How To Become a Technical Writer

how to become a technical writer

Omar Founder of OJ Digital Solutions

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

A Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report estimates that technical writers’ opportunities will increase by 7% over the next decade.

If you have a knack for tech writing and want to be a freelance writer, try being a technical writer.

Freelance technical writing jobs are in demand and can help you make a living.

Few freelance writers have the technical knowledge to conversationally discuss technical ideas. There aren’t many people who have time to read highly technical or scientific writing.

If you have a technical background, consider going into the technical writing field.

If you want to learn how to become a technical writer, you’ve come to the right place.

I created this guide to give you the information you need to become a successful technical writer.

Let’s begin.

How To Become a Technical Writer

Technical writers often have a college or graduate program degree and specialized technical or scientific knowledge, like understanding computers or medical procedures.

Some technical writers start out researching a particular subject. Then, they eventually learn how to write technical documentation and develop technical communication skills.

Entry-level technical writers usually shadow experienced writers at large companies. Entry-level jobs at small firms are also likely to give you training different from independent projects.

Follow these steps to learn how to become a technical writer and jumpstart your technical writing career.

Get the Right Education and Training.

how to become a technical writer

You need a solid academic background to start your technical writing career.

Get a degree in physics, computer science, or engineering if you don’t already have one.

You won’t be able to share credible opinions independently as a tech writer unless you’re an expert in your field.

Specializing in communications is also a good move, but make sure you know the technical side of the work.

Investing in formal education gives you a conclusive edge, but it doesn’t guarantee success.

You need more than just a college degree– you also need technical writing courses!

Technical writing courses give you the knowledge you need. They’ll also help boost your professional profile and grab recruiters’ attention.

Once you finish these courses, you’ll need a mentor to help determine the appropriate type of technical writer job for you.

Get Certified.

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Technical writers don’t need certification, but it does demonstrate professionalism and competence to employers.

You can get certified through the Society for Technical Communication or take courses in specialized areas.

For example, the American Medical Writers Association offers medical writing certificates and continuing education programs to people who want to pursue medical writing.

Build the Right Skillsets.

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Tech writers are in high demand. Specific courses and certifications help to develop some skills, but you’ll have to exert extra effort to learn the rest.

Basic writing skills are a prerequisite. However, recruiters need more than just a good technical writer. Besides written communication skills, excellent technical writers are outstanding spoken communicators since they work daily with others.

Furthermore, a technical writing job requires exceptional critical thinking and interpersonal and management skills.

Despite their best efforts, technical writers only know some things.

You may be familiar with technology, but it’s helpful to research a language or framework before you start writing about it.

It’s important to know what you’re doing when editing technical proposals. Thus, subject matter experts (SMEs) and technical writers work together to create documents accurately.

Among the primary responsibilities of technical writers is to manage audience personas. You need a deep understanding of your audience.

You need a few in-demand technical skills to succeed, along with the soft skills discussed above.

You’ll need to know how to use programs like Microsoft Office, work management tools like Asana, and content management systems like WordPress.

Experience with web design and programming languages like HTML, Javascript, and CSS is a plus that can help you stand out.

Read Technical Content.

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You need to read a lot to polish your technical writing skills.

Start reading relevant technical content related to your industry.

Check out real technical writing examples online. Try looking for specific technical content, such as user manuals, white papers, business plans, and more.

Take inspiration from experts and read actual content to understand your job better.

Many consider the Journal for Technical Writing and Communication one of the most prestigious professional and technical communications publications.

Start Writing (Even if No One Pays You).

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Put your credentials, skillsets, and inspiration into practice.

You can apply for an internship to get some experience.

You don’t have to do technical writing in a professional setting, though.

Polish your skills by developing content assets as a hobby. Show your work to an expert and get feedback.

Alternatively, find tech founders on LinkedIn and volunteer to create content for them. Who knows? They might even hire you full-time if they like your work.

Build an online portfolio to show potential recruiters your skills.

Learn How To Use Technical Writing Tools.

