If you are an excellent communicator with an interest in technology, or perhaps an avid writer with a flair for writing detailed instructions, then a career as a technical writer could be for you.
Technical writers create user manuals, instruction booklets, documents and other pieces of written work on a variety of technical products and subjects, breaking down the information in a clear yet accurate way. This can be a great career choice for individuals who are experts at technical communication, who want an interesting, lucrative and flexible career.
What Does A Technical Writer Do?
Technical writers produce written work which revolves around the technical. This can involve anything from an instruction manual for a piece of electrical equipment to a document on carrying out a medical procedure.
As you might imagine, technical writers therefore need to have an in-depth understanding of their field, and be able to write correct information in a clear and concise way for either a general audience or subject matter experts e.g. medical professionals.
They often work full time in an office with a team of technical writers, or they can work as a freelance writer taking on short term projects for clients. Some of the fields that often use technical writers include:
The job description of a technical writer usually includes the creation of these documents from start to finish. From user guides to technical documentation, they will need to design the project from the start with the intended information and audience in mind throughout the writing process. This includes:
If you are knowledgeable about a technical industry and can turn complex ideas into simple terms, then you could make a very good technical writer.
How Much Does A Technical Writer Earn?
According to the National Careers Service, the starting salary for a technical writer is £20,000, rising to £50,000 depending on experience level and industry.
What Qualifications Are Needed To Become A Technical Writer?
To become a technical writer you will need to have excellent written English skills, so GCSE and A Level English Language and/or Literature is a must, unless you have further qualifications or experience.
Many technical writing jobs also require you to have a Bachelor’s degree in English, Communications, Computer Science or a technical subject e.g. medicine, biochemistry or engineering.
A Master’s degree is also highly valued, and sometimes required depending on the technical writer job you apply for, due to the need for advanced technical knowledge.
A good knowledge of IT and efficient digital skills is also desired by employers. You can undertake short online courses to get experience with Microsoft programs, HTML or in open-source software and if you gain certification then this can also be used to boost your CV. Explore IT courses online and you can open up a whole new range of job opportunities, both in technical writing and similarly creative careers which require IT skills such as copywriting. You can explore specific courses which cover IT skills related to content writing such as Digital Marketing courses, and expand your career opportunities whilst upskilling your CV as a technical writer.
Having qualifications in communications and computer coding can be very useful, and there are also online technical writing courses which provide you with a technical writing certificate upon completion, which can teach beginners how to create technical content for your target audience.
What Skills Are Needed To Become A Technical Writer?
The skillset you will need to hone in order to become a tech writer include:
Excellent English and technical writing skills
Good digital skills and experience in using Microsoft programs
The ability to break down complex information into digestible formats
Excellent communication skills
Excellent research skills
Ability to pay close attention to detail
Knowing of computer operating systems
Expert knowledge of the field
Ability to focus on in depth projects
Ability to work to tight deadlines
Find out more about how to develop these in demand job skills for your new career online. Getting to know your way around a computer and having advanced knowledge in an area can seem daunting. But with opportunities such as SEO courses online, you can upskill your C.V whilst studying around your current commitments.
Does Becoming A Technical Writer Need Any Work Experience?
Some employers will require or prefer a candidate to have some professional writing experience or experience working in that technical field. However, this will depend on the sector that you are working in and on your previous qualifications.
The most important experience to kick-start your technical writing career path however, will be experience writing. So if you have any writing experience, create a digital portfolio for yourself so that they can see your writing style. If not, then start writing straight away.
Your portfolio should demonstrate your ability to adapt to different audiences, your English language skills and ability to write in different formats. Having experience or skills in other areas such as education can also help, as you will see in our guide to studying education, many of the skills learned are applicable to technical writing, for example the ability to communicate complex information in a straightforward way.
If you do not currently have any work experience, then gaining experience in a customer service or office environment can be useful. These jobs tend to be easier to gain experience in, and you can learn valuable communication which are transferable to a career in technical writing. You might also be able to find internships for junior technical writers, so if you show enough passion and demonstrate an ability to write about technical information in your portfolio, you could get the opportunity to learn on the job.
Career Prospects For A Technical Writer
Once you have some years’ experience being a technical writer, if you are working in a team of writers in an office then there is the potential to progress to become a lead technical writer or technical writing manager.
This means you will be directing the other writers, delegating projects and research tasks as you see fit. You can also become an editor and take on the final edits for technical writing projects, or move into other fields such as research or design.
Technical writing uses many useful skills which can be easily transferred to other fields. For example, working as an SEO Manager or a Digital Marketer will utilise your IT and content writing skills with a focus on managing and optimising content as well as content strategy.