Who Is Technical Writer?

Posted by
Julia in Technical Writing on 9/29/20218 min read

hands on laptop

Who a technical writer is almost everyone seems to understand. But what is implied?

To put it shortly, a technical writer is supposed to be a skilled wordsmith that converts complex technical information into easily readable documentation. Besides making accurate and informative instructional content — like tutorials, guides, manuals, customer help sections of websites, etc. — they also play an integral part in the documentation development cycle.

Despite the title “technical writer” (one may also be called a “technical communicator”), they often hold positions as software or QA engineers, data and business analysts, project managers, product designers, and product managers. It may also work to the opposite end, with all those people performing the role of technical writers for the company. As part of enhancing the end-user experience of products, technical writers sometimes work with product liability specialists, customer service managers, and user experience experts.

Technical writing is all about learning, teaching, and telling. If you are a born explainer of things, technology-inclined, and have a flair for writing, you may think about becoming a technical writer so that you can earn a living doing something you enjoy.

ways to learn

What General Skills Does a Technical Writer Need?

Many fields require technical writers, but the majority are centered around the IT, technical, medical, and scientific fields, and management. Itʼs only natural that the exact duties and responsibilities of technical writers may (and in most cases will) differ depending on their employment situation. But there are always skills and qualifications of a technical writer that are relevant to all industries.

Grow Your Expertise

It is the role of technical writers to develop effective technical documentation and content on specific subjects, so the need for subject-specific knowledge is crucial. If you have a degree related to your industry, you are more likely to possess the necessary technical knowledge. Your background matters. Based on job descriptions, employers prefer to hire technical writers who have a bachelor's degree and at least two years of experience in technical writing for engineering, IT, management, or a related industry. Regardless of the employeeʼs degree in a non-technical field, such as Journalism, English, Public Relations, Marketing, or Communications, they may need training in technical and scientific subjects.

Acquire Strong Writing and Communicative Skills

No one speaks here on knowing syntax or grammar rules, itʼs a must and goes without saying. Technical writers need excellent writing skills to effectively deliver solutions clearly and concisely, meeting the needs of the users. Obviously, technical writers themselves must be communication experts since their role is to make a smooth and easy transfer of information between technical experts and non-technical users who are most of the target audience.

For example, you should avoid complicated sentence structures, undecipherable tech jargon, and ambiguity. Just imagine what happens if a writer has created twenty pages of fat with only an inch of flesh in it, and the next day engineering staff has a server down at 2 a.m. and tries to read them all. Theyʼd want to see a tech writerʼs head on a pole in the following staff meeting.

It is vital to develop a simple and easy-to-understand manner of writing. The ability to give complete information shortly so that a user avoids any mistake is crucial. To achieve this, some technical writing courses can be helpful. Besides, it is always good to add to your CV a certificate reflecting your competency.

Learn to Work with Writing and Content Creating Software

Technical writers allow organizations to communicate complex technical information in an approachable manner. Thatʼs why they must have a good understanding of how to integrate content with infographics, graphs, illustrations, sounds, and even video.

Many job vacancies cite the necessity of a candidate to have strong proficiency with MS Office products, including Word and PowerPoint. Others add to this list Adobe suite, Visio, and other graphics tools as a plus. The number of skills required depends on the size of the company, the number of tech writers in the staff, and the volume of document workflow. The larger the team is, the more effective tech solutions it requires.

Some vacancies among desirable skills, which a technical writer should possess, list an experience of using content management systems or online documentation tools, like ClickHelp, for example. Such tools allow a tech writer to collaborate with other writers, developers, users, editors, designers, etc. They help to create uniformity and consistency of technical documentation within and outside the organization. Order a trial period to see how it works, itʼs completely free.

To learn more of the skills required, have a look at the post 10 Most Important Skills of a Technical Communicator.

What Salary Does a Technical Writer Have?

Skills, technical knowledge, background, and experience matter. But naturally, a technical writerʼs salary varies depending on the country, region, industry, and organization. Different sites give different figures. But still, some statistics may be helpful as we get a notion of what to expect.

Letʼs see what the situation is in the U.S. and the European job market in September 2021.

USA

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the highest annual average salary for a technical writer is in computer science, followed by management and technical consulting.

The BLS expects a 7.4% employment growth for technical writers up to 2029.

According to different employment websites, the U.S. nationwide average salary level of a technical writer is:

GlassDoor:

$68,556/yr. The lowest average level starts from $45,348/yr., the highest finishes at $103,641/yr. GlassDoor estimates anonymous annual salary reports, cost of living estimates, and total compensation numbers.

PayScale:

The median salary for a technical writer is $61,163 before taxes, starting from $43k and up to $88k (based on 3,302 salary profiles).

Indeed and ZipRecruiter.com are giving nearly much the same figures — $57,626/yr. ($2,000 yearly cash bonus added) and $64,154/yr. respectively.

According to ZipRecruiter.com, top-10 cities with the most technical writer job openings are:

  • Atlanta
  • Houston
  • Chicago
  • Orlando
  • San Diego
  • Indianapolis
  • Austin
  • Minneapolis
  • Portland
  • Phoenix

Europe

The national average salary levels for technical writers are:

GlassDoor:

  • Germany: €57,871/yr. The average starter level is €45k, the upper level is €68k.
  • UK: £39,700/yr. The average starter level is £25k, the upper level is £62k.
  • France: €43,901/yr. The average starter level is €31k, the upper level is €60k.
  • Italy: €28,096/yr. The average starter level is €25k, the upper level is €43k.
  • Spain: €28,333/yr. The average starter level is €20k, the upper level is €44k.

