A college degree is usually required for a position as a technical writer. In addition, experience with a technical subject, such as computer science, Web design, or engineering, is important.
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.
Some technical writers begin their careers not as writers, but as specialists or research assistants in a technical field. By developing technical communication skills, they eventually assume primary responsibilities for technical writing. In small firms, beginning technical writers may work on projects right away; in larger companies with more standard procedures, beginners may observe experienced technical writers and interact with specialists before being assigned projects.
Prospects for advancement generally include working on more complex projects, leading or training junior staff, and getting enough work to succeed as a freelancer.
Many technical writers need short-term on-the-job training to adapt to a different style of writing.
Communication skills. Technical writers must be able to take complex, technical information and translate 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 for the instructions to be useful.
Imagination. Technical writers must be able to think about a procedure or product in the way that 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 and then explain highly technical 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.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition