Technical writers are the men and women that compile instruction manuals, user guides, scientific documentation, and industry analyses. Usually employed in computer and science-related fields, technical writers use simple and concise language to communicate complex ideas in layman’s terms. An English or journalism degree is usually a must in this field; most employers favor applicants who have additional experience in a technical field. Most technical writers are employed full-time by a specific firm, though some find success with freelance assignments. The field is expected to continue to grow in the next ten years, as web-based product support becomes increasingly popular and more companies expand into scientific and technical fields.
There is no clearly defined path for becoming a technical writer. Some writers are journalists for several years, writing scientific articles before changing career paths; others work as research assistants in laboratories. Employers should examine an applicant's previous work history to see if his or her background is compatible with that particular company. Diverse skill-sets are also a plus; an applicant who can, for example, code or understand chemical processes can be a huge asset. Some on-the-job training is standard for getting a writer accustomed to a new field.
With technical writing, written comprehension and expression are of the utmost importance, as is the ability to learn, process and apply new information. Employers can assess these abilities with the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT), a short cognitive aptitude test that measures an individual's reasoning and critical thinking abilities, verbal and math skills, and learning ability, all traits linked to job success. Companies may also wish to make sure that technical writers are fluent with Microsoft Word or other applicable word-processing programs by administering tests, such as the Microsoft Word test, to assess knowledge in this area.
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Rank in HireSelect:
139 out of 1,100
Median wage in U.S.:
Expected growth rate 2016-2026:
Number employed (2016): 52,400
Education level of Technical Writers: