Summary

technical writers image
Technical writers routinely work with other technology experts.
Quick Facts: Technical Writers
2018 Median Pay $71,850 per year
$34.54 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation Less than 5 years
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2016 52,400
Job Outlook, 2016-26 11% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 5,700

What Technical Writers Do

Technical writers, also called technical communicators, prepare documents to communicate complex information more easily.

Work Environment

Most technical writers work full time. Although technical writers work in a variety of industries, they are concentrated in the computer and management, scientific, and technical industries.

How to Become a Technical Writer

A college degree is usually required for a position as a technical writer. In addition, knowledge of or experience with a technical subject, such as science or engineering, is beneficial.

Pay

The median annual wage for technical writers was $71,850 in May 2018.

Job Outlook

Employment of technical writers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will be driven by the continuing expansion of scientific and technical products. An increase in Web-based product support should also increase demand for technical writers. Job opportunities, especially for applicants with technical skills, are expected to be good.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for technical writers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of technical writers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about technical writers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Technical Writers Do About this section

Technical writers
Technical writers often create diagrams to show users how a product works.

Technical writers, also called technical communicators, prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily. They also develop, gather, and disseminate technical information through an organization’s communications channels.

Duties

Technical writers typically do the following:

  • Determine the needs of users of technical documentation
  • Study product samples and talk with product designers and developers
  • Work with technical staff to make products and instructions easier to use
  • Write or revise supporting content for products
  • Edit material prepared by other writers or staff
  • Incorporate animation, graphs, illustrations, or photographs to increase users’ understanding of the material
  • Select appropriate medium, such as manuals or videos, for message or audience 
  • Standardize content across platforms and media
  • Collect user feedback to update and improve content

Technical writers create paper-based and digital operating instructions, how-to manuals, assembly instructions, and “frequently asked questions” pages to help technical support staff, consumers, and other users within a company or an industry. After a product is released, technical writers also may work with product liability specialists and customer-service managers to improve the end-user experience through product design changes.

Technical writers often work with computer hardware engineers, computer support specialists, and software developers to manage the flow of information among project workgroups during development and testing. Therefore, technical writers must be able to understand and discuss complex information with people of diverse occupational backgrounds.

Technical writers may serve on teams that conduct usability studies to improve product design. Technical writers may research topics through visits to libraries and websites, discussions with technical specialists, and observation.

Technical writers are also responsible for managing the consistency of technical content and its use across departments including product development, manufacturing, marketing, and customer relations.

Some technical writers help write grant proposals for research scientists and institutions.

Increasingly, technical information is delivered online and through social media. Technical writers use the interactive technologies of the Web and social media to blend text, graphics, multidimensional images, sound, and video.

Work Environment About this section

Technical writers
Technical writers usually work in offices.

Technical writers held about 52,400 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of technical writers were as follows:

Professional, scientific, and technical services 39%
Manufacturing 15
Publishing industries (except Internet) 9
Administrative and support services 8

Most technical writers work full time. They routinely work with engineers and other technology experts to manage the flow of information throughout an organization.

Although most technical writers are employed directly by the companies that use their services, some freelance and are paid per assignment. Freelancers are either self-employed or work for a technical consulting firm and are given short-term or recurring assignments, such as writing about a new product.

Technical writing jobs are usually concentrated in locations with a multitude of information technology or scientific and technical research companies, such as ones in California and Texas.

Work Schedules

Technical writers may be expected to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines.

How to Become a Technical Writer About this section

Technical writers
Some technical writers work on a freelance basis.

A college degree is usually required for a position as a technical writer. In addition, knowledge of or experience with a technical subject, such as science or engineering, is beneficial.

Education

Employers generally prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in English or another communications-related subject. Technical writing jobs may require candidates to have both a degree and knowledge of a technical field, such as engineering, computer science, or medicine.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some technical writers begin their careers as specialists or research assistants in a technical field. They eventually develop technical communication skills and assume primary responsibilities for technical writing. In small firms, entry-level technical writers may work on projects right away; in large companies, beginning technical writers may shadow experienced writers and interact with specialists before being assigned projects.

