Technical Writing:It might just be the foot in the door you need
For new computer science graduates or even tried and true professionals, the opportunities in IT seem to be few and far between. If you’re looking to break into the industry, need a foot in the door at a large corporation, or are possibly considering a career change, technical writing could be just what you’re looking for. Technical writing isn’t always fun but can lead to other opportunities within an organization and will definitely provide the opportunity to mingle with other IT professionals.
Technical writing is a position that requires a lot more than just writing. The ability to collaborate and coordinate is key and in actuality, only about 30 percent of your time is spent writing. The responsibilities of a technical writer includes constant contact with others. Job duties range from writing internal technical documents, writing and editing manuals, producing online tutorials, and in some cases, even web-based training programs.
Technical writing positions will also give you the opportunity to hone "soft skills" such as listening skills as well as written and oral communication skills. In today’s IT environment, being able to include this position on your resume could prove profitable.
Technical writers come from a variety of educational backgrounds
Technical writers are usually a group with varied backgrounds and experience, the most common include English, Science or Engineering, computer science, journalism and technical communication. If you have a technical background, odds are you’ll be able to move in this direction easily. You may, however, want to take a few courses to decide whether or not you’ve got what it takes and to hone the necessary skills.
Courses in technical writing are typically offered at community colleges and will allow you to start to develop a portfolio. It’s a good idea to have a basic knowledge in web design and programming as well. Particular programs to learn include Microsoft Word, FrameMaker, and Robohelp. If you’re looking to move into this sector, it’s a extremely good idea to look for internships, volunteer work and potentially contract jobs that will allow you to build your portfolio with writing samples. Creating a personal website that displays your work and testimonials from satisfied clients is a good idea. Getting involved with open-source projects is also a way to build your reputation in this field.
If your goal is to use technical writing as a springboard into the IT industry, chances are it’ll happen. Often people with little technical knowledge use this position to learn the ropes and polish their technical skills. With the changes we’re seeing in IT and the emphasis on communication skills, it’s definitely proving a worthwhile venture for some. Possible transitions include programming, systems analysts, project and team leaders as well as information architects, management and/or sales.
The market for technical writers is holding steady
The job market for technical writers is a strong one and the medium salary range according to the Society for Technical Communicators (STC) salary survey is about $62,000 a year. As an average, that’s definitely nothing to ignore. There are several websites on the internet that provide additional resources and insight for those who are seriously contemplating a career in technical writing.
Two that you may want to check out include: The Society for Technical Communicators, www.stc.org and www.techwr-1.com, a forum for people in the business. Technical writing is not for everyone but if you find yourself actually considering the possibility, it’s worth taking the time to check it out. Who knows, you may just find your niche.