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TECHNICAL WRITER: Helping Scientists, Engineers & Technicians Do Their Jobs

About this video 

Karen is a procedure center manager for a light source, writing and managing instructions for technical jobs. She had several career path changes before arriving at the conclusion that what she was truly interested in was teaching and writing, which has led her to her job in technical writing. She advises: it is important to learn how to communicate well because everyone has to be able to sell themselves.

Degree: Instructional Technology
Job Title: Procedure Center Manager
Employer: Light Source

Job Summary: Technical Writers

Job Description

Technical writers, also called technical communicators, produce instruction manuals and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily. They also develop, gather, and disseminate technical information among customers, designers, and manufacturers.

Technical writers create 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 engineers, scientists, computer 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.

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

On-the-Job Training

Some training may be necessary to adapt to this style of writing.

Additional Info

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.

Quick Facts

Average salary
Average salary
National Statistic Change Location
Confirm
$40,000 - $100,000
Projected job growth
Projected Job Growth
15 to 20 percent
Typical schedule
Typical schedule
Part-time, Full-time, Flexible
Typical workplace
Typical workplace
Office, Indoor, Home
Personal qualities
Personal Qualities
Detail oriented, Written communication skills, Technical skills

Educational Path

Education requirement
Education Requirement
Associate degree
Bachelor's degree
Recommended majors
Recommended Majors
Writing
Communication
Journalism
View Detailed Career Data

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P3.instances[0].transcript.parse_transcript_data({"transcript":"<p><span m='260'>My</span> <span m='390'>name's</span> <span m='640'>Karen,</span> <span m='1700'>and</span> <span m='2090'>I'm</span> <span m='2170'>a</span> <span m='2360'>procedure</span> <span m='2850'>center</span> <span m='3230'>manager</span> <span m='4090'>for</span> <span m='4280'>[INAUDIBLE].</span> <span m='6060'>And</span> <span m='6450'>what</span> <span m='6840'>procedures</span> <span m='7470'>are</span> <span m='7760'>are</span> <span m='8050'>written</span> <span m='8540'>instructions</span> <span m='9290'>for</span> <span m='9430'>people</span> <span m='9720'>to</span> <span m='9790'>do</span> <span m='10110'>a</span> <span m='10190'>job.</span> <span m='11150'>And</span> <span m='11440'>we</span> <span m='11540'>have</span> <span m='11720'>about</span> <span m='11990'>400</span> <span m='12796'>written</span> <span m='13200'>procedures,</span> <span m='13595'>so</span> <span m='13990'>there's a</span> <span m='14483'>lot of procedures</span> <span m='14976'>to manage.</span> <span m='16950'>A</span> <span m='17040'>typical</span> <span m='17370'>day</span> <span m='17550'>for</span> <span m='17710'>me</span> <span m='17970'>is</span> <span m='18100'>to</span> <span m='18230'>work</span> <span m='18370'>with</span> <span m='18490'>scientists,</span> <span m='19050'>engineers,</span> <span m='19670'>technicians,</span> <span m='20825'>and</span> <span m='21130'>to</span> <span m='21830'>write</span> <span m='22050'>procedures</span> <span m='22620'>and</span> <span m='22700'>make sure</span> <span m='23020'>that they're</span> <span m='23340'>up to</span> <span m='23520'>date.</span> </p><p><span m='25040'>How</span> <span m='25180'>I</span> <span m='25280'>got</span> <span m='25570'>here</span> <span m='25960'>is</span> <span m='26460'>I</span> <span m='26840'>actually</span> <span m='27360'>didn't</span> <span m='27580'>have</span> <span m='27750'>a</span> <span m='27800'>direct</span> <span m='28120'>path.</span> <span m='28440'>I</span> <span m='29060'>had</span> <span m='29450'>a</span> <span m='29560'>lot</span> <span m='29780'>of</span> <span m='29840'>indecision</span> <span m='30490'>about</span> <span m='30720'>what</span> <span m='30890'>I</span> <span m='30960'>wanted</span> <span m='31140'>to</span> <span m='31380'>do,</span> <span m='31770'>and</span> <span m='32450'>so</span> <span m='32640'>I tried</span> <span m='32930'>a</span> <span m='33010'>lot</span> <span m='33200'>of</span> <span m='33240'>different</span> <span m='33640'>things.</span> <span m='34830'>My</span> <span m='35140'>first</span> <span m='35440'>path</span> <span m='35720'>was</span> <span m='35880'>teaching,</span> <span m='36430'>so I did</span> <span m='36930'>elementary</span> <span m='37400'>school</span> <span m='37650'>teaching.</span> <span m='38160'>I taught</span> <span m='38460'>ESL,</span> <span m='40220'>English</span> <span m='40530'>as</span> <span m='40630'>a</span> <span m='40700'>Second</span> <span m='41040'>Language.</span> </p><p><span m='42200'>And</span> <span m='42980'>I</span> <span m='45300'>decided</span> <span m='45820'>that</span> <span m='45950'>I</span> <span m='46000'>wanted</span> <span m='46250'>to</span> <span m='46310'>go</span> <span m='46510'>into</span> <span m='46700'>counseling,</span> <span m='47500'>and I</span> <span m='47730'>went</span> <span m='47850'>to</span> <span m='47930'>school for</span> <span m='48330'>counseling,</span> <span m='49570'>and</span> <span m='49750'>decided</span> <span m='50120'>again</span> <span m='50350'>to</span> <span m='50470'>change</span> <span m='51350'>and</span> <span m='52040'>went</span> <span m='52380'>into</span> <span m='53530'>instructional</span> <span m='54130'>technology,</span> <span m='54790'>which</span> <span m='55040'>is</span> <span m='55280'>the</span> <span m='55410'>degree</span> <span m='55770'>that</span> <span m='55940'>I</span> <span m='56390'>ended</span> <span m='56670'>up</span> <span m='56870'>with,</span> <span m='58590'>because</span> <span m='58860'>it was</span> <span m='59000'>an interest</span> <span m='59460'>of</span> <span m='59550'>teaching</span> <span m='60080'>and</span> <span m='60300'>writing.</span> <span m='61180'>And</span> <span m='61660'>that's what</span> <span m='62140'>got me</span> <span m='62620'>here.</span> </p><p><span m='63580'>So</span> <span m='63740'>what</span> <span m='63930'>I</span> <span m='64040'>wish</span> <span m='64430'>I</span> <span m='64580'>knew</span> <span m='64840'>when</span> <span m='64989'>I</span> <span m='65050'>was</span> <span m='65170'>younger</span> <span m='66130'>is</span> <span m='66950'>that</span> <span m='67440'>it's</span> <span m='67610'>important</span> <span m='68120'>to</span> <span m='68230'>communicate</span> <span m='68850'>well,</span> <span m='69320'>and</span> <span m='69630'>it's</span> <span m='69870'>good</span> <span m='70210'>to</span> <span m='70740'>understand</span> <span m='72180'>things</span> <span m='72590'>like</span> <span m='73610'>power</span> <span m='73890'>dynamics,</span> <span m='74970'>things</span> <span m='75390'>like</span> <span m='77040'>public</span> <span m='77340'>speaking,</span> <span m='78540'>things</span> <span m='79000'>like</span> <span m='81250'>doing</span> <span m='81510'>presentations.