Technical WriterJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

Any time a team of developers puts together a software product, users will need instructions on how to use and troubleshoot the product. A technical writer helps put those instructions and supporting documents together. Technical writers write how-to guides, quick reference guides, and cheat sheets to go along with the product. They can also be part of writing product announcements, marketing brochures, advertisements, and marketing specifications in the time leading up to a project’s implementation.

Technical writers must be able to convey complex information in a clear, concise way that is easy to understand for people with varying levels of technical skill. They are often also involved in developing training materials to teach users about software products. A technical writer can also study how the product is being used after it is released to help the development team create updates and modifications.

A technical writer needs to be aware of the needs of the audience they are writing for, and tailor the content to that group. Technical writers are responsible for managing the consistency of technical content across different departments, from product development to manufacturing, marketing, and customer relations. Some technical writers also write journal articles about the products on which they’re working, as well as writing grant proposals for their employers.

Sample job description

Technical writers prepare technical documentation to end-users by gathering and analyzing technical and product information and consulting with engineering and technical staff. They also develop documentation templates for the system, database, and program information. Technical writers must have excellent writing, editing, and communication skills, the ability to thrive under pressure, and be able to clearly present technical content to end-users. If you have experience writing clear and concise technical content and exceptional writing skills, you might be a perfect fit as a technical writer for us.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Organize material and complete writing assignments according to set standards regarding order, clarity, conciseness, style, and terminology
  • Maintain records and files of work and revisions
  • Edit, standardize, or make changes to material prepared by other writers or establishment personnel
  • Study drawings, specifications, mockups, and product samples to integrate and delineate technology, operating procedure, and production sequence and detail
  • Interview production and engineering personnel and read journals and other material to become familiar with product technologies and production method
  • Observe production, developmental, and experimental activities to determine operating procedure and detail
  • Review published materials and recommend revisions or changes in scope, format, content, and methods of reproduction and binding

Education and experience

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in journalism, English, communications, or a related field.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Experience working in a technical writing position
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Able to write in explanatory and procedural styles for multiple audiences
  • Excellent prioritization and multitasking skills

Preferred qualifications

  • 5+ years working as a writer
  • Experience with SEO, app development language, and content writing
  • Strong written skills
  • Excellent grammar skills

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for a technical writer is $78,200 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$77,750$105,200
Los Angeles, California$87,750$118,700
Denver, Colorado$73,100$98,900
Washington, DC$89,050$120,500
Miami, Florida$72,800$98,450
Orlando, Florida$67,150$90,850
Tampa, Florida$67,800$91,750
Atlanta, Georgia$71,100$96,250
Chicago, Illinois$81,750$110,600
Boston, Massachusetts$88,400$119,600
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$70,450$95,350
New York City, New York$93,050$125,900
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$75,800$105,500
Dallas, Texas$73,800$99,800
Houston, Texas$73,100$98,900
Seattle, Washington$85,100$115,100
National Average$66,450$89,950

Typical work environment

Technical writers typically work in offices, but they may also work some days or every day from home. They spend much of their time researching and writing technical content. They also collaborate with engineers and other technology experts. Technical writers work traditional business hours, but might be required to work nights or weekends to meet deadlines.  

Typical hours

The typical work hours for a technical writer in an office setting are 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday.

Freelance technical writers are often able to set their own hours and work remotely.

Available certifications

Many institutions offer certifications to help UX writers improve their skills and knowledge. Here are some of the top certifications for UX writers: 

  • Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC). The Society for Technical Communication (STC) certification program is split into 3 tiers. The Foundation tier is for entry-level technical writers and demonstrates a sound knowledge of the principles of technical communication. The Practitioner tier proves you have a high proficiency in applying the best practices of technical communication. The Expert tier is designed for experienced technical writers and demonstrates the highest level of expertise as a technical communicator. To be eligible for the CPTC certifications, you must become a member of the STC.
  • Tech-Writer Certification Programs. Tech-Writer offers several certification programs designed for technical writers of all levels who want to advance their technical writing careers. The Basic Certificate in technical writing consists of 3 courses for entry-level candidates who want to learn technical writing. The Certificate In Professional Technical Communication helps candidates develop their skills specific to the field of technical writing. They learn advanced writing styles and competencies needed to create technical written reports, project proposals, feasibility studies, website communications, and other forms of technical correspondence. 

Career path

Technical writers are required to have a bachelor’s degree in English, journalism, communications, or a related field. Students who aspire to be technical writers are encouraged to pursue internships with tech companies that employ Technical Writers or companies in a particular field of interest, such as engineering.

It can also be useful for technical writers to obtain certifications in the field. The Society for Technical Communication, a professional association, offers multiple levels of certification in technical communication. It is also beneficial for technical writers to gain an understanding of how software and websites are created to get a better grasp of the development process.

In addition to general writing skills and knowledge, a technical writer needs to have soft skills like expertise in interviewing and collaborating. Technical writers have to interview various members of the product development team to learn as much as possible about all aspects of a particular product to write informative technical documentation. Writing technical documents is a collaborative process, involving multiple members of a product development team to make sure all the documentation conveys a consistent message.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 27-3042

2020 Employment52,300
Projected Employment in 203058,300
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 12% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift6,100 increase

Since technical writers should always be aware of the needs of their audience, they need to keep up on trends in the field. According to the Society for Technical Communication, the use of structured documents is on the rise in the technical writing field. Structured documents use a form of coding or markup to allow for content reuse and agile documentation. It also allows for materials to be presented on multiple platforms.

Another trend in the technical writing field is the use of mobile delivery for technical documents. Since more computing is being done on smartphones, users need to be able to view technical documents easily on mobile devices. Users can’t always get to a desktop to read technical documents when they need to troubleshoot a problem with a product.

Context-sensitive help is another emerging trend in technical writing. It delivers targeted information to users right at the time it is needed. This often leads to a better user experience than forcing a user to sort through an entire document, searching for the information they need.

Sample interview questions

  • What do you think are the characteristics of good technical writing?
  • What interests you about being a technical writer in our industry?
  • How do you keep up to date on industry trends?
  • What software tools are you proficient with?
  • What strengths do you bring to this position?
  • What tools do you bring when you interview subject matter experts?
  • What is a white paper?
  • How do you handle negative criticism from your editor?
  • What are your professional goals over the next five years?
  • What are the main differences between MS Word and Framemaker?
  • Can you describe your research process?
  • How many words do you typically write in a workday?
  • What challenges have you encountered in collecting information?
  • Can you explain the difference between HTML and XML?
  • What skills do you possess that qualify you as a technical writer?
  • What documentation would you use to deliver technical content?
  • How do you stay motivated?
  • How do you prioritize your work?
  • What is your method for determining who your target audience is?
  • Which publication tools are you familiar with? Which do you prefer?

Technical Writer Jobs in Ashburn

    Loading RSS Feed

Need help hiring a Technical Writer?

We match top professionals with great employers across the country. Your next career move or star employee is just around the corner. Review our career content and advice, browse our latest job openings, or email us your resume. We look forward to connecting with you soon!

Browse A-Z Job Descriptions