Firefighter, police officer, astronaut, lawyer. These are the most common answers you hear from young children when asked what they would like to be when they grow up. Few people have childhood dreams of growing up to become a technical copywriter.
But, despite the job’s lack of traditional appeal, technical writing is a field on the rise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that between 2012 and 2022, technical writer employment is projected to grow 15%, faster than the average profession in the United States. Additionally, the median pay for a technical writer is $65,500 per year, which is substantially higher than the median net compensation of workers in the U.S. in that same year, $27,519.10.
For many, these statistics beg the question: should an aspiring writer become a technical copywriter? How does technical writing differ from other forms of writing? To answer these questions, it is necessary to take a look at what a technical copywriter does and how they usually work.
A Technical Writer’s Role
If you have ever purchased an electronic device, appliance, or any other product that came with a manual or user guide, it is likely that these documents were written by a technical writer. Technical copywriters often specialize in a specific industry or field. They are sometimes responsible for producing work that involves specialized terms within these industries, or for translating this jargon into copy that can be understood by the average consumer.
The Society for Technical Communication provides a broader label for technical copywriters: technical communicators. According to the STC, technical communicators either communicate about technical topics, communicate by using technology, or provide instructions about how to do something. Above all, remember that technical writers are responsible for delivering instructions to their readers, whether those readers have just purchased a new TV or are scientists looking for information about materials in their laboratory.
Technical Writing Vs. Other Forms Of Writing
Now that you know a bit more about what it means to be a technical copywriter, you are probably wondering if this type of work is for you. There are some pros and some cons that you should know about before making your final decision on technical copywriting:
- Technical copywriters usually work full-time at a single company. This means that once they find a job, technical writers never have to be concerned about finding new clients or marketing themselves the way that freelance writers do
- The robust growth of the technical writing field means that it will be easier to find technical writing jobs than it is to find work in some other fields
- Technical writers can find work with a huge variety of employers. Electronics manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment manufacturers, and the federal government are just a few examples of the kinds of organizations that technical writers can get a job with
- Since technical writers usually work full-time for one company, they aren’t afforded the freedom and lifestyle flexibility enjoyed by freelance writers. Because technical copywriters usually are paid on salary, there is also little opportunity to earn more money at work without an official raise
- Once you get a technical writing job or contract, you will be handling a certain type of work for the duration of your employment. Although there are exceptions, technical writers are usually hired to write just a few types of documents for their employer: on the other hand, freelancers can work on a wide array of projects on vastly different subjects
- Technical writing usually requires not only writing experience and formal education, but also some type of specialization in the field you will be writing about. For example, writers at engineering companies usually need to have some type of formal training in engineering. If you don’t have any sort of specialized education or certification, it will be more difficult to break into the technical writing field
Remember that everyone is different: some writers may be extremely attracted to the positive elements of becoming a technical copywriter, while others may be put off by the drawbacks of this type of work. There are also freelance writers who do some of this writing in addition to their normal marketing writing work. Deciding whether or not becoming a technical copywriter is for you requires some soul-searching based on the information available about this kind of work and whether or not it aligns with your skills, interests, and professional goals as a writer.