In our last article article on technical writing, we analyzed 40 recent job listings in the New England area. While we were able to learn a lot from those listings, such as the skills and education required to land the job, they were from a single concentrated area and didn’t adequately reflect the state of technical writing as a whole.
Today, we’re going to look at some data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to see the full scope of technical writing jobs across the country.
The BLS collects and compiles data from over 800 occupations and makes them readily available to the public. Let’s take a look at what they have to say about the field of technical writing and the job outlook for future writers.
Where the technical writing jobs are
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that most technical writing jobs exist in cities and states with a large science and technology presence. Here are the top three states for careers in technical writing:
- California: 6,590 technical writers
- Texas: 3,930 technical writers
- Massachusetts: 2,700 technical writers
However, due to population and area differences, the total number of technical writing jobs in a state may not be the best way to determine the demand for writers in that area.
To determine the demand for an occupation, we can use the location quotient, which is the ratio of the location concentration of tech writers to the national average concentration of tech writers.
When we look at this quotient, the top states for tech writers change a bit:
- District of Columbia – 3.21
- Massachusetts – 2.20
- Maryland – 2.11
States with the top paying tech writing jobs
If you’re considering technical writing as a potential subject to study in college or as a career change, one of your chief concerns might be the average salary.
Since technical writers most often work in the STEM fields and have specialized skills in that area, they tend to make more than most writers.
The national media salary for technical writers is $69,850. When compared with other media and communications professionals, technical writers make over $15,000 more per year.
Location also plays an important role in the salary of technical writers. Some industries, especially those found in tech hubs like California and Massachusetts, pay more on average. Furthermore, some states just have a higher cost of living and higher average wages to make up for it.
Here are the top three highest paying places for technical writers:
- California – $86,530
- Massachusetts – $84,580
- District of Columbia – $83,820
Required education to become a technical writer
If the pay and locations look promising, you might be thinking it’s to start looking into technical writing schools. You might be surprised, however, to find that there aren’t many colleges and universities offering degrees in technical writing.
While most technical writing jobs require a bachelor’s degree, they are often flexible regarding the subject that degree is in. Tech writers come from backgrounds in English, journalism, computer science, engineering, and numerous other disciplines. You’ll stand a better chance at landing a job if you’re familiar with their industry and if you excel at explaining things in writing.
Technical writing online courses
If you’re thinking of switching careers and don’t have experience in technical writing, there are a few online courses available that will give you an introduction.
Then, if you want to venture into the the popular field of tech writing for software developers, it wouldn’t hurt to take a few programming or web development courses to gain an understanding of the languages.
Technical writing job outlook
It’s been said many times that technical writing is a dying industry. However, that tends to be said whenever a job evolves with the changing time.
Now that companies are trying to make their user experience as intuitive as possible, some see this process as eliminating the need for end user documentation.
While intuitive user experiences are a good goal to aspire to, some things will always be too complicated to be understood by your average user or consumer. Furthermore, technical writers are now finding new roles like instructional design for online courses, training materials for businesses, and technical support blogs for computer software.
People entering the technical writing field might also experience a bit of an identity crisis in that their job title may be different at every company they work. This is partly due to the fact that tech writers, especially in rapidly changing fields like software development, tend to wear many hats.
You could have your hands in any number of departments, from engineering and user experience to marketing and graphic design. As a result, the more skills you have, the higher your chances of finding steady work.
Now, taking all of that volatility and industry change into account, here’s what the BLS says is the ten-year job growth of technical writing:
- Technical writers – 10%
- All media and communications careers – 4%
- All occupations – 7%
So, in spite of the doomsday prophecies about the death of technical writing, the field is still growing faster than the national average.