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If you are considering technical writing as a career you might want to read the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2009 Edition. Some of the information is valuable and some of it just makes for interesting reading. For example, it states that most professional writing jobs still require a college degree, preferably in the liberal arts with a concentration on English, Journalism or Communication. That may be true for some jobs, but since this handbook was written certain freelance organizations have taken hold and many prospective employers are looking to E-lance, Suite101, Demand Studios, ContentCurrent, or to o’Desk for writers that are just as skilled as their college-educated counterparts, but who are willing to work for less money. Technical writers can definitely have the advantage if they have experience or a college degree in the field for which they are doing the technical writing, but again, those writers will earn the highest salaries and many employers are looking for high quality with less payout.
As a technical writer, competition is not as stiff as it is for copywriters, journalists or creative writers, though the demand is growing. It takes a special kind of person to be able to look at a product or a schematic and not only understand it but be able to put its operation or how to put it together in easy-to-understand, clear language. Many of the writers using the freelance organizations are overseas, so if you are an employer advertising for such a writer, you might want to specify that they have a clear understanding of and are able to communicate well in English, if you have an English speaking market. Also, if you are a freelancer, it will save everyone a lot of time and effort if you are realistic about your abilities and only apply for those jobs which you are able to perform well.
The biggest influx of technical writers is occurring as a result of the current economy. Displaced engineers, computer analysts, programmers, designers and many others are finding gainful employment as technical writers and excelling at what they do. The expansion into areas such as economics, medicine and biotechnology are expected to increase as investments in these fields continue to rise. User guides, training courses and instruction manuals will be required for any new technologies and for changes to existing technology. Also, there is more and more demand for writers with web and computer experience, both technically and otherwise as positions such as Editors, Writers, Instruction Designers, Information Architects, Content Managers and Course Developers increases.
The positions for technical writers, writers, authors and editors is expected to rise by at least 5-10% between now and 2016. As the demands increase for web content, blogging and writing for interactive media, the opportunities for writers will continue to increase. Online publications are growing, as are technical services firms, advertising and public relations agencies. All of these provide job prospects for technical writers and others in the writing fields.
Entry-level salaried technical writers can expect to top the $40,000 annual salary mark, while the highest 10% of technical writers can expect to approach the $100,000 range. It sure beats many of the occupations out there and is not half as boring as many others and the demand still outweighs the available supply.
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