Unlike other professionals like doctors, dentists, and nurses, technical writers do not have to meet specific educational requirements in order to be considered for employment opportunities. Indeed, there are successful technical writers who only have a high school diploma. Increasingly, however, these individuals are the exception. Most technical writers today, at least the successful ones, have a strong educational background. So, although there are no mandatory courses you must take before you can try to pursue a career as a technical writer, it is recommended that you obtain one or more of the following qualifications to increase your chances of success.
English-related training: Good writing skills are an essential prerequisite for all technical writers, and many companies want their technical writers to have formal English training. A degree in journalism, communications, or English literature would be sufficient to meet this requirement.
Technical training: An undergraduate degree in a technical subject like computer science, business, or chemistry can help you achieve your goal of pursuing a career in technical writing. Many companies want individuals who have a good understanding of the technical subject they will be writing about.
*A note about education: To be a successful technical writer, you will require both strong writing skills and technical knowledge. However, there is no need to complete two degrees to meet this requirement. Instead, use your electives to get an education that focuses on both of these skills. If you're majoring in computer science, take electives like composition, English literature, and communications. Conversely, if your major is communications, take electives that are math, science, or business-related. Many institutions now offer students the opportunity to obtain certification as a technical writer. If you know this is the career you want to pursue, a technical writing degree or diploma is definitely worth considering.
Experience in one or more technical fields: Some companies want technical writers who not only possess knowledge about a technical field, but also have work experience in that field. A company searching for a technical writer to compose a report about a new lab technique, for example, may want somebody who has worked in a lab in the past. That way, the writer the company hires will have a good working knowledge of techniques commonly used by lab technicians to conduct experiments. By choosing people with hands-on experience, companies can feel confident the technical writers they hire will be able to handle their assigned projects. Choosing experienced individuals will also reduce the amount of background research required for projects.
Knowledge of different software programs: Today's technical writers are expected to do much more than simply write text. Now, technical documents are often multimedia presentations incorporating video, audio, photos, and charts in addition to text. If you hope to effectively compete with the multitude of other technical writers out there, learning how to use advanced software functions, familiarizing yourself with the latest applications, and knowing the basics of desktop publishing will all be essential. For the technical writer who hopes to do well, formal education and regular independent study are crucial.
Last Updated: 05/05/2014