Technical writers
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Overview
Technical writers, also called technical communicators, prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily. They also develop, gather, and disseminate technical information through an organization’s communications channels.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for technical writers are expected to grow by 11%, and should have about 5,700 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Technical writers are more likely to be automated than 74% of other careers.
Workforce size
Technical writers, with 52,400 workers, are near the middle of all careers in the number employed.
Education
About 77% of technical writers have at least a bachelor's degree.
Education attained by technical writers
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
More technical writers have bachelor's degrees than 84% of other careeers.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for technical writers is higher than 79% of all other jobs' middle salaries. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most technical writers.
This job's median $72KAll jobs' median $39K$74K$38K20142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 54% of technical writers -- that's a larger percentage than 69% of other jobs.
Gender of technical writers
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For technical writers, the median men's salary was 8% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 15% of technical writers are minority, and 8% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of technical writers
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (8%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Technical Writers per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 54% of technical writers, and 66% have company-sponsored health insurance (21% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for technical writers
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
Top college degrees
Here are the top college degrees held by the 78% of people in this job who have at least a bachelor's degree. Some of degrees may link to multiple programs due to the way Census classifies college majors. Click on a program to learn more about career opportunities for people who major in that field.
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of technical writers who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Time Pressure (79%)
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations (33%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do technical writers earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for technical writers, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for technical writers compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for technical writers (BLS Salary Data)
$72K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$72K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. We first show the full salary distribution for all technical writers, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for technical writers compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for technical writers (ACS Salary Data)
$67K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$67K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where technical writers work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Technical writers (ACS)
Private for-profit (84.3%)
Private not-for-profit (4.7%)
Local government (1.0%)
State government (1.6%)
Federal government (4.4%)
Self-employed incorporated (1.4%)
Self-employed not incorporated (2.6%)
Working without pay (0.0%)
Distribution: Salaries of technical writers by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$67K$67K$83K$62K$66K$38K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000Self-employed not incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of technical writers by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$72K$88K$63K$72K$54K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000$120,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for technical writers

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$73K$73K$77K$77K$78K$65K$32K$47K$59K$0$50K$100K$150KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
02K4K6K8KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Technical writers and gender

With 54% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 69% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
54%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Technical writers
Men (46%)
Women (54%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%. The situation is a little better for technical writers, with the median salary for men 8% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$65K$70K$0$50K$100K$150KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Technical writers have one of the smaller percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job lower than that for 78% of other jobs.

8%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of technical writers

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. There is a smaller percentage of minority technical writers than for 71% of other careers. As with minority workers, there is also a smaller percentage of foreign-born workers in this career than in most other careers.

Race/origin of technical writers
White (85% )
Black (7% )
Asian (5% )
Multiracial (2% )
Other (1% )
Hispanic (0% )
American Indian (0% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
15%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
8%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for technical writers by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$64K$65K$67K$71K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KMultiracialBlackWhiteAsian
Distribution: Salaries for technical writers by nativity
$66K$69K$0$50K$100K$150KAll native citizensAll foreign-born

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by technical writers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), technical writers typically hold a bachelor's degree.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as technical writers as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for technical writers.

Education attained by technical writers
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for technical writers

Employers generally prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, English, or communications. Many technical writing jobs require both a degree and knowledge in a specialized field, such as engineering, computer science, or medicine. Web design experience also is helpful because of the growing use of online technical documentation.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for technical writers

Some associations, including the Society for Technical Communication, offer certification for technical writers. In addition, the American Medical Writers Association offers extensive continuing education programs and certificates in medical writing. These certificates are available to professionals in the medical and allied scientific communication fields.

