A Complete Guide For A Career In Technical Communication
Professionals with varying levels of experience—from physicians and engineers to chemists—find it necessary to explain complicated subjects to laypeople or other professionals. This act of making complex material more understandable in the form of reports, product descriptions, or instruction manuals is known as technical writing. Knowing more about this communication style can guide your professional choices and help you acquire the necessary abilities.
In this blog post, we will try to break down what technical writing is, and outline the steps you would be required to take to get a job in this industry.
Technological communication is a topic of study that blends communication theory with technical and digital abilities. Experts in this discipline offer a distinctive viewpoint for both internal and external corporate communications. Understanding your employment options after graduation may be helpful if you're thinking about taking a degree in technical communications.
A young profession with a brief history
Since the beginning of industrialization, instructions for using items have existed. But since the invention of technical writing, they have only been created by experts. The growth of technology, the history of new goods, and the history of language are all intrinsically linked to the history of the technical writer. Technology's need to be learned is a typical and important quality. It is only seldom self-explanatory and intuitive to use. Explanatory information and technology inherently go together.
What is technical writing?
Professionals communicate by using technical writing, a kind of writing, to provide knowledge on certain subjects. Depending on the subject matter, a technical writer may write instructions or technical explanations for medical treatments, computer programs, or environmental laws. Industries that use technical writing frequently include the following:
- Computer software and hardware
- Consumer electronics
- Medical and healthcare
When a technical writer writes for a particular industry, the language is often adjusted to the audience's degree of knowledge. A technical writer may, nonetheless, occasionally write for a wider readership. The process of writing entails assessing the material and presenting it in a way that anyone reading it, including someone who does not have much familiarity with the field, can comprehend. This is because many of the details offered by technical writers are complicated. Find some of the prominent examples of what is included in technical writing below:
- Instruction manuals
- E-learning content
- Product specifications
- Product descriptions
- Press releases
- Business proposals
- Job descriptions
Qualities of a good technical writer
Someone who can act as a liaison between users of the goods or services and the specialists. To do this, the person must be:
- Quick learner who can investigate goods and services with little direction or information
- A skilled questioner who can establish rapport with specialists and communicate well in person
- A good communicator who can clearly transmit information over long distances using words and/or graphics.
How to become a technical writer
In terms of job satisfaction, financial potential, personal rewards, diversity of specialized areas, stability, and accessibility of chances from coast to coast, the technical communication profession scores well. Technical communicators consistently place well among occupations according to official surveys, peer consultation, and informal networking. Here’s a brief step-by-step pathway for you to pursue a career as a technical writer:
Pursue your education
A bachelor's degree is often required for candidates for technical writing jobs. Students interested in this career may desire to take technical classes in writing and communication as well as technical courses in the sciences, engineering, and the medical field. Technical writers sometimes need to provide writing examples with job applications to demonstrate their expertise in this type of writing and their familiarity with particular subjects. Maintaining a portfolio of samples is beneficial, particularly for individuals looking to work as technical writers on a freelance basis.
The best course of action is to register for a 4-year program leading to a degree in technical communication, journalism, English, marketing communications, or a field with a close equivalent in writing studies. However, if you are currently employed full-time in another line of work, you'll be glad to know that many professionals find it relatively simple to transition into technical writing because: a) their current line of work already necessitates a lot of communication; and b) they have a natural passion for writing.
Colleges that provide technical writing training:
Both undergraduate and graduate degrees in technical communication/writing studies are offered by a large number of schools and institutions across the United States. University of Minnesota, Metropolitan State University, Minnesota State-Mankato, University of Wisconsin (UW) Eau Claire, and the University of Wisconsin Stout are a few institutions in the Minnesota/upper Midwest region that provide specialized academic training for the technical communication profession. In addition to providing traditional classroom settings, online (e-learning) possibilities have substantially increased in recent years, allowing for greater scheduling flexibility.
Develop the relevant skillset
You must develop the abilities required to become a good technical writer in addition to acquiring a degree. These include technical expertise, communication skills, and industry understanding. Technical writers need to be good communicators and writers.
You may use a variety of software applications to generate and edit diagrams, graphics, and papers if you have good computer abilities. A technical writer may produce papers that are free of grammatical and style-related problems by having good proofreading and editing abilities. Technical writers also make better and more efficient use of tables, diagrams, charts, pictures, illustrations, and drawings.
Learn different style guides
It is also beneficial to acquire familiarity with all of the main style manuals, such as the APA Style, MLA Handbook, Chicago Manual of Style, Associated Press Stylebook, and IEEE style. Especially in the engineering sector, IEEE is the most often used style in technical papers, however, some businesses and clients have their own specifications. If you operate in a specialist field, you might want to concentrate only on that style manual and your employer's particular specifications.
Technical writers don't always need to be certified. However, it does provide prospective employers with further evidence of your professionalism and skill. The Society for Technical Communication offers certification at three levels: foundation (for beginners), practitioner (for intermediate), and expert (advanced). To be qualified for certification at each level, you must pass an exam.
Additionally, technical writing certifications are available in particular fields. For instance, the American Medical Writers Association provides medical writing credential programs and continuous education.
Decide your niche
Technical writers can find full-time employment with software or hardware companies, engineering firms, building firms, chemical processing firms, military corporations, and other related enterprises, or they can work on a freelance or contract basis. The first step in determining whether a field is something you want to follow as a career is to understand what it entails. Examine technical materials, such as customer support content and professional manuals, to gain an understanding of the everyday tasks performed by technical writers.
Create a portfolio.
It's crucial to provide evidence of your abilities when applying for technical writing jobs. If you're a beginning writer, you can develop a portfolio by working alone on technical publications. You might hunt for internships and freelance writing jobs to obtain more experience while pursuing your bachelor's degree.
Build strong networking connections
To find someone in technical writing, start by checking your current network of professional connections. Making friends might help you uncover employment prospects and join organizations that are dedicated to the study of technical writing. If you want to expand your network of connections, you could also want to go to local conferences and events that are connected.
Different types of jobs for a technical writer
Technical communicators may perform a range of tasks using their writing and editing skills, such as enhancing training programs to increase productivity in product development, developing more user-friendly information architectures for websites to enhance user satisfaction, developing technical illustrations to clearly define instruction manuals for a product (such as furniture), writing clear medical instructions to aid healthcare providers in better communicating with patients, or any number of other tasks. Even though working as a technical writer or editor is a frequent career route, those with a master's in technical communication may also choose to work in project management or follow one of the careers listed below:
Technical Writer or Documentation Specialist
Technical writers and documentation experts provide instructive and scholarly materials for both customers and staff members of businesses. For example, they could write and publish papers in technology and science-related publications, internal wiki pages and terminology glossaries for businesses, equipment operating manuals, and software instruction manuals. These experts also provide written materials for businesses that must document the creation of software, software upgrades, and/or other technological advancements.
Health-related subjects, drugs, and medical procedures are the focus of the documentation and educational materials produced by medical writers. They might produce papers, abstracts for medical journals, hospital news releases, or patient educational material (such as medication or pre-surgery instructions). The purpose of the content they produce may vary depending on who it is intended for, but it may be to assist healthcare professionals in providing better care to patients, inform the medical community of the most recent scientific and technological developments, or inform the general public about changes in health and medicine.
Creating training materials and other instructional content for employees of firms and other organizations is a specialty of training consultants. They provide the resources needed to guide new hires through the onboarding process and acquaint them with the organization's internal policies and practices. The material for training presentations and brochures, user guides for internal content management systems, and surveys that assess the success of a company's training initiatives may all be produced by these professionals.
Science and Technology Journalist
Science and technology writers are experts in converting complicated scientific and medical ideas into writing that the general public can comprehend and use as guidance. The most recent advancements in technology across sectors, from computer hardware and software to virtual reality, are covered in their articles, along with new health and scientific research, medical concerns including environmental variables that affect community health, and other topics.
Graduates of master's in technical communication programs can also use their communication abilities and technical expertise to conduct research in a range of disciplines, such as sociology, technology, medicine, and the natural sciences. Researchers plan and carry out research projects, record their findings, and translate the findings for use in a variety of publications, such as scholarly journal articles and material aimed at a broader audience.
A job that clarifies complicated subjects and gives readers useful how-to instructions may be found in technical writing. Consider technical writing as copywriting's most straightforward, the fundamental method of arranging information to instruct and describe how to do a task. Since writers serve as intermediaries between developers and customers, this kind of writing is challenging.
Technical writers are in great demand as the area of technical communications expands. Understanding the many forms of technical writing and enhancing your value as you network with companies and find freelance work is crucial since technical writers may make up to $40 per hour. Be prepared for an intriguing, rewarding, and challenging career!