Technical Writing Degree: is it necessary?

Technical writing is a very wide field. It can be a promising line of career for someone who may want to try it. If you are interested in giving technical writing a try then you should read on. This article should give you ideas on what is technical writing and what kind of college degree will be needed to enter this field.

What Is Technical Writing?

Technical writing is a highly valued skill right now. It is expected that the demand for technical writers will grow by as much as 10% from 2014 to 2024. So, being a technical writer is a really promising field that you should consider trying.

Before we do anything else, it’s crucial to define what tech writing is. In the old definition, technical writing is the practice of documenting technical processes. In the past, that was mostly limited to writing manuals and technical instructions.

That definition has become obsolete. With the advent of the internet, the job of the tech writer has become more complex.  Now, technical writing covers all documentation of technical processes and anything that is remotely technical. These days, anything that involves writing technical information falls under technical writing. 

What industries use tech writing? These are the main ones:

  • Manufacturing
  • Engineering
  • Biotech
  • Energy
  • Aerospace
  • Finance
  • IT
  • Logistics

It’s not just limited to the writing of user manuals. Reports, presentations, emails, briefs, and other formats require the skills of tech writing. 

What Makes Technical Writing Different from Business Writing

What is it that makes technical writing different from business writing? Are these two fields the same?

In strict terms, these two fields are different from each other but in a way technical writing is a form of business writing. It may deal with some topics. In a way technical writing is a form of business writing that deals with specific topics. 

A tech writer can be seen as a mediator between the more technical part of the team and readers who are not technical at all. Their audience could be people within the same organization or they could be the customers and potential customers. 

How Can You Become a Technical Writing?

Are you interested in becoming a technical writer? It seems like a promising field to enter. The question now is what kind of education you need to pursue to get into this career. Is there a specific technical writing degree that you can go for?

First of all, it helps to talk about how lucrative this career can be. Based on statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a tech writer is around $70,000 per year. That’s average, so it means that as you gain more experience and knowledge, your salary can go up as well.

What are the technical writing skills that are needed to be successful in the industry? Your job will depend on the kind of industry you will be in. Some of the documents that you will be required to write include the following:

  • Technical Reports
  • Web content
  • Guides and User Manuals
  • Press Releases
  • White Papers
  • Case Studies
  • Emails with technical information
  • Memos
  • Product Descriptions

It can be overwhelming to see that there will be so many documents that will have to be written by a tech writer. It can even be more overwhelming when you are reminded that there are other document types that are not on the list.

Also, each type requires a specific format that needs to be followed. For example, a press release must follow a specific kind of format or it will not be published. So, if you want to develop a technical writing career, it’s crucial that you have some understanding of the different formats that are needed.

What Education Do You Need to Become a Technical Writer?

There are two main things that a technical writer is required to have. The first one is skill in writing. A technical writer must be very proficient in the use of language to communicate effectively. The second requirement is knowledge in the field, subject, or industry that they are writing about.

It’s not enough that you know how to write well to become a good technical writer. You also need extensive knowledge in the field that you are writing about or you cannot convey the information needed.

Keep in mind that your audience can be people within the same industry, so they are also knowledgeable in the field or they can be customers and they have no knowledge about the subject, either way, you need to know what you are talking about or you cannot do your job properly.

College Degree

Is there a specific college degree that you should pursue to become a technical writer? The answer is yes. There are certain degrees that you can pursue to become a tech writer but there are other paths that you can follow.

Many technical writers start out by studying English or taking journalism or communications in college. Those college degrees can get you into a career in writing but remember the other requirement for becoming a technical writer, which is detailed knowledge of the subject. So, honing your language and communication skills gets only half of the job done.

Starting Out in Technical Fields

Then there are the technical writers who start out their career by joining the industry first and then becoming writers within that field. For example, some get into computer technology, engineering, or mathematics, and then they end up writing technical papers on the subjects.

For some of the more highly technical fields, this is the most ideal path because the fields require deep knowledge before one can write about those.

Degrees in Technical Writing

There are degrees now being offered for those who want to go straight into technical writing.

For example, one can get an Associate’s Degree in Technical Writing. Under this degree a student can learn the following: 

  • Business grammar
  • Internet writing
  • Use of online documents
  • Online research methods
  • Technical editing

Do you notice anything about the subjects that you can learn in this degree? They are not very esoteric, meaning you can learn them on your own. This does not mean that getting an  Associate’s Degree in technical writing is useless. It can still be very helpful.

If you want to learn more useful stuff then you should try getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Technical Writing instead. It teaches a lot more technical skills that will be needed when it comes to writing. You can also learn a great deal about editing, which is an important and useful skill that you can use in your technical writing career.

Final Thoughts

If you are already working as a technical writer and you want to improve your career even further, then maybe you should try getting a Master’s Degree in Technical Writing. Under this course, you can learn more about government and business writing, editing, and even rhetorical theory. More doors can open up for you once you get a Master’s Degree.

These are just some of the educational paths that you can pursue for you to become a technical writer. As you can see, there are many ways that you can start a career in technical writing, the important thing is for you to have the necessary skills and knowledge.

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