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Degrees in Technical Writing

Despite typical stereotypes of technical writers being behind a cubicle, writing alone all day, this is actually a highly creative field that involves collaborating with many people, conducting interviews, and researching. While there is a strong writing component, this field is moving towards the title “technical communications” because there is a lot more involved than exclusively writing.

technical writing schools

Oftentimes individuals in this field work as translators in that they help turn highly technical, complicated processes into a language the everyday person can understand. For instance, technical writers are responsible for developing user guides or manuals that are packaged with almost every piece of electronic equipment, appliance, tool, or a number of other things. When you buy an Ipod or even a new refridgerator it likely comes with a “user manual” that a technical communicator wrote.

Degree Program

Oftentimes a technical writing degree falls into the English department of a university. There are on average anywhere from 16-20 PhD programs, and a very high number of bachelor’s and master’s degree programs specific to this field throughout the country, and that number continues to grow.

Students who major in technical communications are strongly encouraged to earn a minor in an area they are interested in working. For instance, if they are interested in writing the results of literature from engineers and scientists, it is recommended they get a minor in science so they have a better understanding of the issues they’ll be working with. Other students may work for a public relations firm, in which a public relations minor would be helpful. Since technical writers are truly needed in almost every field across the board, it is common to see these individuals gaining minors in an assortment of areas.

Certificate Programs

Many schools also have certificate programs in place of bachelor’s degree programs in technical writing. These are certificates awarded by the institution (not “professional certificates” like a Microsoft certificate). They are basically the equivalent of someone completing a minor in technical writing or slightly more than a minor. These individuals with just certificates can be hired straight after that without a bachelor’s in some cases, depending on the company hiring.

Courses and Training

The interesting thing about the technical writing field is that the specific classes are taught in undergrad programs varies widely depending on the local needs. For example, if you’re earning a technical writing degree at a school located in the research triangle in North Carolina with a local medical school and a lot of medical technology companies around your universities, you’d be more likely to have classes with a medical writing emphasis. In the Washington, D.C. area most of the technical writing programs include public policy and discourse writing courses. In California oftentimes you’ll find technical writing programs include a heavy emphasis on software related and documentation studies due to having so many technology companies locally.

While specific courses for technical writing programs are quite diverse depending on location there are some fundamental courses or topics that are typically covered in all technical writing programs. The titles of these courses often varies, but topics covered are fairly universal. The fundamental courses include rhetoric/persuasion, document design, web design, and research methods. The research methods classes focus on usability testing and qualitative research like interviewing. Regardless of what area a technical communicator chooses to pursue, almost everyone in this field needs to be able to interview people in order to gather the information they need to do their work.

technical writing schools

Internship Programs

Internships can be extremely important for marketability in the field, especially when trying to land a first job in technical writing. Most entry level jobs will require one to two years of experience and while a bachelor’s degree will count toward some of that experience, internships are also highly recommended.

Most technical communications programs include internship programs because no matter what is taught in the classroom, that information does not really “come alive” until students get experience in the actual workplace and put all their classroom knowledge to practical use. Some programs allow students to take anywhere from 3-12 hours of internship credits counted toward their degree. Some institutions have very strong connections to local industries that support their students so there are regular internships available at these companies. Other schools don’t have specific internships available but allow the students to do their own research to find an internship, and then apply with the school for internship credit.

Salary for Technical Writers

According to the Society for Technical Communication, the technical writing field has seen an increase in average salary every year for the past 21 years. “Today, skilled technical writers bank an average of over $61,000 per year.”

Salaries for technical writers vary greatly based on geographic location and years of experience. Another important factor that affects pay for these individuals is what type of company they work for. Some examples of the types of companies a technical writer may be employed include a large corporation, a non-for-profit, a hospital, a governmental organization, and freelance consulting.

technical writing schools

More Information

To learn more about a career in technical writing and how earning a degree can help propel your career, select the below link and complete a simple request form. There are no obligations required but this will allow you to get any lingering questions answered.

Salary by State

Technical writers can make very lucrative salaries. However, these salaries do vary according to which state the job is in. Some states tend to pay better than others. The following averages, found at www.indeed.com, are broken down by state. These figures do not include every technical writer job in each of the states but are rather meant to provide an average. If you’re thinking about relocating, it is a wise idea to first investigate how that state pays technical communications professionals.

Alabama : $65,000
Alaska : $55,000
Arizona : $51,000
Arkansas : $64,000
California : $59,000
Colorado : $53,000
Connecticut : $65,000
Delaware : $58,000
District of Columbia : $71,000
Florida : $56,000
Georgia : $65,000
Hawaii : $45,000
Idaho : $51,000
Illinois : $62,000
Indiana : $57,000
Iowa : $58,000
Kansas : $54,000
Kentucky : $53,000
Louisiana : $58,000
Maine : $43,000
Maryland : $63,000
Massachusetts : $68,000
Michigan : $61,000
Minnesota : $53,000
Mississippi : $65,000
Missouri : $58,000
Montana : $44,000
Nebraska : $55,000
Nevada : $55,000
New Hampshire : $51,000
New Jersey : $65,000
New Mexico : $72,000
New York : $70,000
North Carolina : $60,000
North Dakota : $57,000
Ohio : $59,000
Oklahoma : $55,000
Oregon : $60,000
Pennsylvania : $57,000
Rhode Island : $59,000
South Carolina : $49,000
South Dakota : $54,000
Tennessee : $59,000
Texas : $57,000
Utah : $51,000
Vermont : $54,000
Virginia : $68,000
Washington : $58,000
West Virginia : $71,000
Wisconsin : $47,000
Wyoming : $69,000

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