Is Technical Writing Hard in College?

Technical writing is a lucrative career if you have the inclination for it. It is not difficult as some might think as the goal is to make everything simpler.
No. Doing a course in technical writing is actually easier than most other styles of writing. Technical writers are known for simplifying complicated concepts into easy-to-understand documentation. If you can take complex knowledge and condense it into easy-to-read documents for a variety of audiences, then read this article because this could be a lucrative career for you.
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Few people have the time to sift through highly technical or scientific writing in order to find the information they require. Aside from the length of the material, most complex books employ specialist vocabulary and clunky grammar, making them difficult to comprehend. 

You may make complex technical and scientific content more approachable to the general reader by learning how to become a technical writer. So, do you think technical writing is a suitable fit for you? It all depends on your strengths as a writer. Research-oriented writers who can decipher complex content and have good reading comprehension are usually a good fit for technical writing.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for technical writers will grow by 7% over the next decade. We'll go through potential school paths, required skills, technical writing salary, and employment outlook in this guide on technical writing.

Looking for courses on technical writing?

Unmudl has courses that can help you polish your skills!

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Is technical writing a difficult subject to study in college?

Compared to the other courses, no it is not. In fact, the whole idea of technical writing is to make things simpler to understand and if you have some basic comprehension skills you can start your career as a technical writer.

But before we get ahead of ourselves let’s ask the question:

What is technical writing?

Technical writing is a type of written communication that is employed in fields such as information technology, engineering, science, finance, and technology. In technical and scientific subjects, technical writing simplifies difficult terminology for the average reader.

The Society of Technical Communication defines technical writing as "any type of communication that demonstrates one or more of the following qualities:

  1. Communication that requires technical or specialized issues such as computer applications, medical processes, or environmental regulations.
  2. Using technology, such as online pages, assistance files, or social networking sites, to communicate.
  3. Providing directions on how to perform anything, regardless of how complex the activity is or whether the communication is created or distributed using technology.

Are there different types of technical writing?

Yes, the following are the most typical types of technical writing:

  • Instruction manuals and user guides in the form of pamphlets and booklets that contain written "how-to" instructions.
  • Those research papers in the medical and scientific fields that are frequently published in medical journals.
  • Technical descriptions used to describe how products, processes, or concepts work.
  • White papers that explain complicated problems and offer solutions.
  • Case studies, surveys, and consumer experiences in the form of reports
A technical writer
Photo by William  Fortunato from Pexels

A unique style of writing

A clear, direct, neutral, and impersonal style is used in technical documentation. The material should be presented in the most professional and easy-to-understand manner.

When a complex technical subject needs to be expressed through words, technical writing is used. The technical content will explain these scientific or specialized details and may even instruct the reader on how to use them. Technical writing is becoming more widespread as companies and everyday life become more high-tech.

Real-life examples of technical writing

Here are some great technical writing examples from real life when technical writing was used to communicate:

  • Informing employees of how to follow the new policy on safety on the factory floor
  • Teaching a consumer how to install software on a computer.
  • Presenting the complex findings of a cloning study to the average person in the form of a report
  • A user guide explaining the complex features of a new digital camera
  • Simplifying instructional or FAQ content.

Knowledge

Technical writers are always hungry for knowledge. They will spend their professional life learning about many varied subjects because this will help them do their job better. They must become well-versed in a field in order to communicate the content. As a result, They will become an expert on the subject with each new technical document.

While the reader does not need to know all of the intricacies, a technical writer will need to have a broad understanding of the subject to choose only the most relevant parts to mention. 

A broad understanding will ensure that the text is accurate and effectively communicates the required information.

A technical writing doing research
Photo by rawpixels from Freepik

Growing demand for technical writers

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for technical writers is projected to grow 12% from 2020 to 2030. Employment growth in this field will exceed the national average for other occupations due to the continued increase in scientific and technical products.

On average, over the next ten years, there will be about 5,500 jobs for technical writers. Many of those positions are likely to arise as a result of the need to replace people who change occupations or leave the workforce for other reasons, such as retirement.

The 2020 average annual pay for technical writers was $74,650 per year or $35.89 per hour.

Your pay as a technical writer will be much higher than the national average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual compensation for technical writers is higher compared to the national average of $56,310. As you can see, this profession has a bright future ahead of it, with professionals earning relatively high pay.

Related: How to Get Hired From a Community College

Is it hard to become a technical writer?

No. A simple certification for a community college can get your career started and in most cases, these certifications can also be done online.

Technical writers with an additional associate’s degree from a 2-year community college or a bachelor’s degree from a 4-year university program get hired easily by businesses.

These writers can adopt a variety of pathways to their careers. Some technical writers begin their careers as research assistants in a particular technical or scientific field. They eventually learn how to write technical documentation and develop technical communication skills.

When working for a major company, entry-level technical writers are frequently shadowed by experienced writers at first. Small-business entry-level jobs may not give you the same level of training before you embark on solo projects.

