Technical Writing: 5 Steps to Becoming a Technical Writer
Would you enjoy communicating specialized knowledge to a general audience? Technical writers work closely with professionals in their field to deliver this information in a clear and concise style. Schools offering English Reading & Writing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Do Technical Writers Do?
As a technical writer, you may work closely with engineers, scientists and other specialists to learn the intricacies of a concept or technology. You then communicate this specialized knowledge to both professionals and a general audience by creating instruction manuals, training materials and user guides. Part of your work may also involve editing, revising and updating subject material prepared by other writers. You may also be responsible for selecting the illustrations and diagrams that accompany your work.
Step 1: Know What to Expect
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), technical writers are beginning to take a multimedia approach to their work involving Web design and software (www.bls.gov). Advances in remote technology allow you to work from anywhere and with people around the world, so working nights and weekends is not uncommon. Although you may be employed directly by your chosen industry, much of your work may be done under a contract or on a freelance basis. You may also find yourself working on multiple writing projects while trying to meet deadlines.
Step 2: Explore Types of Technical Writing
Technical writers are employed by a vast array of industries, such as computer systems, healthcare corporations and engineering companies. Knowing which of these industries you'd like to work for may help you decide what type of undergraduate education to pursue. The BLS reported in 2008 that changes and improvements in technology would result in a greater need for your services, so you may want to keep abreast of the latest developments in your chosen field.
Step 3: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
You don't have to follow a fixed path to become a technical writer, but many employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree. You can pursue a degree in English, communications, journalism or a technical subject to start your preparation. If you want extra preparation after graduating, then short technical writing certificate programs are also available. Additionally, there are bachelor's degree programs in technical communications that focus on strengthening your writing skills as well as providing you with a strong foundation in business, mathematics, science and technology.
Step 4: Build Your Reputation
As you embark on your career path, you can build a portfolio of writing samples that showcases your technical skills and creativity. You may draw upon projects that you did in school or jobs that you completed during internships. Keep in mind that establishing your credibility and reliability with an employer can lead to long-term dealings and more freelance work in the future.
Step 5: Develop Your Technical Expertise
In addition to solid communication and writing skills, your profession requires a degree of technical expertise. You can help your endeavors to explain complex concepts in a straightforward fashion by gaining experience in a technical background. Although coming from a technical background may speed along this process, you can also work closely with and interview specialists in your field to develop your expertise.
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