Technical Writers

What Technical Writers Do

Technical writers prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily.

Work Environment

Most technical writers work full time. Although technical writers work in a variety of industries, they are concentrated in the computer and management, scientific, and technical industries.

How to Become a Technical Writer

A college degree is usually required for a position as a technical writer. In addition, knowledge of or experience with a technical subject, such as science or engineering, is beneficial.

Pay

The median annual wage for technical writers was $72,850 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of technical writers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will be driven by the continuing expansion of scientific and technical products. An increase in Web-based product support should also increase demand for technical writers. Job opportunities, especially for applicants with technical skills, are expected to be good.

Technical writers, also called technical communicators, prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily. They also develop, gather, and disseminate technical information through an organization’s communications channels.

Duties

Technical writers typically do the following:

  • Determine the needs of users of technical documentation
  • Study product samples and talk with product designers and developers
  • Work with technical staff to make products and instructions easier to use
  • Write or revise supporting content for products
  • Edit material prepared by other writers or staff
  • Incorporate animation, graphs, illustrations, or photographs to increase users’ understanding of the material
  • Select appropriate medium, such as manuals or videos, for message or audience 
  • Standardize content across platforms and media
  • Collect user feedback to update and improve content

Technical writers create paper-based and digital operating instructions, how-to manuals, assembly instructions, and “frequently asked questions” pages to help technical support staff, consumers, and other users within a company or an industry. After a product is released, technical writers also may work with product liability specialists and customer-service managers to improve the end-user experience through product design changes.

Technical writers often work with computer hardware engineers, computer support specialists, and software developers to manage the flow of information among project workgroups during development and testing. Therefore, technical writers must be able to understand and discuss complex information with people of diverse occupational backgrounds.

Technical writers may serve on teams that conduct usability studies to improve product design. Technical writers may research topics through visits to libraries and websites, discussions with technical specialists, and observation.

Technical writers are also responsible for managing the consistency of technical content and its use across departments including product development, manufacturing, marketing, and customer relations.

Some technical writers help write grant proposals for research scientists and institutions.

Increasingly, technical information is delivered online and through social media. Technical writers use the interactive technologies of the Web and social media to blend text, graphics, multidimensional images, sound, and video.

Technical writers held about 58,400 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of technical writers were as follows:

Professional, scientific, and technical services 35%
Manufacturing 15
Administrative and support services 9
Publishing industries (except Internet) 6

Most technical writers work full time. They routinely work with engineers and other technology experts to manage the flow of information throughout an organization.

Although most technical writers are employed directly by the companies that use their services, some freelance and are paid per assignment. Freelancers are either self-employed or work for a technical consulting firm and are given short-term or recurring assignments, such as writing about a new product.

Technical writing jobs are usually concentrated in locations with a multitude of information technology or scientific and technical research companies, such as ones in California and Texas.

Work Schedules

Technical writers may be expected to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of technical writers.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Computer Hardware Engineers

Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components.

Bachelor’s degree $117,220

Computer Programmers

Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly.

Bachelor’s degree $86,550

Editors

Editors plan, review, and revise content for publication.

Bachelor’s degree $61,370

Interpreters and Translators

Interpreters and translators convert information from one language into another language.

Bachelor’s degree $51,830

Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

Public relations managers direct the creation of materials that will enhance the public image of their employer or client. Fundraising managers coordinate campaigns that bring in donations for their organization.

Bachelor’s degree $116,180

Public Relations Specialists

Public relations specialists create and maintain a favorable public image for the organization they represent.

Bachelor’s degree $61,150

Writers and authors

Writers and Authors

Writers and authors develop written content for various types of media.

Bachelor’s degree $63,200

For more information about technical writers, visit

American Medical Writers Association

National Association of Science Writers

Society for Technical Communication

Related BLS articles

Career Outlook:

O*NET

Technical Writers


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Technical Writers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/technical-writers.htm (visited ).