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© Ugur Akinci
I receive reader letters about DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) these days that more or less ask the same question: how difficult is it for a technical writer to specialize in single-sourcing and structured authoring?
Should they learn DITA?
And what are the chances of finding employment as a “DITA Writer” these days?
I think any discussion of the topic should start by acknowledging an important issue regarding DITA: the high entry threshold.
These are two in kind:
(1) Learning threshold. DITA is not easy to learn. You need to devote a concentrated block of time and invest thousands of dollars before going out there in the market and claim that you know DITA.
(2) Employment threshold. I stand to be corrected if I’m wrong but at this writing I don’t believe there are any “entry level” DITA jobs in the market. The employers are not interested in junior-level DITA writers who barely have any hands-on experience in structured authoring but willing to learn on the job. All employers who are interested in employing a technical writer with DITA skills want a top-notch professional with “battle scars,” so to speak, with plenty experience under his or her belt, and they are willing to pay top dollars for that. Otherwise, there is no room in this field right now for those who are “in the process of” learning single sourcing, especially at the enterprise level.
These facts make it hard for veteran and new technical writers alike to enter this field. You need to enroll in a class that will cost anywhere from a thousand to three thousand dollars. You need to clear at least a week in your calendar to concentrate on the intricacies of DITA for eight hours a day at a minimum. And after you’re through, you’ll look for an employer who is willing to take a chance with someone who really has no real-world experience; who has little idea of all the things that can go wrong when shifting enterprise-level documentation to the new topic-based XML-coded writing style.
If you have the extra money and time, and if you’re interested in acquiring a highly technical skill that will become even more important in the future and which will be rewarded handsomely, then I’d say find yourself a reputable DITA trainer and jump into it. But if you’re in between jobs, or employed in a traditional company that still produces “technical guides and manuals” the old fashioned way, then your best bet would be to approach the management and gain their full support before venturing into DITA.
You’re also welcomed to search this web site for DITA-related articles we’ve published in the past.