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Besides processing phases and skills, technical writers must know how to use tools that will help them advance their careers.

Technical writers use the following essential tools.

Technical writers also use these tools, technologies, and applications.

Apply for Technical Writing Jobs.

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The only thing left to do is apply for technical writing jobs.

Technical writers are in high demand, so newcomers don’t often succeed as freelancers. So if you can’t find an independent project, you should apply for technical writer jobs.

Various companies, from renowned companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple to new tech startups, advertise new jobs from time to time.

Develop a technical writer resume, create LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor profiles, and set up alerts for remote and local jobs.

Technical Writing Jobs You Can Try

Many technical writing jobs are available for novice and experienced writers.

Here’s a list of technical writing jobs to help determine your interests.

Traditional Technical Writer

Traditional technical fields are rather broad, but they often involve writing for professionals.

Research papers, repair manuals, or programming guides may fall into this category.

Technical Communication Consultant

These tech writers write how-to guides, instruction manuals, and other supporting documents and gather information from hiring companies.

While compiling technical documentation, they also think about users’ needs.

Technical Creative Writer

Technical writing and creative writing don’t often intersect, but some companies need content that informs and entertains.

A technical writer can use this style to entice readers to perform a specific action, like buying a product.

For example, product titles on Amazon don’t have to be as dull as one like“All-in-one Screwdriver.”

Product titles must immediately hook consumers and provide the necessary product information—creative writing comes into play here.

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Literature Review Writer

A literature review summarizes complex information on a particular subject.

You summarize your research and include milestones, conflicting results, and information you’ve yet to learn.

Assembly Guideline Writer

Most assembly guides provide written instructions and simple illustrations to show users how to set up a product.

The assembly guideline writer is responsible for writing easy-to-follow assembly instructions for putting together a product correctly.

Grant Writer

An individual or entity applying for a grant from a government department, corporation, foundation, or trust needs a grant proposal or submission.

A grant writer compiles and writes this document for submission to the appropriate body. The writer also contacts businesses, corporations, and government agencies.

End-User Documentation Writers

Think about the last time you bought a product, especially an appliance or electronic gadget.

Did it come with a manual?

Almost every product includes a how-to guide or user manual explaining proper usage. And technical writers write these end-user documents for these companies.

The reader needs these documents to be clear and concise, and that’s where you can help!

Frequently Asked Questions on Technical Writing

What is Technical Writing?

Technical writing (also known as tech writing) was initially a job where you could break down complex technical topics (like cryptocurrency) and information into easy-to-understand chunks.

As time went on, technical writing became so much more.

Technical writing involves creating content on a specific technical subject for the following audiences:

  • Engineers
  • Scientists
  • Business professionals
  • Technicians
  • Maintenance personnel

The goal is to unambiguously convey technical information to an internal or external audience.

Content can take many forms, including instruction manuals, user guides, reports, white papers, case studies, and more.

Simply put, technical writing helps readers understand complex topics.

What Do Technical Writers Do?

Technical writers often develop instruction manuals, user guides, FAQs, easy-to-read journal articles, and more.

Here are the typical duties and responsibilities of a technical writer.

  • Conducting research
  • Creating user-friendly technical documents
  • Developing instructional materials for technical staff
  • Examining product samples and writing easy-to-read descriptions for consumers
  • Simplifying complex product descriptions and instructions with technical staff
  • Creating and revising product copy
  • Editing other writers’ content
  • Using visual references (graphs, images, animations, etc.) to make reading easier
  • Choosing the appropriate medium (manuals, videos, diagrams, etc.) to convey information
  • Creating standardized content for all media platforms
  • Visiting libraries and websites
  • Talking to technical specialists
  • Making observations on specific topics
  • Adapting content based on user feedback.

Most technical writers work in professional, scientific, and technical industries. Others work for manufacturers, administrative services, and publishing companies.

What Are the Different Types of Technical Writing?

Engineering, physics, chemistry, computer science, information technology, etc., used to be the only fields that required technical writing.

Nowadays, finance and accounting companies use technical writing too.

