Technical writers take complex and technical information and present it in a user-friendly and comprehensive manner. The information is displayed in many different formats such as instruction manuals, how-to guides, online technical documentation, web and social media, and more.
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The educational background of technical writers also called technical communicators, can come from a diverse range of professional backgrounds.
The following is a list of possible education requirements that you may need to become a technical writer.
To be a technical writer, you don't need a specific college degree, but you do need a strong command of the English language. The most sought out education for technical writers is a bachelor's degree in English, Computer Science, Journalism or Communications. There are also many online courses and certifications available. Many technical writers get into the field through other backgrounds, for example, computer science.
Many technical writers do not have a Bachelor's degree in a related field for their technical writer education requirements. Technical writers step into the field with a degree in English, Communications, Journalism, Engineering or Computer Science.
Certification in Technical Writing
There are many online courses and certifications available that can help you polish your technical writing skills. To improve your technical communication skills, you could get a certification in medical writing, creative writing, technical content, journal articles, labor statistics, and so on. With a certification, you can skip extensive continuing education programs while gaining an extensive base of knowledge and tips.
The following are some valuable skills to have as technical writers.
The most crucial skill is writing. Experienced technical writers need to present complex technical ideas in simple words to make them accessible to a wide audience. To acquire good writing skills, you can consider taking a professional course. There are many universities with technical writing accreditation programs.
Another important skill is technical knowledge. Knowledge of a specific technical subject will come in handy when becoming a technical writer. The field of technical writing is very varied, and there are many different areas that you could focus on, depending on your interest. For example, maybe you are interested in coding and want to become an API technical writer. Or you have a background in finance and you want to work for a financial SaaS software company. Some of the most sought technical skills are product development, marketing, project management, programming languages, online technical documentation, and UX design.
Research is a crucial component of technical writing. The technical writer is the bridge between the client and the audience. Research as a technical writer can be divided into two spheres: analyzing the audience and ensuring a seamless user experience. You may also have to research your subject matter and interview developers and project managers when you work on a technical document.
A technical writer is a communicator. When a technical writer starts working on a project, they need to collect as much information as possible. Technical writers work with different team members such as developers, project managers, and engineers to generate cohesive, technical documents.
Analyzing the audience is one of the most essential tasks of a technical writer. It is important to gauge the knowledge base of the audience before you start the documentation. You must understand the target audience, and then understand the level of technical information that needs to be disseminated.
With platforms like LinkedIn, you can join discussion groups and attend networking events to meet connections that could help you get established in the field and provide you with opportunities for your job growth.
Showcase your Work
After you have gained some experience, you should work on your professional portfolio. Start with smaller projects and samples, then move on to more complex projects such as medical writing, and allied scientific communication fields. You should prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, assembly instructions, write grant proposals, and so on. Many technical writing jobs require experience, and a portfolio is a good way to showcase your skills.
Where Do Technical Writers Work?
Technical writers work in many different fields. A few areas where a technical writer may work are:
- Scientific research
- Technical writing companies
There are many companies that hire technical writers on a regular basis. For example, Amazon, Google, Intel, Spotify, and more. You can also take a look in our job hunting section to see current openings. Additionally, places like the American Medical Writers Association or the Society for Technical Communication are always looking for technical writers.
Technical writers work in software companies by communicating between the company and the end-user. They create user guides, release notes, specification guides, and more. They can also be part of UX/UI designs, train junior team members, create company style guides and templates, and more.
Technical writers in the aerospace industry work with aerospace and defence. They develop and maintain documents in compliance with government guidelines to create, for example, documents to support avionics in military aircrafts. If you have a background in the aerospace industry and you are interested in the field, you could consider targeting your career to this industry.
Engineering companies need technical writers to support product descriptions and documentation. A technical writer at an engineering company creates product catalogs, operation manuals, and installation instruction guides.
Scientific Research Companies
Technical writers that can work on science and medical writing are the perfect fit for research laboratories. They compile reports with scientists and research assistants, document data, and more. The field of science writing is vast, and you can find something that is in your technical field.
Technical Writing Companies
There are companies that hire technical writers who produce content for their clients. They assign work to their technical writers based on the workflow of their clients. This may be the best way to start your technical writing career.
Freelance Technical Writing
Freelance technical writers make up a large portion of today's technical writers. As a freelance technical writer, you can take up short-term projects to work on with specific clients. To work as a freelancer, you need a strong portfolio.
Technical writers come from a vast array of backgrounds and experiences. You can use your existing knowledge to jump-start your career in technical writing. By gaining some experience, curating your portfolio, and making some connections you can become a technical writer in a field of your interest.
If you are new to technical writing and are looking to break in, we recommend taking our Technical Writing Certification Course, where you will learn the fundamentals of being a technical writer, how to dominate technical writer interviews, and how to stand out as a technical writing candidate.