Training

Many technical writers need short-term on-the-job training to adapt their narrative style to a descriptive style of writing.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some associations, including the Society for Technical Communication, offer certification for technical writers. In addition, the American Medical Writers Association offers extensive continuing education programs and certificates in medical writing. These certificates are available to professionals in the medical and scientific communication fields.

Although not mandatory, these credentials demonstrate competence and professionalism, making candidates more attractive to employers. A professional credential also may increase a technical writer’s opportunities for advancement.

Advancement

Prospects for advancement generally include working on projects that are more complex and leading or training junior staff.

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. Technical writers must be able to simplify complex, technical information for colleagues and consumers who have nontechnical backgrounds.

Detail oriented. Technical writers create instructions for others to follow. As a result, they must be precise about every step.

Imagination. Technical writers must think about a procedure or product as if they are someone who does not have technical knowledge.

Teamwork. Technical writers must be able to work well with other writers, designers, editors, illustrators, and the technical workers whose procedure or product they are explaining.

Technical skills. Technical writers must be able to understand complex information. Technical writers may benefit from a background in fields such as engineering or science.

Writing skills. Technical communicators must have excellent writing skills to be able to explain technical information clearly.

Pay About this section

Technical Writers

Median annual wages, May 2018

Technical writers

$71,850

Media and communication workers

$57,530

Total, all occupations

$38,640

 

The median annual wage for technical writers was $71,850 in May 2018. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $43,110, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $114,930.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for technical writers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Manufacturing $74,190
Publishing industries (except Internet) 74,020
Professional, scientific, and technical services 72,900
Administrative and support services 71,570

Technical writers may be expected to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines. Most work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Technical Writers

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Technical writers

11%

Total, all occupations

7%

Media and communication workers

6%

 

Employment of technical writers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.

The continuing expansion of scientific and technical products and growth in Web-based product support will drive employment demand for technical writers. Growth and change in the high-technology and electronics industries will result in a greater need for those who can write instruction manuals and communicate information clearly to users.

Professional, scientific, and technical services firms are expected to continue to grow rapidly and should be a good source of new jobs even as the occupation finds acceptance in a broader range of industries.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities, especially for applicants with technical skills, are expected to be good. The growing reliance on technology and the increasing demand for complex medical and scientific information will create many new job opportunities for technical writers.

In addition, the need to replace workers who retire over the coming decade will result in some job openings. However, there will be competition among freelance technical writers.

Employment projections data for technical writers, 2016-26
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Technical writers

27-3042 52,400 58,100 11 5,700 xlsx

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of technical writers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2018 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Computer hardware engineers

Computer Hardware Engineers

Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers.

Bachelor's degree $114,600
Computer programmers

Computer Programmers

Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly. They turn the program designs created by software developers and engineers into instructions that a computer can follow.

Bachelor's degree $84,280
Editors

Editors

Editors plan, review, and revise content for publication.

Bachelor's degree $59,480
Interpreters and translators

Interpreters and Translators

Interpreters and translators convert information from one language into another language. Interpreters work in spoken or sign language; translators work in written language.

Bachelor's degree $49,930
Public relations managers and specialists

Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

Public relations managers plan and direct the creation of material that will maintain or enhance the public image of their employer or client. Fundraising managers coordinate campaigns that bring in donations for their organization.

Bachelor's degree $114,800
public relations specialists image

Public Relations Specialists

Public relations specialists create and maintain a favorable public image for the organization they represent. They craft media releases and develop social media programs to shape public perception of their organization and to increase awareness of its work and goals.

Bachelor's degree $60,000
Writers and authors

Writers and Authors

Writers and authors develop written content for various types of media, including advertisements; books; magazines; movie, play, and television scripts; and blogs.

Bachelor's degree $62,170
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Technical Writers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/technical-writers.htm (visited August 21, 2019).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2019

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2018 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2018, the median annual wage for all workers was $38,640.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2016

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2016, which is the base year of the 2016-26 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2016-26

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

2018 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2018, the median annual wage for all workers was $38,640.