CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a technical writer.
Is becoming a technical writer right for me?
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:
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While there is no specific set of high school courses required to become a technical writer, there are several classes that can provide a strong foundation for this career. Here are some recommended courses:
- English: English courses, including composition, grammar, and literature, provide a strong foundation in written communication, which is essential for technical writing.
- Computer Science: Courses in computer science or programming can help technical writers understand the technology they are writing about and communicate technical concepts effectively.
- Science and Math: Technical writers in scientific or engineering fields may benefit from courses in math, physics, or chemistry, which can help them understand complex scientific concepts.
- Communications: Courses in public speaking, media studies, or journalism can help technical writers develop effective communication skills and understand how to tailor their writing for different audiences.
- Business and Marketing: Courses in business or marketing can help technical writers understand the industry they are writing for and the business aspects of their work.
Overall, a well-rounded high school education with a focus on strong communication skills, computer literacy, and a basic understanding of science and technology can provide a good foundation for a career in technical writing.
Formal education can be a valuable asset for those pursuing a career in technical writing. While it's possible to become a technical writer with experience alone, many employers prefer candidates with some level of formal education. Here are some formal education options for aspiring technical writers:
- Bachelor's Degree: Many technical writers have a Bachelor's Degree in English, Writing, Technical Writing, Journalism, or a related field. These programs typically include courses in writing, editing, and communication, as well as technical courses in fields such as science, engineering, or computer science.
- Technical Writing Certification Programs: Some universities, community colleges, and professional organizations offer certification programs in technical writing. These programs typically cover topics such as technical writing style, editing, and document design. Certification programs can range from a few months to a year to complete.
- Master's Degree: A Master's Degree in Technical Writing, Writing, or a related field can provide a more advanced education in technical writing and may lead to more senior positions in the field.
In addition to formal education, it's important for technical writers to gain experience through internships, entry-level positions, or freelance work. Practical experience helps technical writers build their portfolios and gain experience working with different types of documents and technologies.
Internships can be a great way for aspiring technical writers to gain practical experience in the field and build their portfolios. Here are some tips for finding internships for technical writers:
- Job Boards: Check job boards such as Indeed, Glassdoor, or LinkedIn for technical writing internships. You can also search for internships specific to your field of interest, such as software development, engineering, or healthcare.
- Your School's Career Center: Many schools have career centers that can help students find internships. They may have connections with local companies or organizations that offer internships in technical writing.
- Reach Out to Companies Directly: If you have a specific company or organization in mind, reach out to them directly to inquire about internship opportunities. You can find contact information on their website or LinkedIn page.
- Build Your Portfolio: Before applying for internships, make sure you have a strong portfolio that showcases your technical writing skills. Include writing samples, projects, and any relevant coursework or experience.
- Be Prepared For the Application Process: The application process for technical writing internships may include submitting a resume, cover letter, and writing samples, as well as completing a writing test or interview.
Technical writers can find employment opportunities in a variety of industries and settings, including:
- Technology: Technical writers can work in the technology industry, creating documentation for software, hardware, and other technology products. They may work for software companies, hardware manufacturers, or other technology firms.
- Healthcare: Technical writers can work in the healthcare industry, creating documentation for medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and other healthcare products. They may work for medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, or healthcare providers.
- Government: Technical writers can work for government agencies, creating documentation for regulations, policies, and procedures. They may also work for government contractors, creating documentation for government projects.
- Finance: Technical writers can work in the finance industry, creating documentation for financial products such as investment funds, insurance policies, and banking services. They may work for financial institutions or consulting firms.
- Education: Technical writers can work in the education industry, creating documentation for educational materials such as textbooks, online courses, and training manuals. They may work for publishers, educational institutions, or e-learning companies.
Technical writers can also work as freelance writers or consultants, providing writing services to clients on a project-by-project basis. Overall, there are many opportunities for technical writers in a variety of industries and settings.
Certifications can be a great way for technical writers to demonstrate their skills and knowledge to employers. Here are some popular certifications for technical writers:
- Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC): Offered by the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the CPTC certification is designed for technical communicators who have at least five years of experience in the field. The certification covers topics such as project management, content development, and user experience.
- Certified Technical Communicator (CTC): Offered by the International Association of Technical Communicators (IATC), the CTC certification is designed for technical communicators who have at least three years of experience in the field. The certification covers topics such as writing, editing, and design.
- Adobe Certified Expert: Technical Communication Suite: This certification is offered by Adobe and demonstrates proficiency in using Adobe's technical communication software. The certification covers topics such as creating user assistance, creating technical illustrations, and creating eLearning content.
- MadCap Certified Advanced Developer (MAD): This certification is offered by MadCap Software and demonstrates proficiency in using MadCap's technical communication software. The certification covers topics such as project management, content creation, and publishing.
- Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS): While not specific to technical writing, the MOS certification demonstrates proficiency in using Microsoft Office applications such as Word and PowerPoint, which are commonly used in technical writing.
There are many professional associations for technical writers, each with their own unique offerings and benefits. Here are a few examples:
- Society for Technical Communication (STC) - This is the largest professional association for technical communicators, with over 6,000 members worldwide. They offer resources, training, and networking opportunities to help technical writers stay current with industry trends and best practices.
- Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP) - This association is specifically geared towards freelance technical writers and other information professionals. They offer resources and support for independent contractors looking to build their business and expand their skills.
- National Association of Science Writers (NASW) - This association is focused on science writers, including those who write technical reports, white papers, and other documents related to scientific research. They offer networking opportunities and resources to help writers stay current on developments in the field.
- American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) - This association is geared towards medical writers, including those who write technical documents related to healthcare and medical research. They offer training, certification, and networking opportunities for members.
- Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) - This association is geared towards computer professionals, including technical writers who write documentation related to software development and other technical topics. They offer resources and networking opportunities to help writers stay current in the field of computing.