Breaking into the Field of Technical Writing

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If you love to write and find new technology and the latest scientific and technical information particularly interesting, a career in technical writing may be perfect for you.

According to Los Angeles Times Career Counselor Susan W. Miller, ''Technical writers produce, organize, and edit scientific and technical information, crafting language that can be understood by people who service, maintain, or operate various types of equipment. To gather data about the subject matter, they may observe production processes, interview production and engineering staff, or refer to trade journals and other such publications.'' Technical writers, most of whom are not subject matter experts, may complete briefs, reports, proposals, manuals, and related administrative and technical publications, and also oversee the preparation of photographs, charts, illustrations, and diagrams. They are usually sought after not for their expertise in the given subject but for their skills in gathering information, analyzing it, and presenting it in a clear and accurate fashion.

Technical editors are currently in high demand at businesses such as mortgage companies, insurance companies, and biotechnical companies and in such industries as finance, electronics, and other high-tech industries because of the ongoing growth of technical and scientific information and the necessity to convey it to others.



Technical writing usually requires a degree in a certain field, like business, engineering, or one of the sciences, though those with good writing skills can often pick up the specific knowledge required while on the job. Some technical writers start out as trainees in a technical information department or as research assistants, and many obtain a degree or certification in technical communications.

Technical writers must be competent in word processing in addition to basic design and layout through such programs as Framemaker, Visual Basic, C++, and Quark Express.
Universities and colleges often offer technical writing programs and individual classes on writing for a specialized field.

If you are interested in such a career but have little technical experience, it is best to look first for positions that do not require as much specialized knowledge, such as in furniture assembly or consumer electronics documentation. Focus your resume on the most technical articles you have written, which will help display your knack for explaining complex material. Take a basic course in a technical field and obtain books that will give you the basic vocabulary of the particular industry.

When starting out in the field, it is often easier to get hired part-time at a small company. Though the first job will most likely be for low pay, it will allow you to build your resume, and being published in the field will enable you to find more prestigious longer-term projects.

The Society for Technical Communication’s website provides members with information about publications, academic programs, scholarships, and competitions, and with a career center full of job-related information. According to its website, STC has 14,000 members, including technical writers and editors, content developers, documentation specialists, technical illustrators, instructional designers, academics, information architects, usability and human factors professionals, visual designers, web designers and developers, and translators — in short, ''anyone whose work makes technical information available to those who need it.'' See the site for more information regarding education and job opportunities in the field of technical writing.
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