steps before you start writing. What determines these steps are the type of project at hand and the team.

  • Identify the needed technical documentation - books, online help, web pages, tutorials, and others.

  • Create a plan for the selected type of technical documentation.

  • Create a project plan. Transform the agenda for the deliverables chosen into tasks and draft a schedule.

  • Design the writing style and structure guide or use the organization's template

  • Create your technical content

  • Create suitable visuals- images, diagrams, videos, illustrations, and others

  • Review, proofreading, and editing

  • Create content index

  • Produce the content

Start writing

Start writing
Just start writing

You do not need to wait till you become a technical writer before you start writing.

Writing skills are essential in technical writing, and the only way to develop this is through consistent practice.

Reading improves your writing skills. Have a reading list of different genres of books and study the mechanics and stylistic choices. It will help you develop your unique writing skills.

Consistent practice helps create writing samples, and you can publish them online to build your portfolio.

Join the technical writing professional association

Join the technical writing professional association
Network with other tech writers

There are numerous technical writer professional associations online you can. It will help you network with professional tech writers in various industries and locations.

A professional network, through networking events, is an opportunity to make yourself visible and sell your talent to recruiters.

Career advice, new knowledge and opportunities for employment, career advancement, and personal growth are some of the benefits of professional networking. Some employments come through personal connections; building relationships increases the chances of receiving introductions to potential employers or a referral.

Work on your resume

Work on your resume
Prepare your resume

While getting ready to become a technical writer, check out job descriptions online for experiences and skills in demand.

A job description will vary from employer to employer. Ensure to tailor your resume to the job description of the company you are applying to.

Technical writing jobs

Technical writer jobs are very much in demand in the job market. Many industries such as Engineering, Sciences, Health and pharmaceuticals, Gaming, Research, Accounting, and Finance need technical writers. You can choose to become a freelance writer or a full-time technical writer.

Freelancing in the technical field is very promising due to the high demand for freelance technical writers. Freelance technical writers may be contracted long-term by a company for a particular project, or they may work with many different clients on a short-term basis.

Medical technical writers

Medical technical writers
Convey research findings, products, devices, medicine and healthcare-related services

Medical technical writers write technical content on research findings, products, devices, and medicine and healthcare-related services. Medical writing takes the form of a user guide, articles, marketing copy, and educational materials.

Medical writers are increasingly in demand due to the need to convey medical procedures and other information to health care professionals and the public.

The average annual salary for a Medical Technical Writer in the United States is $85,107 per year

Technical Editor

Review & explain technical information for a particular audience
Review & explain technical information for a particular audience

A technical editor reviews compiled technical content that explains technical concepts, software and hardware products, or technical information for target users.

A technical editor edits the documentation for completeness, conciseness, grammatical structure and syntax, unity, and integrity, and for the right level of readability for the users.

The average salary of a technical editor in the USA is $82,957 per year.

End-User Documentation Writers

Render user assistance thorough documentation such as user guides
Render user assistance thorough documentation such as user guides

End-User documentation writers are specialists in any form of documentation intended for the end-user of a product or a service.

They render user assistance through thorough documentation such as user guides to help users get the best from a product with the need for customer support.

The focus of an end-user tech writer is to guide the users on how to install, use, and troubleshoot a product properly.

Technical Marketing Content Writer

Create online written content – blogs, articles, e-books, white papers, social media copy, infographic copy, and more.

Technical marketing content writers create technical content providing information on products or services a business or company offers. They do this through online written content – blogs, articles, e-books, white papers, social media copy, infographic copy, and more.

Technical marketing content writers research their audience and engage them through insightful and verifiable content that builds a trusting relationship with the audience. They create a content strategy that helps communicate a topic effectively and achieve desired results.

The average salary of a technical marketing content writer is $57,357 per year.

Technical Report Writer

A technical report writer creates an organized presentation of factual and technical information on an investigation or a research project in a clear and easily accessible format. This type of technical writing requires experience in the field of journalism.

A technical report writer in this niche research, interview, and write articles. The technical writer establishes and maintains relationships with users. Technical writing professionals pursue and investigate product problems and other subject matter.

The average annual salary for a Technical Report Writer in the United States is $56,267.

UX Writer

UX writer plans and creates microcopy texts in apps, websites, and other digital products
Plan and create microcopy texts in apps, websites, and other digital products

A UX writer is part of a design team. They plan and create microcopy texts in apps, websites, and other digital products to help users navigate a product quickly. Microcopy is the content written on the interface of an application or website, such as home, search, sign in, and email texts.

The UX writer creates an experience from the user's perspective. The focus is to provide a quality customer experience for users when using a product.

The average annual pay for a UX Writer in the United States is $61,341 per year

Technical communication consultant

create instruction manuals, user guides, and other supporting documents
Create instruction manuals, user guides, and other supporting documents

Technical communication consultants address the technical writing needs of an organization. They collect and write the necessary information for technical documentation, such as instruction manuals, user guides, and other supporting documents.

Technical communication consultants are well versed in technical writing. Usually, they have previous career experience as Senior Technical writers or Consultants.

The average annual pay for a technical consultant in the United States is $76,432 per year.

Case Study Writing

Describes how a product or service helped users solve problems
Describes how a product or service helped users solve problems

A case study writer creates testimonials about how a product or service helped users solve problems. Case study writing highlights the successes of a product or service in attracting and convincing decision-makers or potential users through a sales cycle.

The average annual salary for a case study writer in the United States is $65,184 per year.

API documentation writing

Document technical content for developers and programmers.

API documentation writers document technical content for developers and programmers. This form of technical writing requires the tech writer to be well versed in programming languages to explain them clearly.

API documentation writing assists developers and programmers in building products and businesses. Developers use the API documentation to set up user verification, payment processing, and customer management tools.

API documentation writing requires a technical background in development or programming.

More technical writing jobs

  • Quality technical writer

  • Technical illustrator writer

  • Finance writer

  • Game rule writer

  • Standard operating procedure writer

  • Technical copywriter

  • Brochure technical writer

Learn more about in-demand tech careers

Closing Thoughts

If technology exists and continues to advance, there will always be a need for technical writers in various industries and institutions. The basic requirement for technical writing jobs is a college degree. There are multiple niches in technical writing that you can fit into depending on your interest and skills.

Technical writing is the key to creating awareness for problem-solving products and services to users and helping them to get the best out of them. Hence, if you aspire to become a technical writer, you aim at a career path centered on making life easier for the end-users. A career path focused on making complex information and processes more uncomplicated for users to understand.

Kick start your dream career in the technical writing field with our boot camp. No Bootcamp prepares you for a technical writing career better than the GoCreate USA Bootcamp.

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