How to Become a Technical Author
Technical Author Careers & Degrees

Technical Authors are professionals who have strong skills in writing and a technical background such as: computer science, engineering or web design.

Their work encompasses multidisciplinary fields to create works such as instruction manuals, journal articles or other print material to make technical topics easier to read and understand.

As a whole, individuals who want to become a Technical Author can expect to enter a healthy profession because of the growth and improvements in technology and electronics.

This growth is expected to affect individuals who are knowledgeable in the technological field who also have the ability to write technical information in a manner that is easily understood.

Education Requirements to Become a Technical Author

The minimal educational requirement to become a Technical Author is a bachelor’s degree.

An understanding in a technical field such as engineering, computer science or web design is highly encouraged.

In addition, individuals also have the option to seek certification to show they are competent.

Although not a requirement, a certification as a Technical Author can show potential employers that a candidate is knowledgeable in the field.

Many organizations that employ Technical Authors look for individuals with a Bachelor’s degree in English, communications or journalism.

Individuals must also have an in depth understanding of a technical topic such as web design, engineering, computer science or medicine.

Individuals may also pursue a degree in these fields to gain an understanding in a technical subject.

An individual may also seek a path to secure a double major in both writing and a technical subject as another option.

For example, an individual can pursue a double major in English and Computer Science or Communications and Engineering.

Or a related combination to show employers they have the skills to write technical information.

Individuals who want to become a Technical Author also have the option to enter an entry level position such as a research assistant or a specialist in a technical field.

In fact, many individuals pursue this path after graduating with a technical degree.

During their training as a research assistant or a specialist, individuals will gain an understanding of how to communicate using technical words and phrases.

Finally, individuals have the option to seek certification to show their knowledge and proficiency in the field.

The Society for Technical Information is a professional association that administers testing for the Certified Professional Technical Author certification.

Individuals may visit: STC for more information on the association or testing information.

Individuals with a technical background in medicine will learn more information about certification by joining a professional association through the American Medical Writers Association.

Individuals may visit AMWA for more information.

Technical Author Job Description

Technical Authors use their background in a technical field, such as computer science, and their experience in writing to convert complex technical information into material that is easier to understand.

This conversion is then used to create several kinds of written content for a general audience.

The types of written content can include: journals, instruction manuals, operating instructions, assembly instructions, how to manuals or frequently asked questions.

Technical Authors will start by determining the needs of individuals who will be reading the finished material.

They will observe product samples and discuss a product with designers and developers to understand its purpose and organize the information gathered to write accompanying texts for the finished product.

In addition, Technical Authors will create diagrams, drawings or other visuals to further aid the instructions that come with a product.

Technical Author Salary and Career Path

The 2012 annual median wage for Technical Authors was approximately $65,500.

Exact wages will depend on level of experience as well as the industry an individual works in.

For example, individuals working in Information earn higher wages with a median annual income of approximately $70,460 while those working in manufacturing can expect a median annual wage of approximately $64,170.

Technical Authors earning at the bottom ten percent can expect an annual salary of $38,700.

Technical Authors can also expect to work a variety of shifts, depending on the company they work for.

Evening and weekend hours may be common for some industries because of the differing time zones or the need to meet strict deadlines.

Employment opportunities for Technical Authors are expected to increase by 15 percent through the year 2022, a rate considered faster than average when compared to all occupations.

This growth is attributed to the continued success of technical goods as well as product support for web based products.

Individuals interested in a career as a Technical Author can be assured that they will have opportunities by entering this field.

Not only is this a growing profession, individuals will be challenged to continually keep up to date with the new technologies.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$76,860
$44K
$56K
$76K
$93K
$117K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$70,140
Alaska$72,630
Arizona$73,400
Arkansas$62,870
California$93,830
Colorado$79,370
Connecticut$82,300
Delaware$76,030
District of Columbia$93,910
Florida$62,470
Georgia$75,830
Hawaii$62,980
Idaho$64,540
Illinois$70,270
Indiana$62,000
Iowa$58,950
Kansas$64,070
Kentucky$75,750
Louisiana$70,790
Maine$65,810
Maryland$83,860
Massachusetts$92,350
Michigan$69,180
Minnesota$69,100
Mississippi- NA -
Missouri$62,870
Montana$62,530
Nebraska$63,270
Nevada$70,480
New Hampshire$80,670
New Jersey$82,830
New Mexico$70,840
New York$78,190
North Carolina$77,600
North Dakota$71,530
Ohio$64,380
Oklahoma$61,520
Oregon$71,270
Pennsylvania$73,690
Rhode Island$69,220
South Carolina$68,210
South Dakota$50,390
Tennessee$63,670
Texas$71,680
Utah$65,960
Vermont$84,460
Virginia$85,470
Washington$86,490
Wisconsin$63,020
Wyoming$64,150
Puerto Rico$38,330

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $93,910.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $93,910
California - $93,830
Massachusetts - $92,350
Washington - $86,490
Virginia - $85,470
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Technical Writers, OCC Code 27-3042, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a technical author do?

The main responsibility of a technical author is to write scientific and technical information for a variety of products so that it can be understood by a target audience.

Technical authors are asked to create journal articles, technical and instructional manuals, maintenance and operating instructions, and other documentation for clients, designers, and manufacturers.

Such professionals can work in a wide range of spheres – engineering, medicine, technology, and so on.

The typical tasks of a technical author usually include carrying out extensive research; writing, editing, and proofreading texts; analyzing the target audience; defining the tone and knowledge level of the documentation; designing the document, etc.

QuestionHow much do technical authors make?

On average, a technical author can make a little more than $69.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to choose this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $42.000 and 116.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the location and so on.

Authors that work in Massachusetts, California, and Washington, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level technical author can earn around $20.00 per hour, while a top-level professional with plenty of experience can make $56.00 and more per hour.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a technical author?

Some aspiring technical authors choose to earn a certificate or acquire an associate’s degree.

A short-term writing certificate program can cost you a few hundred (or thousands) of dollars.

However, the majority of technical authors have a bachelor’s degree in a technical or scientific subject.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

Later on, you can decide to earn professional certification (available through the Society for Technical Communication); it will cost you $255-$505 to take an exam.

QuestionWhat is the demand for technical authors?

Between 2016 and 2026, the technical author job market is expected to grow by 10.9%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is faster than the average for all occupations in the United States.

The industry is mainly concentrated in Texas, Virginia, and California.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a technical author?

There is plenty of writing certificate programs; the short-term ones can last only for a few weeks or months, while others might require a year or two of your time.

It will take you 2 years to acquire an associate’s degree and 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

Employers are usually looking for candidates who have relevant technical knowledge, so any kind of experience in the chosen field will be useful.

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