Job Opportunities for Technical Writers

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With a degree in technical writing, you might pursue any one of the career paths listed in other related articles in this website, but some specializations seem to offer greater opportunities than others. In this article we examine the different specializations and the opportunities they present.

THE TECHNICAL PRESS

We are literally surrounded and inundated by a flood of literature called technical journalism. The number of publications, periodicals, magazines, trade journals, and newspapers is so great that we take their existence for granted and hardly notice their presence. There are so many scientific and trade publications, in fact, that it is impossible to cite a number with which everyone will agree. In addition, new publications are constantly appearing.



Scientific Journals

The text and subject matter range in complexity from the highly scientific Journal of Organic Chemistry to the very simplistic magazine, Popular Mechanics. The Journal of Organic Chemistry is found only on the bookshelves of chemistry and technical libraries and in the offices of chemists. Naturally, most of its readers are profession requiring a combination of technical training and competence in communication.

RESUME

This topic falls outside the scope of this article, but there are many books on resume writing and formatting out there. As a reminder, writers are particularly cautioned that their resumes, as well as their cover letters, must be letter perfect. A sloppy presentation or poor writing will not convince employers that you're the technical writer they are seeking.

SALARIES

The salaries offered to students seeking their first jobs in technical writing cannot be definitely established, however, certain basic principles do apply:
  • With a bachelor's or master's degree in engineering or science, a student can command a higher beginning salary than a student with a degree in English or some other nontechnical subject

  • Students graduating from certain prestigious colleges usually can command higher salaries than students from lesser-known schools.

  • The higher the course grades, the more summer experience obtained, and the more the student can display characteristics of ability and initiative, the higher the salary is likely to be.

  • Technical writers with degrees in certain areas, notably electrical engineering and electronics, are in greater demand than students with training in other areas.

  • Editor for medical journals; monographs on clinical medicine.

  • Editor, nursing journal.

  • Editor/writer to report on technology in robotics field. Needs technical background.

  • Editing/writing skills for medical journal. Will teach use of word processor.

  • Business writer for management consulting firm. Must be comfortable with semi-technical subjects.

  • Editor to coordinate production of proposals for computer services.

  • Experience with government proposals.

  • Newsletter editor for part-time work in university for space research group.
Technical Communication, the STC journal, is one of the best sources for employment opportunities. Ads appear in every issue. Get into the habit of reading the magazines and newspapers that feature industrial news to learn the names of such agencies through reports, manuals, news releases, articles, and advertising. Thus the technical communicator remains in demand to produce "reader-friendly" articles and instructions that can be easily understood and followed by the nontechnical person.

Don Bissell, publications manager for Sundstrand Corporation, is responsible for audiovisual preparation, writing services, technical publications, and writer training and development. In a recent speech, Mr. Bissell said: "Need I speculate that we'll be needed even more during the next ten years?... We have made significant advances in the last several years. We [technical writers] are not solidly in control of the next ten years unless we recognize and keep pace with a burgeoning technology."

According to statistics gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and published in the annual Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment for all kinds of writers and editors is expected to increase faster than other occupations through the years to come. The use of salaried writers and editors by newspapers, periodicals, book publishers, and nonprofit organizations will grow along with increasing demands for the publications. The demand for technical writers should even exceed the demand for writers in general because the amount of technical and scientific writing continues to increase at an explosive rate. The departure of people for other employment or retirement will create additional job opportunities.

Through the years to come, the outlook for most writing and editing positions will continue to be very competitive because many people are attracted to this field. Opportunities for technical writers will remain good, however, because only a small number of people can interpret technical material and make it understandable to the general public.

FINDING MORE INFORMATION

You should consider employment opportunities long before you graduate from college.
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