PayScale:

  • Germany: €46,219/yr. The average starter level is €33k, the upper level is €61k.
  • UK: £33,625/yr. The average starter level is £22k and up to £49k.
  • France: €40,000/yr. The average starter level is €29k and up to €591k.
  • Italy: €43,100/yr. The average starter level is €32k, the upper level is €66k.
  • Spain: €32,000/yr. The average starter level is €21k, the upper level is €41k.

money for writing

Technical Writer Job Description

Many companies strive to seek a strong professional, reflecting their expectations in detailed descriptions of technical writer job requirements and responsibilities to let candidates know whatʼs expected of them from the moment theyʼre hired. So if you want to become a technical writer, there is always a good place to learn about the duties, responsibilities, and required skills and ensure your resume reflects that.

Nearly all tech writer job descriptions include a list of responsibilities, qualifications and skills required starting from a minimum set and up to those desired. Technical writer job responsibilities may vary depending on the company and industry. But in all cases in the first positions there will be included Writing, Editing and, sometimes, Translation. Among the other required skills most commonly listed in a technical writerʼs job description are Journalism, Graphic Design and Drafting.

Technical writer qualification requirements most commonly include a Bachelorʼs degree and at least several years of experience in the industry. Thatʼs where certification comes in. Some employers also list bonus skills or preferred qualifications — like familiarity with documentation publishing software tool or experience with XML tools, or HTML/CSS — these are not obligatory, but are a plus.

Letʼs make it clearer with some examples of real technical writers job descriptions from real employers, though taken at random. These descriptions are cited only to give a notion of what to expect on the job market, and will not reveal any private information of the companies.

3 Examples of Technical Writer Job Descriptions

Example 1. Technical Writer

Description:

  • Technical Writer/SOP Writer/Some Clerical
  • Candidate should know how to write standard operating procedures
  • SOP writer to assist in preparation review, revisions, and maintenance of technical documents to support clients needs
  • Includes writing procedures, end user guides, SOP’s, and other GMP Documentation
  • Knowledge of Quality procedures, GMP, Operations workflow, and excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to interview plant staff to create a real, easy to follow work instruction or procedures
  • 2/4 years of writing experience preferred

Example 2. Technical Writer - Mid-Level

A Technical Writer works with development and product managers, engineers, technical trainers, and other technical writers to craft and refine technical documentation. You must have a hands-on approach to the technology and to the products being documented. You will help enhance and expand the current documentation to provide a variety of learning tools for our customers.

Responsibilities/What You’ll Do:

  • Translate technical information into clear, concise, and effective documentation for both technical and non-technical audiences. Assist in defining standards, style, and terminology
  • Deliver post-sales content for online documentation, as well as provide UI text for our UX and Engineering staff
  • Integrate graphics and illustrations to improve the documentation quality and usability
  • Work cross-functionally with SMEs in the Engineering, Field Support, Sales, Training, and Product Marketing groups
Qualifications/Your Background:
  • 3+ years of experience in technical writing
  • Bachelor’s degree in technical writing, communications, or a related field (i.e., technical writing/communications certifications are also acceptable)
  • Excellent oral, written, analytic, and organizational skills. Detail-oriented, and thinks and writes in context with the target audience
  • A team player who is capable of working independently. Hands-on experience with JIRA and/or Confluence
Desired Skills&Experience:
  • Experience in writing online help and knowledge base articles
  • Experience working in an Agile environment, in network and/or cloud security is a plus
  • Experience with web-based or mobile products
  • Hands-on experience with HTML5/CSS

Example 3. Technical Writer - Remote

Essential Duties and Responsibilities:
  • Responsible for writing instruction manuals for a wide variety of consumer products
  • Organizes material and completes writing assignments according to set standards regarding order, clarity, conciseness, style, and terminology
  • Illustrates material with selected photographs, drawings, sketches, diagrams, and charts
  • Assists in database maintenance, proofreading, problem solving, taking photographs and reviewing sample products
  • Works closely with Buyers and Quality Assurance personnel to ensure accuracy of specifications, product assembly steps, and operating procedures
Job Qualifications Requirements – Education and Experience:
  • Has some experience with tools or work in a technical field
  • Can work independently on written assignments and be a dependable team member
  • Must be a PC user who knows, or can quickly learn InDesign software
  • Requires good organization, verbal and written communication skills, and good computer skills

Conclusion

To round it all up — the job of a technical writer is far more necessary and flexible than one might think. The basic idea of it is to convert complex things into simple, to help everybody understand how a product works.

A huge number of industries have a strong demand for such professionals and, in close perspective, it wonʼt change. For qualified technical writers with professional experience and a university degree, salaries are generally in line with engineersʼ income. The basic skills which tech writers are paid for are writing and editing. But the wider your skill set is, the higher salary you can get.

If you feel like this field is what may suit you, start developing your skills, keep growing as a pro, and good luck in becoming a good tech writer.

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices

 

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