Technical Writer Education Requirements
A technical writer takes complex and technical information and presents it in a user-friendly, comprehensive manner. In their role, a technical writer communicates information in many different formats such as manuals, guides, online documentation, social media, and more.
Technical writers—also called technical communicators—come from a range of professional backgrounds. If you're interested in learning about the education requirements to become a technical writer via video, then watch below. Otherwise, skip ahead to the list.
If you want to become 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 a technical writer is a bachelor’s degree in English, Computer Science, Journalism, or Communications. There are also many online courses and certifications available.
A technical writer will often get into the field through other backgrounds. Many technical writers do not have a bachelor’s degree in their field of emphasis. Technical writers step into the field with a degree in English, Communications, Journalism, Engineering, or Computer Science.
Technical Writing Certifications
There are many online courses and certifications available that can help you polish your technical writing. To improve your technical communication, you could get a certification in medical writing, creative writing, technical content, journal articles, and labor statistics. With a certification, you can skip extensive continuing education programs while gaining a base of knowledge.
The following are some prequalifications that help a technical writer begin their career and excel in their role for major industries like aerospace, research, and computer science:
An experienced technical writer needs to present complex technical ideas in simple words to make them accessible to a wide audience. To acquire good writing ability, you can consider taking a professional course. There are many universities with technical writing accreditation programs.
Another important prerequisite 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 interests.
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 knowledge 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. A technical writer works with many teams such as developers, project managers, and engineers to generate cohesive, technical documents.
Analyzing the audience is one of the most essential tasks as technical communicators. It is important to gauge the knowledge base of the audience before you start any documentation or communications. You must understand the target audience, and then understand the level of technical information that needs to be disseminated.
Among their technical skills, a technical writer must also have a personable approach. 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 job growth.
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 health writing and 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 knowledge.
Where Do Technical Writers Work?
A technical writer works in many different fields, including:
- Scientific research
- Technical writing companies
Many companies hire technical writers regularly. 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 in aerospace and defense. They develop and maintain documents in compliance with government guidelines on avionics in military planes for example. If you have a background in the aerospace industry, and you are interested in the field, you could consider targeting your career.
Engineering companies need technical writers to support product descriptions and online technical documentation. A technical writer at an engineering company creates product catalogs, operation manuals, installation instructions, and more. They digest complex and technical information to distill it into a clear message.
Scientific Research Companies
Technical writers work on science and medical writing 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
Some companies hire technical writers who produce content for their clients. They assign work to their technical writers based on the workflow of their clients. This is one way that many technical writers begin their careers.
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 experience, curating samples, and making 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.
Josh is the founder of Technical Writer HQ and Squibler, a writing software. He is considered one of the top product influencers in the world by Product School and one of the top technical writers. He has been writing software tutorials, manuals, handbooks, and white papers for over eight years. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.