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Writing Guide with Handbook

6.8 Spotlight on … Technical Writing as a Career

Writing Guide with Handbook6.8 Spotlight on … Technical Writing as a Career

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe technical writing as a career path.
  • Explore the field of technical writing in greater depth.

If you like science and technical fields and you like to write, you may want to explore technical writing as a career path. Technical writers usually have a degree in English, journalism, or communication. Often, they also have knowledge, college coursework, or a degree in a specialized field such as computer science, engineering, medicine, biology, agriculture, and other technical fields, such as manufacturing, construction, welding, and plumbing; however, companies will usually train technical writers on the subject needed and the style in which the writers they employ need to write.

A student sits at a table in front of a laptop computer. The student holds a pen in their right hand. A plant, computer mouse, and notebook rest on the table.
Figure 6.9 Technical writers create a variety of content, including texts such as detailed procedural guides and various government publications. Though technical writers often face tight deadlines, they usually have flexibility in their working environments. (credit: “Woman working behind computer” by Pxhere/Wikimedia Commons, CC0)

Although the work varies depending on the industry, organization, and specific position, technical writers typically perform the following tasks:

  • Create content. Technical writers create an array of documents, such as product information, operating and assembly instructions, “how-to” and “owner’s” manuals, technical documentation, business proposals (solicited and unsolicited), lists of frequently asked questions (FAQs), grant proposals, and journal articles. (For more on how to write a business proposal, which contains specific sections that often are not included in an academic proposal paper, see the OpenStax Business Communications text.)
  • Research. Technical writers conduct research to gather the information they need to write accurate, professional, and helpful content.
  • Edit. Technical writers edit and standardize content prepared by other writers in their organization.
  • Adapt content for multiple platforms. Technical writers create paper-based and digital content, using text, graphics, images, sound, and video to be distributed across different platforms, including an organization’s website and social media.

In addition, technical writers develop and use the following skills:

  • Writing. Technical writers spend extended periods of time in front of a computer writing complicated information in clear and concise language.
  • Audience awareness. Technical writers are highly aware of the audience for their writing. They plan, organize, and distribute the content they create with their readers, viewers, and users in mind.
  • Communication and collaboration. Technical writers typically work on teams and collaborate with technical experts, coworkers, and clients.
  • Problem-solving. Technical writers often need to figure out how something works in order to write documents their audience can understand.
  • Time management. Technical writers often work on multiple projects with tight deadlines. Setting priorities to keep projects on track is a key skill.

To learn more about technical writing as a career, including average pay, employment outlook, and more, see the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. You can also read job descriptions and search for internship opportunities at job sites such as Indeed, Monster, or Snagajob.

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