What does a Technical Writer do?

A technical writer translates complex information into documents that are easy for the intended audience to understand. Examples of these documents are articles, quick reference guides, and instruction manuals, in paper and online forms. Responsibilities involve identifying what information should be conveyed for the user, researching the material, interviewing subject matter experts, and being able to understand and explain the information for the user.

Aside from just writing, there is heavy communication and research needed to support the documentation. The technical writer should organize content so that it makes sense to the user, collaborate with different people to gather information about the product, and combine the different streams of information into comprehensive documentation.

Education

Do you need a bachelor’s degree and/or certifications? The answer is, “It depends.”

For technical writing, you should have a strong grasp of the written language: grammar, punctuation, syntax, etc. If you are not formally a technical writer by name, it is possible to use your current collective experience and related documentation projects to pivot into the field.

Consider the industry you are interested in, your job-hunting strategy, related projects you have done, and free resources available before moving on to certifications or formal education.

Tools

Types of commonly used tools are MadCap Flare, Adobe RoboHelp, Adobe FrameMaker and DITA. Depending on the industry and company you are interested in, there will be different tools and technologies to learn and use.

Research the industry or look up the job listings that you are interested in and learn the commonly listed tools. For example, several technical writing roles in technology ask for familiarity with XML, Github and API documentation.

Salary

Technical Writing is a writing position with potential for steady income. Salaries in the United States can go from $55,000 to $80,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics currently lists the 2020 median average pay at $74,650 per year.

The technical writer has the unique responsibility of communicating with subject matter experts in different departments, consolidating the material, and outputting documentation that helps the user with the product.

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