Have you ever read a manual and wondered how it was designed? Do you want to work in a fast-paced, exciting industry writing content for Fortune 500 Companies? Do you like working with leading technology? If so, choosing to major or minor in Technical Communication may be a gateway to endless career opportunities.
What is technical communication?
"Technical communication is a broad field and includes any form of communication that exhibits one or more of the following characteristics: • Communicating about technical or specialized topics, such as computer applications,
medical procedures, or environmental regulations. • Communicating by using technology, such as web pages, help files, or social media
sites. • Providing instructions about how to do something, regardless of how technical the
task is or even if technology is used to create or distribute that communication."
What jobs can you have in the field?
Experience or a degree in Technical Communication opens up a multitude of potential career paths, including but not limited to: • Technical Writers
• Technical Editors
• Web Designers
• Usability Professionals
• Teachers/Professors of Technical Communication
• Interface Designers
• Visual Designers
What are the most common fields?
Among the responses received in a survey of 30 Technical Communication professionals, the most common fields of work are Healthcare/Medical, Defense, Education, Government, Software, Communications and Aviation/Aerospace.
Many individuals that currently work (or have worked) in the Technical Communication field do not have an educational background directly related to Technical Communication. From a survey of 30 individuals, only nine majored or minored in Technical Communication. Common external fields include: • Business Management
• Applied ScienceThe skills acquired in these majors can provide a gateway to the Technical Communication field and "bridge the gap" between one's major and Technical Communication.
How can you immerse yourself in the field prior to graduation?
As a Technical Communication major or individual interested in the field, there are multiple ways in which you can get experience prior to graduating. The most common is through organizations such as the Society for Technical Communication, one of the world's largest and oldest associations dedicated to furthering the field of Technical Communication. There are also multiple platforms online (i.e. Facebook) that host networking communities related to Technical Communication.
How can i build my portfolio?
Among the field professionals that were surveyed, the most common responses were to build your portfolio through: • Internships
• Personal work such as websites, manuals, or any
• Skills that you've acquired through your education or
other means (i.e. HTML, graphic design, certifications)
• Technical Communication organizations (i.e. STC)
• Entry-level jobs in the field – look for local postingsIf you do not have solid examples of your work at the time of creating your portfolio, take some time to create some to demonstrate your ability. Redesigns are a great way to display your skill. Think outside of the box for what you want to redesign – this can range from restaurant menus to technical manuals!
What advice do professionals have?
"Be sure you want to be a writer. With most new jobs being provided by small business, expect jobs to end and that you may have to change employers to grow your skillset.""Say yes to opportunities, and volunteer to write whenever you can. Build a digital footprint, make connections real and relevant. You never know who is going to be your colleague in the future.""Technical communications is insular – if you want to truly serve users and create effective communication deliverables, be sure to take an interdisciplinary approach that combines best practices from across fields, genres, and media."
"Start trying to write down the processes you use every day. You can write down how to cook something, how to fix something, or how to craft something. Evaluate each written process. Could anyone follow it? Ask yourself, 'How effective was my writing? What sequences did I miss? What could be misconstrued? Did I enjoy doing this exercise?' Your process project will give you some experience and some writing samples to use when applying for a job. It will also give you an idea of what you do and don't want to do when it comes to writing.""Be open to continuous learning, and look for opportunities to grow your skills in related areas that you find interesting, such as project management, UX, instructional design, or web design.""A degree is not required, but it can help get you noticed by employers. In lieu of a degree, get as much writing experience as you can, even if it’s not 'technical writing'. You will learn the technical aspect of the writing on-the-job, so employers just want to know that you can write well and that you can write anything."
(all anonymously sourced from field professionals via survey)