This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Technical writers create content for printed and online media, such as user guides, manuals, intranet and website pages, and present it in a way that can be easily accessed and understood.
New technical writers usually earn
$45K-$60K per year
Technical writers with one to four years' experience usually earn
$60K-$100K per year
Source: TechCommNZ, 2017.
Pay for technical writers varies depending on their skills, experience, and the type and size of organisation they work for.
- New technical writers can expect to earn about $45,000 to $60,000 a year.
- Technical writers with one to four years' experience earn between $60,000 and $100,000.
- Experienced technical writers in management positions can earn up to $130,000.
Self-employed technical writers usually earn between $35 and $120 an hour.
Source: TechCommNZ, 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Technical writers may do some or all of the following:
- work with managers, developers, users and other interested parties to identify their information needs
- plan, research and create clear, accurate content such as instructions, standard operating procedures, forms and policies
- create content in various forms such as video, web, audio, hard copy and interactive eLearning
- analyse work tasks, and manage documentation projects
- design the layout and structure of documents
- create language and style guides
- design and draw business, scientific or technical diagrams/charts
- edit work of other writers for consistency and clarity
- test content for its usability
- manage translations.
Skills and knowledge
Technical writers need to have:
- ability to analyse, interpret, simplify and communicate technical information
- knowledge of the specialist area they are writing about
- ability to edit, design and lay out technical documentation
- skills in word processing, web publishing and graphic design.
- usually work regular business hours, but may be required to work long or irregular hours depending on project deadlines
- usually work from offices but may work from home if self-employed.
What's the job really like?
What do you like about technical writing?
"I like the analytical aspect – figuring out how best to organise the information and present it clearly is like solving a puzzle. And it's gratifying to get positive feedback or be called back by a company for another job."
What do you write?
"Everything from software design specifications and user guides to vehicle inspection manuals, standards for councils and procedures for banks upgrading their technology."
What skills do you need as a technical writer?
"You need to be a skilled questioner. You can only document what you're given and sometimes people are not particularly articulate, so it helps if you ask a lot of questions.
"There was a classic example where the written instruction said, 'When you get to this point press any key', and someone came back to us and said they couldn't find the ANY key on their keyboard! It was a reminder that a good technical communicator does not assume any knowledge from readers."
There are no specific entry requirements to become a technical writer. However, excellent writing skills are required and most employers look for people with a tertiary qualification such as an English degree or certificate in technical communication.
Tertiary qualifications in subjects such as science, engineering, electronics, computer science or commerce are valuable for technical writers in industries where this subject knowledge is required.
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include English, te reo Māori and other languages, digital technologies and design and visual communications (graphics).
Technical writers need to be:
- excellent communicators, both in writing and orally
- quick learners
- approachable, and able to relate to a wide variety of people
- good at planning, time management and project management
- methodical, persistent and determined.
You need to have an analytical mind. Any type of documentation you do is like solving a puzzle, so you need to be very organised, a clear thinker, able to get a good overview of something, and see processes very clearly in your mind.
Janet Marianne Jackson
Useful experience for technical writers includes:
- experience in the field they are writing about
- writing, editing or publishing work
- experience in the information technology industry.
Find out more about training
- TechCommNZ - Technical Communicators Association of New Zealand
- email@example.com - www.techcomm.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Strong demand for technical writers
Demand for technical writers is strong due to:
- companies and organisations needing to have properly documented policies, processes and procedures
- the large number of computer software products and electronic products that need easy-to-understand documentation
- growing intranet and internet use, which has created more job opportunities for people with technical writing skills
- growing recognition of the value of clear and concise information, especially online.
Your chances of securing a job are best if you join a professional organisation such as TechCommNZ, create wide networks, and build up a good reputation.
Types of employers varied
Employers of technical writers include:
- private companies
- government agencies
- computer companies and software developers
- electronics and equipment manufacturers.
Many technical writers are self-employed and work on contract. There are around 1000 people employed as technical writers in New Zealand.
- Evans, M, president, TechCommNZ, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, November 2017.
- TechCommNZ, 'Becoming a Technical Communicator', accessed November 2017, (www.techcomm.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Technical writers may progress into jobs in other areas that require good writing skills such as communications, policy analysis or editing.
They may also move into management roles such as managing a team of technical writers.
Technical writers may specialise in fields such as:
- information technology
- eLearning development
- content strategy
- UX (user experience) design.
Last updated 16 November 2017