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