9 Point Checklist - Should You be a Technical Writer?
How to Become a Technical Writer
Technical writers prepare manuals, how-to guides, and articles describing complex information in simple ways. If you enjoy writing and are interested in streamlining difficult topics to make them easier to understand, technical writing might be the career for you.
If you think you want to become a technical writer, research degree programs and certificate options that relate to technical writing at universities and colleges near you. Learn software programs that are useful in technical writing, such as Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe Creative Suite, and Madcap Flare. Get some work experience and some writing samples by volunteering to write local businesses’ manuals or other technical documents.To learn how to find a mentor in the field or meet technical writers through networking organizations, scroll down.
Gaining Necessary Experience
Get a bachelor’s degree in technical writing.Technical writers usually have a college degree. Having a relevant degree or training in the field can multiply your chances of landing technical writing jobs. If you are looking to start school, explore degrees in writing and communication.
- Technical writing degrees normally give you the option of technical, medical, and scientific options for your degree. You need to select the option that interests you the most.
- You can go for a double major in writing and another field that you are interested in, such as biology, computer science, graphic design, pre-law, engineering, or mechanics.
Add an associate degree or certification.If you already have a degree, keep on updating your credentials through an associate degree or certification in technical writing. Taking classes will help you get practice with technical writing and learn tips of the trade. Adding credentials will give you a competitive edge and can mean more job opportunities.
- You can also get an associate degree or certificate in communications, English, or journalism. These three fields also train you in writing and some offer a concentration in technical writing.
- Getting an associate degree is longer than gaining a certificate. A certificate also offers more concentrated classes on a topic, whereas an associate degree will give you more options in the types of classes you can take.
- A lot of technical writing certificate programs are available online. Taking an online class is something you can do in your free time to build your knowledge and skills.
Improve your software and technology skills.Technical writers don’t just write; they also prepare documents with diagrams, images, and videos. Making a document with different media requires knowledge of a variety of software programs, like Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe FrameMaker, Madcap Flare, Adobe Creative Suite, Lotus Notes and Microsoft Visio. Take some time to research these programs and practice using them.Being proficient with these programs is usually a prerequisite when you are applying for a technical writing job.
- If you don’t already have access to these programs, either purchase them or use a trial version on your personal computer.
Volunteer for experience.Volunteering will increase your experience in technical writing. Call local businesses and ask if they need anyone to write their technical documents. Give them a sample of your work to persuade them. Most businesses would be willing to have their manual written from a qualified person at a low cost or for free.
- Volunteer work is also a resume and portfolio builder and can open up several job opportunities for you.
Get contract jobs.Contract work is a way of building your resume in technical writing and can lead to more full-time opportunities. If you find companies looking for freelance, contract work, express your interest. Working freelance is one way to enter a field when you’re new to it because a company does not have to commit to you for long.
Building Your Portfolio
Collect articles you’ve written.You want to show prospective employers that you know how to write about complex subjects in a simple, easy-to-understand way. A portfolio is a collection of writing samples that displays these skills. If you’ve already written manuals, how-to guides, or instructions, print them out and store them in a folder to bring to interviews.
- If you have writing from a previous job, get permission from that employer to use the work in your portfolio.
Write your own articles.If you don’t already have examples of technical writing or writing that shows off skills needed in technical writing, write a new article. To write an article, find a website that provides a service, like a store where you can purchase clothing. A lot of clothing stores have guides on how to purchase, pay, and exchange or return a purchase. If a store doesn’t have a guide like this, write one for them.
Use papers you’ve written in school.If you’ve taken any classes, you have probably had writing assignments. Even if you haven’t written a manual or how-to-guide, an essay that describes a complex topic in a simple way is a great example of technical writing. So look through old assignments and find pieces that you can put in your portfolio.
Translate a current job into the technical writing field.If you’re employed in a field outside of technical writing, see if you can do technical writing for the job. A manual to train people is a type of technical writing. So ask your manager if you can write a training manual for new employees. Then add this manual to your portfolio.
Finding a Job in Technical Writing
Network in the field.Networking in a field brings you close to other people working in it who can then connect you to jobs. An easy way to begin networking in the technical writing field is to join an association. Associations often have monthly meetings where you can meet other writers, hear about their experiences, and learn about job opportunities.
- Society for Technical Communication is one technical writing association.
- Associations also have a lot of resources, like online courses and webinars.
Find a mentor through a publishing agency.Another way to break into the technical writing field and get connected to job opportunities is to find a mentor. Contact editors at publishing agencies and tell them you’re interested in technical writing. Try giving them a sample of your work as well so they know you’re serious. You may have to contact several editors before getting a response.
- A mentor can also show you the ropes of the trade and help you improve your skills.
Search for technical writing job sites.There are a lot of websites to search for jobs, but many of them list all types of jobs, from babysitting to office management. To make finding a job easier, seek out websites that are specific to technical or writing jobs. To find such websites, type in “technical writing jobs” or “writing jobs” in you search engine.
- Doing this will take a little time and research, but it will pay off in the long-run when you have a list of sites that are specific to the jobs you want.
- One job website specific to technical writers is .
What is technical drawing when becoming a technical writer?
- Know your audience and customize your content accordingly.
- Always assign some time for proofreading. It not only removes errors but also gives you new ideas to improve your piece.
- In order to be a good writer, you need to be a good reader. Read the newspaper daily. Reading frequently will also keep you updated with new trends and developments in technology.
Video: Writing Career Advice : How to Become Technical Writer
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