What Are the Qualifications Needed to Become a Technical Writer?

Technical writing is a writing style found fields such as computer hardware and software, chemistry, engineering, aerospace, finance, consumer electronics, biotechnology, and robotics. As a technical writer, you’ll explain technology and other ideas to technical and nontechnical audiences (consumers). For example, you could tell a consumer how to use a television or computer. Technical writers are in demand and those interested in this field stand to earn good money. It’s never been a better time to be a ‘freelance’ technical writer!

What Are the Qualifications Needed to Become a Technical Writer?

Solid writing and language skills. You’ll need the following skills: illustration, typography, information architecture and design, and training material development. You’ll interview people who are experts in a particular subject and then write materials such as reports and documents.

Writing ability. You must be able to convey information in a concise and effective manner. You must understand the audience and how to write information that’s easy for them to follow and understand, especially for nontechnical audiences.

Training. Some technical writers have an Associate’s Degree or Technical Writing Certification while others may have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. Majors include English, Journalism, Creative Writing, Computer Science, Engineering, or Chemistry. While it’s not necessary to have any of these, it doesn’t hurt you either.

Interpersonal skills. Technical writers interact with different people such as clients, project managers, editors, graphic designers, web designers, subject matter experts (SMEs), photographers, engineers, accountants, marketers, and programmers. Technical writers must get the input of others; therefore, they must be able to effectively communicate with people. It’s imperative to have full cooperation from others at the same time being sensitive to the needs of others.

Teaching skills. Sometimes technical writers will teach a course to debug it. You must be able to teach and lead people. Organizational and timekeeping skills are imperative. You don’t want a class to run over or extremely under time.

Able to accept criticism. If you can’t handle criticism, you may want to forgo becoming a technical writer. You’ll receive feedback from editors and clients. They’ll expect rewrites to be done in a timely manner. While you may not agree with some of the rewrites and can certainly voice your opinion, editors and clients usually have the final say.

Able to concentration. Technical writers may work in busy offices. You’ll benefit from learning how to ‘tune out’ the noise that surrounds you.

Experience. Possessing knowledge and experience within one or more technical fields will put you ahead of other technical writers. For example, if you have a background in accounting and have a CPA, a company could hire you to write a manual on tax preparation because of your accounting experience. You’ll understand the terminology and how taxes are prepared. Companies select technical writers with hands-on experience because they’ll feel more comfortable they can handle the assignments. It also reduces the amount of research that may be necessary for projects.

Professionalism. Technical writers take their job seriously and conduct themselves in a professional manner. Many enjoy research and can handle the demands of the career. They’re hard workers who won’t turn in sloppy work. They’re well-educated and intelligent.