How to become a technical writer with no experience: Two great options to get a certificate in 6 months or less

Logo of Pima Community College

Pima Community College: Technical Writing Certificate

Technical writers write for websites, emails, proposals, technical instructions, and other forms of internal and external communication. If you wish to improve your technical writing skills or pursue a career as a technical writer, this technical writing course is for you. 

It will increase your comprehension and application of written communications, making you a valuable asset in any administrative, managerial, or technical writing position. Research methodologies, audience considerations, diverse writing styles, drafting and revision processes, working in a collaborative atmosphere, and more will be covered in this course. 

This course will also cover a number of mediums and formats, such as Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF, as well as the various writing standards that each requires.

Eligibility Restriction (Pre-Requisite):

There are no specific prerequisites for this course, but you should be familiar with the English language, grammar, and punctuation before enrolling.

You should also be comfortable using email and the Internet.

After this course you will learn:

  • Differences between technical and academic writing.
  • Effective research methods and advanced grammar rules.
  • Writing with clarity and utility to suit the demands of your audience
  • Ethical issues in technical writing.
  • How to master a wide range of technical documents such as memos, assessments, letters, executive summaries, and reports.
  • How to develop proposal documents.

After this course you will benefit by having:

  1. A professional writing portfolio to show current and prospective employers your work.
  2. Prepared for working as a management analyst, marketing manager, project manager, technical writer, and other technical writing jobs.

Total investment required

$2,618.75 Total Price (Excluding Tax)

Related: Do community colleges have payment plans?

Duration of course

10 Hours per Week for 26 Estimated Weeks

About Pima Community College

Pima Community College is the primary training institution in Southern Arizona for adult learners seeking to achieve skills and certificates rapidly. You've come to the perfect location if your objective is to advance in your current job or find a new one.

Pima prides itself in its education system because

  • Professional faculty: You'll pick up skills from teachers who work in the industry when they're not teaching.
  • Instruction on brand-new equipment: At their Centers of Excellence, you'll learn on the latest and best-in-class equipment.
  • Work-based learning: They provide apprenticeships and internships to give you a sense of what a real job entails.

Logo Tombolo Institute at Bellevue College

Tombolo Institute at Bellevue College: Technical Writing Certificate

This online Technical Writing Certificate course leads to the Tombolo Institute at Bellevue College Technical Writing Certificate. The entire certificate course takes 15 weeks to complete and costs significantly less than taking the course modules individually.

This competency-based program employs a course instructor and is aimed at working professionals with a strong command of written English who want to expedite the certification process. 

The following topics are covered: Principles of Technical Writing, The role of the technical writer, The writing process, Usability, Writing strategies, Editing, Document design, Intro to HTML, XML, and CSS, and Job readiness strategies.

Eligibility Restriction (Pre-Requisite):

  • Excellent command of English grammar and spelling
  • A basic to intermediate understanding of Microsoft® Word

After this course you will learn:

  • Differentiate technical communication from other types of writing.
  • Determine a technical writer's roles and responsibilities.
  • Prepare technical communication deliverables that describe how to complete procedures within a process.
  • Prepare draft technical communication deliverables based on pre-work completed during the planning phase.
  • Analyze and revise draft technical communication deliverables in preparation for final publication and distribution.
  • Use, test, and measure usability principles.
  • Create a Capstone project that includes a technical communication deliverable that enables the reader to use a new product, understand a business process or proposal, or take action based on new information.

Total investment required

$2,040.84 Total Price (Excluding Tax)

Duration of course

7 Hours per Week for 15 Estimated Weeks

About Tombolo Institute at Bellevue College

Every year, the Tombolo Institute at Bellevue College welcomes over 32,000 students. The college, located in the heart of the Pacific Northwest's tech hub, offers forward-thinking professional training designed for today's lifestyles and the future of work.

The course is designed collaboratively with top tech employers in the region. This is, in fact, what sets the courses at Tombolo apart because they are designed with the help of the people who will eventually be hiring the students once they graduate.

Tombolo is located in Microsoft's backyard, ten minutes from the headquarters of Expedia, Pokeman, and Eddie Bauer, and twenty minutes from Amazon, Adobe, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Unmudl Tips on the technical writing process

If you are seriously considering a career in technical writing here are some tips that could help you raise your game.

It may surprise you to learn that the technical writing process can take as much time to plan and review as it does to write. The planning phase sets you up for success and maximizes your writing time. The review phase is critical for ensuring that your document is technically correct as well as audience-friendly.

There are critical preparation steps that must be completed before you begin typing the first word of your document. You will only cause yourself headaches if you start writing and then try to edit your way into a usable technical document. Begin wisely by preparing ahead of time.

To create the best technical documents, follow the steps outlined below.

1. Plan first

The project planning phase starts as soon as a technical document is requested. An employer, colleague, or client may initiate this step. At this stage, your focus should be to get as much info as possible to build a solid brief. 

