Many organizations rely on a technical writer for everything from whitepapers to product manuals and online help portals. They’re vital players when the time comes for a company or team to communicate its work to the rest of the world. With that in mind, how much do technical writers actually make in terms of salary, and what skills do they need?
First, some good news: Technical writing is a growing profession. According to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, technical writing is projected to grow 10.9 percent over the next decade, and the current time-to-fill open positions is 33 days (hinting at a high level of demand). The need to communicate technical concepts and results never goes away, it seems.
What is a technical writer’s average salary?
Although technical writers are in demand, the median technical writer salary is $67,655, according to Burning Glass. Yes, this is on the high side for writers (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, writers made a median salary of $63,200 in 2019), but it’s low if we’re looking at technical writers as a technology profession (the latest Dice Salary Report puts average annual pay for technologists at $94,000).
However, not all technical writers are paid the same, and it’s clear from the Burning Glass data that those with significant experience (i.e., nine years or more) can pull down salaries that approach $100,000. As with so many other jobs, a combination of specialized skills and experience can translate into outsized compensation. Take a look at this chart that breaks down pay by years in the profession:
What is a technical writer’s starting salary?
As we can see from the above chart, those just starting out as technical writers make a median salary of $60,000; depending on the company and their skillset, though, they could start out making as much as $70,000 (or as little as $49,000).
Education has a significant impact on how much technical writers can earn. Those with advanced degrees pull down more than those who only graduated high school. Unlike many technical roles, though, this isn’t a profession that asks for certifications, aside from certain companies (such as defense contractors) requiring security clearances:
What are the most valuable skills for a technical writer?
As you might expect, technical writers are expected to write and edit. They also need to possess solid “soft skills” such as communication, because a big part of the job involves talking to multiple teams and stakeholders. For example, a technical writer might need to interview developers at length in order to figure out how a new product actually works, then talk to executives to determine how they want the product positioned to the marketplace.
Technical writers must also be extremely detail-oriented, because the content they produce is what the customers will often rely upon in order to actually operate the product. If the technical writer screws up, it could result in an extremely frustrated customer base—which reflects badly on the company.
Is technical writer a good career?
If you love technology and writing, technical writing could prove an excellent career. The Burning Glass analysis suggests it’s a profession that will only grow in coming years, and it’s clear that companies will always have a need for professionals who can create all sorts of documentation, from whitepapers to website FAQs. Just make sure you’re detail-oriented.