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Technical Writing - Career Outlook for Technical Writers to 2010


The U.S. Dept. of Labor’s “Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2002-03 Edition, Writers and Editors”, is recommended reading for those considering technical writing as a profession.

Some of the main points highlighted in the handbook make interesting reading:

  • Most professional writing jobs still require a college degree either in the liberal arts with a preference for Communications, Journalism, and English.
  • Competition is expected to be less for lower paying, entry-level jobs.
  • Writers who fail to gain better paying jobs usually can transfer readily to communications-related jobs in other occupations.


In 2000, Writers and Editors held about 305,000 jobs, and of those: 

         126,000 jobs were for writers and authors.

         57,000 were for technical writers.

         22,000 were for editors.

Nearly 25% of jobs for writers and editors were salaried positions with newspapers, magazines, and book publishers; other positions were in education, advertising, radio and TV, PR, and non-profits.

Jobs with publishers, magazines, broadcasters tend to be concentrated in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and San Francisco.

Training and Qualifications

To break into technical writing, a college degree is generally required, for example in communications, journalism, or English. A degree in a specialized field (engineering, business, or science) is very much a bonus.

Many technical writers migrate into this profession from jobs as programmers, lab technicians, research scientists, or engineers. Others begin as trainees in an IT department, develop their writing and grammar skills, and then move into fulltime technical writing positions.

In the current market environment, knowledge of electronic publishing, graphics, and video are increasingly in demand. Online publications, such as newspapers and magazines, all require web skills to manage content, graphics, audio, video, and 3-D animation.

Employment Opportunities to 2010

According to the handbook, the employment opportunities for writers and editors are expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations until 2010.

Positions in newspapers, periodicals, and book publishers are expected to increase as demand grows for their publications, especially those that see the web as an alternative publishing channel. The sleuth of web publications is likely to increase the demand for writers and editors, with most companies now developing newsletters and content-driven websites.

Demand for Technical Writers, especially those with expertise in areas such as economics, biotechnology and medicine, is expected to increase due to the continuing expansion into these areas.

Investments into IT, electronics, and biotechnology should result in a greater need for people to write user guides, instruction manuals, and training courses.

Finally, those with Internet and web-facing experience are likely to find more employment opportunities. Roles for skilled writers will include positions as Editors, Writers, Content Managers, Courseware Developers, Instruction Designers, and Information Architects. 


The U.S. Dept. of Labor’s details of the median earnings for salaried writers, technical writers, and editors as follows: 

Salaried Writers

The median annual earnings for salaried writers were $42,270 in 2000. 

  • The lowest 10% earned less than $20,290

  • The middle 50% earned between $29,090 and $57,330.

  • The highest 10% earned more than $81,370.  

Technical Writers

Median annual earnings for salaried technical writers were $47,790 in 2000.

  • The lowest 10% earned less than $28,890

  • The middle 50% earned between $37,280 and $60,000.

  • The highest 10% earned more than $74,360.

Salaried Editors

Median annual earnings for salaried editors were $39,370 in 2000.

  • The lowest 10% earned less than $22,460

  • The middle 50% earned between $28,880 and $54,320.

  • The highest 10% earned more than $73,330.

You can get more details from the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s, “Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2002-03 Edition, Writers and Editors”, at http://www.bls.gov


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