Technical Writer
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Occupation Overview

Technical Writers create documentation for IT and other products. They write the user manuals, reference manuals, installation guides, on-line help, and assembly instructions that make so many products understandable to the general public: VCRs, stereos, software, computers, telephones, microwave ovens, and automobiles are just a few examples. In the Bay Area, most positions in this field focus on documenting computer hardware and software products.

People who are naturally curious about "how to do things" and like to create attractive documents will enjoy this occupation. A good knowledge of grammar is required, and so is the ability to collect information and present it clearly in writing in an organized fashion.

More and more technical writers are creating content for the Internet. This can require knowledge of web design tools and languages. (Refer to the Web Design occupation for more information in this area.)
The availability of contract positions makes this occupation attractive to those preferring shorter-term assignments, and/or work-from-home opportunities.

While the recent economic downturn has had a large negative effect on the number of jobs available in this field, it is expected that the occupation will continue to grow at a rapid rate once the economy recovers.


Future Growth Opportunities

Opportunities for Advancement:
Senior Technical Writer and Technical Writing (Documentation) Manager.

Skills Transferable to:
Technical Editor, Documentation Specialist, Medical Writer, Graphic Designer, Freelance Writer, Corporate Communications Specialist, Technical Marketing, Biotechnology or Medical Writer, Journalist, and Electronic Publisher.


Job Descriptions

Technical Writers are typically responsible for all phases of documentation, including planning the scope of the documentation, scheduling, gathering information, writing, and editing the work of fellow Technical Writers. The documentation can include text, equations, graphs, tables, and other graphics. For non-technical documentation the material must often be presented in a manner that is understandable to someone at an 8th grade reading level.

It is frequently necessary to interview experts in the subject matter, typically engineers, in order to understand the product well enough to document it. It is also important to be able to use the product being documented, and to understand the typical user of the product.

While some bilingual positions exist, the vast majority of positions require excellent English writing skills.

Beginning writers might start out by editing the work of others.

Senior Technical Writers are expert writers who have experience with the subject matter at hand. They will take on additional responsibilities such as assisting in the training of writers who are new to the group, developing new processes, and selecting new tools for their department.

Documentation Managers will lead and manage a group of Technical Writers. They will also interface with other departments in the company, such as engineering and marketing.

Entry Level: $9 - 33 / hour ($25 / hour average)

Experienced, New to Job: $14 - 44 / hour ($35 / hour average)

Experienced in Job: $16 - 66 / hour ($46 / hour average)

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