The initial requirements may include the following: document type, subject area/content, communication goal, scope, and audience. At first, not all of these critical areas may be clearly defined. 

You will find that often the project initiator may not even be aware of their own needs. A quick discussion about your requirements to build an effective brief for the project is critical for ensuring that you, as the author, understand the project. 

You can request this information by asking questions and going through your checklist thoroughly so that the project is clear and well-planned from the start. This will save you many hours of back and forth later.

2. It’s all about the audience

The audience is the most important writing factor after the initial project planning with the client. A technical writer is always focused on the intended target audience. Whatever he writes is constructed to facilitate him or her in understanding the content effectively.

In general, technical information always remains the same but the difference is how those facts are communicated. A good technical writer revises the text based on the context of the reader.

3. Go the extra mile

Good technical writers work hard to understand the complexity of the material they will be tackling. Great technical writers go the extra mile and attempt to understand who will end up reading the final draft.

You must gather as much information as possible about who will use the document in order to know who you are writing for. It is critical to understand whether your audience is an expert in the field, if the topic is completely new to them, or if they fall somewhere in the middle.

The audience will have their own set of expectations and requirements. When the reader begins to read the document, you must determine what they are looking for. The goal of the reader will guide the entire writing process, as the document should meet their needs and answer their questions.

Technical Writing at Sony: A Case Study

A very good example to learn from is when Sony launched their new range of mirrorless cameras. They packed it with amazing features but the menu they designed to enable those features and the user guide that went with it were so user-unfriendly that they confused the users instead of helping them.

This had a negative impact on the sales as people preferred more friendly brands over Sony, like Canon and Nikon. Sony eventually realized its mistake and worked hard on its technical writing to address the concerns and expectations of the users. Eventually, the effort paid off and now sales have gone up.

This real-life example shows how one technical writer sitting in a corporate office caused millions of dollars of revenue loss by not simply considering the target audience before he started writing!

4. A target audience checklist

What is the purpose of technical writing? Before you start working on your document, ask yourself the following questions, adapted from Technical Communication Today, to better understand your reader:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What do they want from this content?
  • Where will they be reading?
  • When will they be reading?
  • Why will they be reading?
  • How will they be reading?

Only after you've answered these questions can you begin preparing the document.

6. Always consult with experts in the field

A common mistake is to think that you can write on any subject by Googling about it. No technical writer is familiar with every technical detail of every subject in the world.

It is critical to consult with specialists. Experts will provide additional or parallel information that will improve the information's utility to the end-user. They could be coworkers, client contacts, or outside experts who are authorities on your subject.

Early in the process, consult with subject matter experts. Keep in touch throughout because they can add value at various stages, particularly during the review.

7. Writing in the proper style

Now that the content is clear, you must ensure that the writing style is appropriate for a technical document. The writing must be accessible, direct, and professional. Text that is flowery or emotional is not appropriate in a technical document. Integrate the following key technical characteristics into your writing to ensure your text maintains this style:

  • Use active voice

Passive voice is more difficult to read and understand than active voice. In your sentences, use active voice whenever possible. The subject of the sentence is the one who performs the action in active voice.

  • Vocabulary is important

Choose your words carefully. Use the most appropriate word for the situation. Include the details that are required to make the text intelligible and precise. Avoid using pronouns like 'it' and 'this' excessively, as the reader may struggle to identify the references

Many technical documents give the reader instructions. As a result, a task-based approach simplifies the content. Consider the order of the steps in the process when writing. This flow will serve as a natural guide for your writing.

  • Sentence construction

Be concise. To make the text as cohesive as possible, combine sentences or remove unnecessary words from sentences. There is no need to add color or complexity to technical writing because it must be clear and direct.

Jargon is a technical writer's worst enemy. When you're an expert in your field, it's easy to use jargon that's specific to your topic or specialization, without realizing that it might be confusing to other readers. 

In an ill-intentioned attempt to appeal to experts, a non-expert may use jargon. Don't fall into this snare. Jargon should be avoided and used only when necessary for specific audiences.

When using unfamiliar or technical terms, define the term the first time it appears in the text. When using abbreviations, write out the full term first, followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. For the unfamiliar reader, these definitions serve as in-text reference points.

The tips above will help you write technical documents better but having said that, it is impossible for one guide on technical writing to compensate for a complete 15-week or 26-week course.

If you want to start a lucrative career in technical writing do seriously consider the two courses we shared above. They are your best bet to start your career as a technical writer.

Final thoughts

Technical writing is a valuable and lucrative skill. Any writer who can effectively communicate technical information at work is extremely valuable to a company. Technical writing ability is a significant career advantage.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for technical writers is $72,850, which is significantly higher than the median salary for all writers - $63,200. A technical writing certificate could cost as little as $2,000 to $3,000, and a writer could recoup their investment in a short period of time.

We wish you all the best with your technical writing and hope this guide helps you in making informed decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is being a technical writer difficult?

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