Inside Technical Writer Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Make It What You Want...
Most people are surprised to learn that a career in technical writing is flexible and can be what you want it to be. With technology constantly changing you can pick what part of technology really gets you excited and focus on that area. It can also be a really creative position or an extremely focused and rudimentary position. It's totally up to each writer." (Technical Writer; 2014)

Career: 9 years of experience, currently based in Nebraska, male
School: Studied Advertising at Iowa State University in Iowa; completed Bachelor degree in 2003

"Job Searching Requires Relationships And Networking...
Most people are surprised about the amount of networking and push-and=pull involved in getting a job in media, especially in the entertainment industry. It's so important to make sure you know someone within the industry and not worried about getting your feet wet." (Copywriter; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Media & Communications at USC in California; completed Master degree in 2011

"The "Answers" To Many Technological Problems Are Easily Accessible...
-I was surprised by how many computer problems can be resolved simply by conducting a Google search and following routine directions. -Most people are surprised by how much corporations depend on the work my staff my does." (Technical Writer; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Massachusetts, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Assumption College in Massachusetts; completed Bachelor degree in 2011

"Unknown Scope Of Job Opportunities...
I didn't feel like I got many real practical job options/experience in school besides learning some skills. It felt like a lot of people went on to do different things because they weren't really sure what they could do and where that would take them with a career." (Researcher; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, female
School: Studied Art History/ Art And Design at DePaul University in Illinois; completed Bachelor degree in 2011

"Many Kinds Of Writers...
When most people think about writing, they think of creative writing. But writers can go into all kinds of fields where they are part of a team. You can go into creative writing, of course, or journalism. But you can also focus on science and technology and become a technical writer. Grant writing is another way to use writing as a basis for a career." (Writer; 2013)

Career: 15 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, female
School: Studied English at University Of Mississippi in Mississippi; completed Master degree in 1996

"Writing Careers: Not So Creative Or Lucrative...
1. There were much fewer opportunities for creative writing work than I had anticipated. 2. Most of the work concerning writing pay much less than I anticipated, a fact that requires me to hold at least two jobs at once." (Writer; 2013)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Georgia, male
School: Studied Communications at NYU in New York; completed Master degree in 2004

"Communications Skills Are Important...
Despite not having a very technical background, and not excelling in math and sciences in high school or college, I am surprised to find myself working in a very technical field right now. My success has been in being able to understand technology and communicate it to other people in a language that is easy for them to understand." (Writer And Consultant; 2013)

Career: 17 years of experience, currently based in New York, male
School: Studied Writing at UCSD in California; completed Bachelor degree in 1995

"Companies Careful About Hiring...
I have had to use more translation work than I thought. Also, what surprised me is that I enjoyed technical work such as programming a lot less in the "real world" than I did when I was at school. I was somewhat surprised at the depth of software packages that private companies made and sold, I had thought them to be less or the same as open source alternatives I used in school. I have also found that despite the demand for software engineers, companies are VERY VERY picky about people's backgrounds and are more willing to treat employees as niche assets than complex, adaptable, real people." (Technical Writer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Electrical Engineering at Stanford University in California; completed Master degree in 2009

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Information Systems Writer: "The part I like the best is my freedom. I can take my laptop out to the far reaches of the world and work on massive projects for my customers. The bad part is also my freedom. I say that because you have to stay extremely focused when you have so much freedom." (2011)

Documentation Specialist: "The best part of my job is the people I work with. I learn a great deal from the technical experts. They respect my contributions and are accepting of my help. I also enjoy getting to work on reporting about our content. It is an area that I have typically not been responsible for. This helps me grow as an employee. I have to look at things in a more analytical way. I guess the worst part of my job is that at times I have unrealistic goals for completing a project." (2010)

Technical Writer: "The best part of my job is that I'm working with very bright and interesting people. I can also work at home which allows me to be around for my family. My company allows complete flexibility in when and where I complete my work. The worst part of the job is that I'm required to travel. This is tough because I'm a mom and I don't like to be away from my kids. But for many, this is a bonus!" (2010)

Communications Consultant: "It can be a real challenge just getting access to the developers, who are busy working on the product. The second challenge is getting them to understand that if I can't understand what they are explaining to me, I can't translate it into terms that a layman will be able to understand." (2010)

Career Background

Technical Writer

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Video

Career Tips

"Write About Anything And Everything...
If you want a position that is not rigid and allows you to explore many different topics/subjects, technical writing is for you." (Technical Writer; 2014)

"Diversify Your Writing Style...
If you want to be successful as a writer, make sure you get out of your comfort zone and try multiple kinds of writing. For example, even if you think poetry is your strength, give fiction a try. It will help you find new ways of looking at language." (Writer; 2013)

"Quick Thinking Nature...
If you want to be a great copy writer in the entertainment space, learn to adapt all the time to new situations. The entertainment world and the nature of technology is changing so quickly and forces you to be quick on your toes." (Copywriter; 2013)

"Be On The Lookout For New Experiences...
You should always be looking for opportunities outside of your comfort zone. Treat each new task as an opportunity to learn, and look for challenging tasks that you can explore new areas of knowledge with." (Writer And Consultant; 2013)

"Communications As A Pathway To Interdisciplinary Studies...
Do not stop at majoring in communications. Use communications as a tool to go on to other areas of discipline, such as legal studies, political science, etc." (Writer; 2013)

"Focus On Something Specific...
I would build a strong relationships with mentors in college to help you explore ideas and concerns in the field. Also be open but pursue something very specific if you are interested because it can help develop a career path." (Researcher; 2013)

"I.T. Developers: Work Harder And Smarter...
-If you want to be an I.T. developer, be prepared to work long hours and put up with a lot of "mess". Call tickets will pile up, you will not work an eight hour day when you start (more like 10), and you will be drained when you leave work. Keep your head" (Technical Writer; 2013)

"Prepare For Long Hours...
First, you should make sure that you are proficient with computers and have great communication skills. Secondly, I would advise that you get with a company that allows you freedom in your job. So many of the projects I have to do require me to go about and collect data from the real world. Thirdly, I would have to say that you should really make sure that you can work long hours. You may find yourself working all day, and really just wanting to work through the night because your speed out output is your pay." (Information Systems Writer; 2011)

"Learn New Writing Skills...
1. Focus on your core writing skills. Use tools like spell and grammar checkers. But you need to work on your writing kills early. 2. When possible expand the type of writing skills you have. Look at classes that help you write for different types of audiences. Take classes that give you basic Web programming skills. Communicating through the Web is a very important skill to have. 3. Social media are the latest ways to network. Think about the most effective ways for businesses to use social media. This is a skill that many professionals who have been in the workplace for years do not have. This skill will give you an advantage." (Documentation Specialist; 2010)

"Stay Current...
The most important thing in my job is to keep up with the latest in technology. This is definitely what has landed me the best jobs in my industry. I have more experience with online writing tools than many of my peers and the products I've written about have been some of the most technologically advanced. The company I'm working for now is creating some of the newest technology available which will be a big plus when it's time to look for a new job." (Technical Writer; 2010)

"You'll Need Both Writing And Tech Skills...
I am about to complete a master's degree in technical communication. In the program, about half the people come from a writing background and the other half from an engineering or technical background. The latter have strong technical expertise but need to build their writing skills. So look at what your strong suit is and work on building the other half, because you'll need to have both." (Communications Consultant; 2010)