</span> <span m='82570'>All</span> <span m='82720'>these</span> <span m='82880'>things</span> <span m='83080'>are</span> <span m='83130'>very</span> <span m='83390'>important,</span> <span m='83860'>because</span> <span m='84010'>you're</span> <span m='84120'>going</span> <span m='84230'>to</span> <span m='84490'>have to do</span> <span m='84640'>that</span> <span m='85190'>all</span> <span m='85400'>the</span> <span m='85500'>time.</span> <span m='87230'>There's</span> <span m='87550'>things</span> <span m='87820'>called</span> <span m='88070'>sales.</span> <span m='88970'>You</span> <span m='89080'>have</span> <span m='89210'>to</span> <span m='89300'>sell</span> <span m='89570'>yourself.</span> <span m='90290'>Everyone's</span> <span m='90440'>a</span> <span m='90530'>salesperson.</span> </p><p><span m='91580'>And</span> <span m='92780'>even</span> <span m='92960'>though</span> <span m='93060'>you</span> <span m='93140'>don't</span> <span m='93320'>like</span> <span m='93520'>sales,</span> <span m='93795'>it's</span> <span m='94070'>actually</span> <span m='94390'>something you</span> <span m='94830'>have to</span> <span m='94930'>do</span> <span m='95180'>all</span> <span m='95380'>the</span> <span m='95470'>time.</span> <span m='97141'>What</span> <span m='97608'>else did</span> <span m='98075'>I know?</span> <span m='99480'>There's</span> <span m='99530'>a</span> <span m='99600'>lot</span> <span m='99830'>of</span> <span m='99930'>other</span> <span m='100265'>things.</span> <span m='100600'>There's</span> <span m='100870'>things</span> <span m='101080'>like</span> <span m='101390'>office</span> <span m='101770'>politics,</span> <span m='102290'>which</span> <span m='102440'>people</span> <span m='102670'>don't</span> <span m='102820'>want</span> <span m='102950'>to</span> <span m='102990'>talk</span> <span m='103290'>about.</span> <span m='104920'>Ask</span> <span m='105170'>any</span> <span m='105390'>person</span> <span m='105740'>about</span> <span m='106125'>office politics,</span> <span m='106510'>and</span> <span m='106765'>you'll</span> <span m='107020'>learn</span> <span m='107330'>a</span> <span m='107430'>lot</span> <span m='107790'>about</span> <span m='108130'>what</span> <span m='108300'>that</span> <span m='108520'>means.</span> <span m='108940'>And that</span> <span m='109080'>means</span> <span m='109870'>that</span> <span m='110050'>there's</span> <span m='110230'>things</span> <span m='110470'>that</span> <span m='110640'>you</span> <span m='110720'>can</span> <span m='111220'>say</span> <span m='111560'>that</span> <span m='111820'>are--</span> <span m='112656'>you've</span> <span m='113122'>got</span> <span m='113590'>to</span> <span m='113680'>learn</span> <span m='113920'>to</span> <span m='114000'>speak to</span> <span m='114470'>people</span> <span m='115350'>appropriately.</span> </p><p><span m='117930'>And,</span> <span m='119710'>what's</span> <span m='119910'>another</span> <span m='120190'>thing?</span> <span m='120710'>On</span> <span m='121240'>a</span> <span m='121290'>more</span> <span m='121470'>personal</span> <span m='121920'>level,</span> <span m='122440'>I</span> <span m='122500'>have</span> <span m='122690'>to</span> <span m='122790'>say</span> <span m='123740'>something</span> <span m='124030'>that's</span> <span m='124240'>important</span> <span m='124810'>is</span> <span m='125030'>to</span> <span m='125160'>know</span> <span m='125310'>yourself,</span> <span m='126270'>to</span> <span m='126400'>know</span> <span m='126520'>your</span> <span m='126680'>interests,</span> <span m='127715'>and</span> <span m='128050'>to</span> <span m='128160'>pursue</span> <span m='128600'>them,</span> <span m='129310'>and</span> <span m='129690'>not</span> <span m='130030'>let</span> <span m='130330'>things,</span> <span m='130930'>what</span> <span m='131170'>other</span> <span m='131310'>people</span> <span m='131590'>say</span> <span m='132340'>or</span> <span m='132580'>what</span> <span m='132770'>society</span> <span m='133290'>says</span> <span m='133880'>to</span> <span m='135080'>persuade</span> <span m='135580'>you</span> <span m='135700'>or</span> <span m='135880'>dissuade</span> <span m='136590'>you from</span> <span m='137030'>what you think</span> <span m='137505'>you really want</span> <span m='137980'>to do.</span> <span m='139880'>There's more,</span> <span m='140355'>but that's</span> <span m='140830'>about all</span> <span m='141310'>I</span> <span m='141500'>have</span> <span m='141800'>right now.</span> </p>","file":{"id":255760,"video_id":"2700278190001","name":"69657250","duration":143423,"thumbnail_url":null}});

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