How Does the Employment Outlook of Technical Writers

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In the coming articles you will read about the actual work technical writers do, who hires them, and the type of places they work. But before you begin that in depth study, it's a good idea to have an overview of the employment outlook in this field and some tips on landing the job of your choice.

At this writing, the employment outlook for technical writers continues to be good. The strength in the employment field has developed because of several significant factors in technical communication.

One of these is that the well-trained writer is in the forefront of new techniques. If you are a student, you must prepare yourself by getting a solid background in the sciences-particularly in computer science. If you graduate with this competence, you should be able to fill the needs of industrial and government employers.



Another factor is that the well-trained writer can bridge the gap between technical subjects and nontechnical readers. You can bank on one basic fact-general readers must learn something about technology. It is a major facet of modern life. Ultimately, the general public buys the products and services that technology provides. The technical writer informs and persuades laypeople Center; receive a detailed orientation to the Technical Information Department, including reports, manuals, and graphic arts; and are assigned such projects as editing reports, revising manuals, writing brochures, conducting literature surveys, and developing film scripts.

OFFICE OF CANCER COMMUNICATIONS

This group has established a graduate student internship at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. The internship provides valuable on-the-job experience in three areas: medical-science writing, health education, and general biomedical communication. Participants have the opportunity to prepare reports on advances in cancer research and to work in such other formats as feature articles, news releases, press summaries, and audiovisual presentations.

Other assistance programs are available. At Texas A&M University, a number of employers in Texas have cooperated with the university by entering an in-company writing program. The Department of Technical Journalism at Colorado State University cooperates with professional firms and practitioners to ensure that as many of its qualified students as possible receive on-the-job training and experience. The student is paid a nominal salary and works within a prescribed area of mass communication. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offers assistance through its co-op program with industry.

In most schools, scholarships, fellowships, and internships in technical writing are part of the general assistance policy. If you are applying to any of the colleges with degree programs, be sure to inquire at the same time about financial aid since scholarship awards and assistance programs are constantly changing for scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships. In addition, part-time work in writing and editing may be available on campus, especially to technical writing and journalism students.

Scholarships, Fellowships, and Internships

You will find a variety of financial aid sources available at colleges and universities. The following is not a complete list, but it will give you some idea of where to apply for assistance.

SOCIETY FOR TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION

The Society awards a number of scholarships annually to students in both undergraduate and graduate schools to carry on specialized study in technical communication. The STC scholarships are administered by those university and technical institutions with degree programs. Recent awards were given to a senior at the University of Washington, at that time majoring in scientific and technical communication; a sophomore at Michigan Technical University, also majoring in scientific and technical communication; and a Ph.D. candidate in communication and rhetoric at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. A number of local STC chapters also have scholarships available. Inquiries about these awards should be sent to the Scholarship Committee, STC, 901 North Stuart Street, Suite 304, Arlington, VA 22203. Or check their web site at http://www.stc-va.org/.

NAVAL UNDERWATER SYSTEMS CENTER

This government center in Newport, Rhode Island, offers summer scholarships for college graduates enrolled in or planning to enter a graduate program in technical writing. Salaries for the internships vary, depending upon grade point average, class standing, and availability of funds. During the internships, students become familiar with the Navy laboratory system and with those from which you have received your education, so it is worthwhile to check the accreditation, reputation, and longevity of any correspondence school you are considering. Ask your career counselor or other school administrator for guidance.
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