Although not mandatory, certification can demonstrate competence and professionalism, making candidates more attractive to employers. It can also increase a technical writer’s opportunities for advancement.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for technical writers? Below we see the distribution of technical writers salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as technical writers, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$43K$58K$64K$60K$66K$75K$87K$0$50K$100K$150KNone (0%)High School (5%)Some College (12%)Associate's Degree (6%)Bachelor's Degree (49%)Master's Degree (21%)Doctorate (5%)
Bachelor's degree pathways
College majors held by technical writers

This table shows the college majors held by people working as technical writers. Select any degree to see detailed information. We are able to connect careers to degrees using the American Community Survey (ACS), and their degrees are defined a little differently from our programs, which are based on standard CIP classifications. Therefore, selecting some degrees will lead to a selection of CIP-level programs from which to choose.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Degree
Select any title to learn more about that degree
Percentage of Technical writers with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
Men
Women
The link between degrees and careers
The link between degrees and careers

With the following "sankey" diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as technical writers, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. This visualization links fields of studies and careers, suggesting both similar careers and options for degrees. The full list of bachelor's degrees held by technical writers given in the previous section reminds us that there are many paths to these careers beyond what we can summarize here.

Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for technical writers

What jobs will most technical writers hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of technical writers reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Technical writersWriters and authorsManagers (specialized areas)Applications and systems software developersComputer occupations (specialized areas)Insurance sales agentsManagement analystsParalegals and legal assistantsEngineers (specialized areas)Mechanical engineersFile clerksDriver/sales workers and truck drivers
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for technical writers

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 4 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as technical writers as well as 1% of respondents after working as technical writers. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for technical writers: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as technical writers? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of technical writers surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Read about technical writers
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Technical writers typically do the following:

  • Determine the needs of users of technical documentation
  • Study product samples and talk with product designers and developers
  • Work with technical staff to make products easier to use and thus require fewer instructions
  • Write and organize supporting content for products
  • Edit, standardize, or make changes to material prepared by other writers or establishment personnel
  • Use photographs, drawings, diagrams, animation, and charts that increase users’ understanding of the material
  • Select appropriate medium for message or audience, such as manuals or online videos
  • Standardize content across platforms and media
  • Gather user feedback to update and improve content
  • Revise content as new issues arise

Technical writers create paper-based and digital operating instructions, how-to manuals, assembly instructions, and “frequently asked questions” pages to help technical support staff, consumers, and other users within a company or an industry. After a product is released, technical writers also may work with product liability specialists and customer-service managers to improve the end-user experience through product design changes.

Technical writers often work with computer hardware engineers, computer support specialists, and software developers to manage the flow of information among project workgroups during development and testing. Therefore, technical writers must be able to understand complex information and communicate the information to people with diverse professional backgrounds.

Applying their knowledge of the user of the product, technical writers may serve as part of a team conducting usability studies to help improve the design of a product that is in the prototype stage. Technical writers may conduct research on their topics through personal observation, library and Internet research, and discussions with technical specialists.

Technical writers are also responsible for managing the consistency of technical content and its use across business departments including product development, manufacturing, marketing, and customer relations.

Some technical writers help write grant proposals for research scientists and institutions.

Increasingly, technical information is being delivered online and through social media. Technical writers are using the interactive technologies of the Web and social media to blend text, graphics, multidimensional images, sound, and video.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of technical writers? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Critical-thinking skills
Technical writers must be able to take complex, technical information and simplify it for colleagues and consumers who have nontechnical backgrounds.
Detail oriented
Technical writers create detailed instructions for others to follow. As a result, they must be detailed and precise at every step so that the instructions can be useful.
Imagination
Technical writers must be able to think about a procedure or product in the way a person without technical experience would think about it.
Teamwork
Technical writers must be able to work well with others. They are almost always part of a team: with other writers; with designers, editors, and illustrators; and with the technical people whose information they are explaining.
Technical skills
Technical writers must be able to understand highly complex information. Many technical writers need a background in engineering or computer science in order to do this.
Writing skills
Technical communicators must have excellent writing skills to be able to explain technical information clearly.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for technical writers
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) salary for technical writers was higher than 79% of all other jobs' middle salaries. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $72KAll jobs' median $39K$71K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for technical writers are anticipated to grow by 11% over the next decade; only 23% of jobs are predicted to grow more.

The projected employment for technical writers is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

2000201020202030020,00040,00060,00080,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most technical writers? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as technical writers. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Technical Writers per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
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0.00.20.40.60.81.0
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where technical writers earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for technical writers compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for technical writers.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Median salary ratio: Technical Writers to all workers (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which technical writers earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.00.51.01.52.02.5
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Technical writers (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
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