Besides the essential criteria of technical communication, there are no strict universal rules regarding technical documentation.

It depends on the document’s audience (their ability to understand technical information and qualifications) and the organization developing it.

Every organization has a style guide to ensure consistency.

What Skills Does a Technical Writer Need?

A technical writer must possess the following skills and characteristics:

  • Technical writing
  • Team player
  • Editing
  • Research
  • Detail-oriented
  • Audience analysis
  • Communication
  • Mind mapping and planning
  • Understanding of the target audience
  • Technical skills and knowledge of digital tools

Can You Become a Technical Writer Without a Degree?

A technical writer usually holds a bachelor’s degree in English or communications or double majors in English and a scientific or technical field.

If you’re pursuing a bachelor’s degree, many colleges offer minor concentrations in technical writing.

A technical writing minor concentration will help you improve your writing, editing, and presentation skills. You’ll learn how to write for businesses, technology, and science.

Getting hands-on experience through a technical writing internship can help you land your first job faster. Remember to check with your college about internships too!

Is Technical Writing a Good Career?

Is learning how to become a technical writer worth it?

The answer is: it depends.

Like any career path, you can never guarantee success because it depends on the writer.

Ultimately, it boils down to your commitment, current skillsets, and location.

Here’s how much technical writers earn according to three platforms.

  • PayScale

According to PayScale, technical writers earn an average of $62,607 annually. Salaries range from $45,000 to $95,000.

  • Indeed

Indeed reports that technical writers earn an average of $61,692. The platform also says tech writers get a bonus of $1,800 a year.

  • Glassdoor

Glassdoor says a US technical writer makes an annual average of $68,639, with the highest salary at $87,000. These figures come from 6,164 salary reports.

You’ll reap the rewards of this field if you’re passionate, have technical writing skills, and are willing to do the work.

However, if you don’t enjoy it and it’s just one of your skills, keep it as a side gig rather than a full-time job.

Is Becoming a Technical Writer Demanding?

Becoming a technical writer is challenging if you don’t have the proper coursework or certification.

For example, a technical writer who doesn’t have a solid grasp of grammar rules can’t become a competent technical writer because they still need to learn grammar.

What is the Difference Between a Freelancer and an In-House Technical Writer?

A technical writer may work as a freelancer or an organization employee. Companies often hire freelancers to prepare their technical documents.

When freelancing, you can pick your customers and subject area.

Freelancers run their businesses and set their hours. Many contracts are available to freelancers because of the growing demand for technical writers.

On the other hand, in-house technical writers work for one company as permanent writers or as part of a technical writing team.

A full-time technical writer works with subject matter experts to develop various documents.

Companies usually prefer in-house technical writers because they are more familiar with crucial technical details.

What Other Technical Writing Jobs Can I Take?

Here are some of the technical writer jobs you can pursue.

  • Professional report and review writing
  • Science and medical paper writing
  • Technical editing
  • UX writing
  • End-User documentation writing
  • Technical marketing content writing
  • White paper writing
  • Case study writing
  • Proposal and pitch writing
  • Brochure writing
  • Technical copywriting
  • Operations technical writing
  • Technical creative writing
  • Technical content writing
  • Technical finance writing
  • Feasibility study and corporate report writing
  • Policy and procedure writing
  • Business plan writing
  • Standard operating procedure (SOP) writing
  • User help guideline writing
  • Product manual writing
  • Technical book writing

How Do I Become a Technical Writer With No Experience?

Follow these steps if you want to become a technical writer without experience.

  1. Earn your bachelor’s degree.
  2. Become a certified technical writer.
  3. Create a portfolio of writing samples.
  4. Improve your professional skills.
  5. Develop your industry knowledge.

Bottom Line

I hope my guide has helped you decide whether or not technical writing is an ideal career.

If you think it is, you can become a technical writer with the right skills and experience. Then, you enjoy this exciting profession’s challenges and rewards.

Despite its lucrative potential, technical writing is not for everyone, so carefully consider your options.

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