If you’re considering technical writing as a career choice, there are a few ways to learn what education, skills, and experience you’ll need to get the job. You might look into salary information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You could reach out to an online community of people employed in the field to see what they recommend. Or, you can browse wearily through dozens of job listings to find out exactly what employers are looking for.
We’ve done just that for today’s article by sampling 40 technical writer job listings on Indeed.com. The listings are all in the New England area, mostly centered around Boston. They’re also recent listings–posted within the last 30 days. So, while this data doesn’t reflect the entire nation, it does paint a decent picture of the career as it stands today.
Let’s look at the data.
Top industries for technical writers
Tech writing is a difficult career to define because it covers such a wide range of tasks across various industries. In other words, a technical writer working for a Department of Defense contractor will be creating different content than someone working for a startup software company.
There are some industries that employ a greater number of technical writers. Therefore, if you plan on entering the field it would be to your benefit to have some experience and knowledge in one of these industries.
From the job listings we reviewed, we found technical writing jobs in the following industries:
Software technical writing
It has been said that technical writers in the software development field are a dying breed. Some companies want their user experience to be so intuitive and approachable that they never need to click the Help button.
Many tech writers, however, will tell you that goal is unattainable. Take companies like Google and Facebook who both use vast amounts of documentation to help users understand and navigate all of their features.
Healthcare and Sciences
Healthcare is an industry that never ceases to grow each year. New drugs, regulations, treatments, and policy are constantly being introduced. Technical writers in the medical and healthcare fields create the documentation behind those products and policies, adhering to strict industry standards.
Chemistry Manufacturing and Controls (CMC) technical writers are in demand because of their niche knowledge of pharmaceutical regulations.
Outside of medicine, technical writers are needed in a range of other companies in the science, technology, and engineering industries.
Job-related skills and tools
If there’s one thing more valuable than your education on your resume it’s your job skills. In technical writing, there are a range of tools, languages, and publishing standards that are vital to doing your job effectively.
In our analysis of 40 job listings, we found that these are most sought-after skills and competencies for technical writers:
Microsoft Office tops the list, if only because it’s used in so many industries by so many different employees. The most in-demand publishing software programs were Adobe FrameMaker and MadCap Flare, two powerful tools with a bit of a learning curve.
In terms of markup languages, it’s no surprise that XML and HTML were valuable skills to hold for technical writers who frequently create web-based documentation.
Experience and Education
Today’s job listings are notorious at asking for copious amounts of experience. Part of this can presumably be blamed on HR employees who ask for five years of experience in a program that has only existed for three.
However, our findings showed that most listings that had experience requirements asked for only one to three years of experience.
|1 to 3 years||18|
|4 to 6 years||9|
|7 to 10 years||2|
When it comes to education, a bachelor’s degree was preferred by most employers. However, many job listings did not specify a particular degree, opting for a Bachelor’s in related fields such as English, journalism, communications, and marketing.
Employers are hesitant to explicitly list the salary of the jobs they’re posting. Some even revert to using the boilerplate phrase, “Salary commensurate with experience.” However, the few companies (8 out of 40) that did list salaries were on the low side compared to what the Bureau of Labor Statistics says about tech writing salaries.
|Average Salary (BLS):||$73,160|
|Average Salary (from 8 of 40 listings):||$58,000|
Check out our article, How to Become A Technical Writer to learn more about the career.