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Technical Writers

At a Glance

  • Make technical information understandable for most people
  • Write manuals, reports, proposals, and newsletters
  • Work with editors
  • Have a bachelor's degree
  • May work part time or full time

Career summary

Technical writers put scientific or technical information into language that is easy for others to understand.

Technical writers are also known as technical communicators.

Technical writers prepare many kinds of written materials. For example, they write:

They also write manuals that give detailed information on how to install, use, or repair products. Their goal is to make technical information understandable for people who do not have a technical background.

Technical writers begin a project by meeting with members of a technical team to learn more about the project. They find out about the requirements, such as how long the document should be and when it must be completed.

They also learn about the document's purpose and audience. Technical writers read any information that is available, such as product catalogs or technical journals.

They study drawings or mockups of the product, or observe the product in operation. They interview people who develop or work on the product, such as scientists or engineers. They take notes as they gather information.

Technical writers prepare an outline of the whole project. They select photos or drawings to illustrate the project.

Technical writers create a rough draft according to technical writing standards. Writers submit copies of the rough draft to reviewers or technical editors.

Editors write corrections and suggestions on their copies and return them. Based on these suggestions, technical writers make revisions and prepare a final draft.

In addition, they keep records and files of their drafts and revisions. When the final draft is accepted, writers may assist in laying out the document for publication.

Related careers

This career is part of the Arts, Audio/Visual Technology, and Communications cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to technical writers.

Common work activities

Technical writers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, technical writers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Technical writers frequently:

It is important for technical writers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for technical writers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Technical writers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a technical writer, you typically need to:

Education after high school

There are many ways to prepare for this occupation. You can get a bachelor's degree in communications, journalism, or English, and add technical classes. Another approach is to major in a technical area, such as engineering, computer science, or science. With this approach, you take as many writing related classes as you can.

A growing number of colleges offer degrees in technical writing. Courses vary based on the type of program. In general, technical writing programs offer a core of writing courses. They also include courses in algebra, statistics, logic, science, and engineering.

A bachelor's degree in technical writing coupled with a master's degree in journalism or communications is excellent preparation.

Work experience

Some technical writers begin as specialists or research assistants in a technical field. By developing technical communication skills, they eventually take on responsibilities for technical writing. In small firms, beginning technical writers may work on projects right away. In larger companies, beginners may observe experienced technical writers and interact with specialists before being assigned projects.

On-the-job training

Beginning technical writers often start with smaller firms or do routine tasks at first. You often begin by doing research or proofreading for experienced writers. Once you have some experience, you write your own articles. Training may last up to six months but usually is around two to three months.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

Also consider taking courses in any technical area you would like to write about, such as engineering or chemistry.

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Most employers prefer to hire technical writers who have at least a bachelor's degree. They also prefer writers with knowledge of the appropriate technical field.

Employers also look for applicants who have previous writing experience. High school and college newspapers and magazines can provide valuable writing experience.

Some employers will hire technical writers who do not have any work related experience. Other employers prefer to hire technical writers who have three to four years of experience.

A major in the field of interest with a minor in journalism or technical communications is useful. Clients of self-employed technical writers want workers who are self-directed, able to meet their needs, schedules, and limitations, and who have the tools to do the job.


Knowledge of graphics, layout, and other aspects of publication production may be helpful in getting a job. Some organizations hire junior technical writers for the summer months and interns from college degree programs during the school year. Experience working for an employer in a related occupation is very valuable.

Costs to workers

Workers may wish to join a professional association, which may have annual dues.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Technical writers (SOC 27-3042)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $26.93 $32.85 $41.12 $49.29 $59.86
Monthly $4,667 $5,693 $7,126 $8,542 $10,374
Yearly $56,020 $68,330 $85,520 $102,530 $124,500
    Bellingham Hourly $24.63 $40.12 $43.92 $47.72 $50.00
Monthly $4,268 $6,953 $7,611 $8,270 $8,665
Yearly $51,230 $83,434 $91,366 $99,253 $103,986
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $26.08 $32.20 $38.21 $44.68 $49.01
Monthly $4,520 $5,580 $6,622 $7,743 $8,493
Yearly $54,239 $66,980 $79,487 $92,955 $101,948
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $29.58 $35.07 $42.70 $50.89 $60.52
Monthly $5,126 $6,078 $7,400 $8,819 $10,488
Yearly $61,512 $72,942 $88,808 $105,852 $125,882
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $17.13 $24.89 $29.16 $35.12 $36.74
Monthly $2,969 $4,313 $5,053 $6,086 $6,367
Yearly $35,634 $51,765 $60,661 $73,047 $76,410
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $28.35 $34.22 $42.78 $51.25 $61.67
Monthly $4,913 $5,930 $7,414 $8,882 $10,687
Yearly $58,967 $71,166 $88,996 $106,594 $128,263
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $17.70 $22.08 $34.22 $39.60 $47.24
Monthly $3,067 $3,826 $5,930 $6,863 $8,187
Yearly $36,813 $45,929 $71,171 $82,360 $98,249
    Vancouver Hourly $20.77 $24.27 $33.40 $40.32 $49.14
Monthly $3,599 $4,206 $5,788 $6,987 $8,516
Yearly $43,188 $50,463 $69,475 $83,864 $102,214
United States Hourly $20.73 $26.68 $34.54 $44.27 $55.26
Monthly $3,593 $4,624 $5,986 $7,672 $9,577
Yearly $43,110 $55,500 $71,850 $92,070 $114,930

Wages vary widely by employer and area of the country.

Benefits also vary by employer. Full-time technical writers may earn benefits such as paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. Part-time writers may not receive benefits.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Technical Writers (SOC 27-3042)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 1,313 30.8% 16.1% 221
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 23 13.0% 8.6% 3
    Benton and Franklin Counties 132 4.5% 15.0% 13
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 45 13.3% 11.9% 5
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 64 23.4% 15.2% 9
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 17 35.3% 14.1% 3
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 53 22.6% 14.6% 8
    King County 788 41.6% 19.6% 153
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 12 25.0% 13.8% 1
    Pierce County 26 11.5% 15.2% 3
    Snohomish County 67 19.4% 12.4% 9
    Spokane County 41 9.8% 13.9% 4
United States 55,700 8.4% 5.2% 6,100

National employment

About one in five technical writers works for a computer software company. Technical writers work throughout the country, but the largest concentrations are in the northeastern states, Texas, and California.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will be strong. The continuing growth of scientific and technical information should increase the need for technical writers. Much of this information must be communicated to others, including those who do not have a technical background. With the expansion of the Internet, there will be an increased need for technical writing. In addition, openings will be created by workers who leave the field.

Job prospects are best for those with technical skill. Competition for jobs may be strong due to competition for freelance writers.

Other resources

American Medical Writers Association (external link)
30 West Gude Drive, Suite 525
Rockville, MD 20850
Careers in Space: A Universe of Options (external link)
Engineer Girl! (external link)
National Academy of Engineering
IEEE Computer Society (external link)
2001 L Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036
National Association of Science Writers (external link)
PO Box 7905
Berkeley, CA 94707
National Writers Union (external link)
256 West 38th Street, Suite 703
New York, NY 10018
Society for Technical Communication (external link)
3251 Old Lee Highway, Suite 406
Fairfax, VA 22030
Society of Women Engineers (external link)
130 East Randolph Street, Suite 3500
Chicago, IL 60601
Technology Student Association (external link)
1904 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191-1540


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster