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Technical Writer

Technical writers translate complex technical information into clear and understandable language. They shape and deliver information to meet the needs of a target audience.

Also Known As

Business Writer, Documentation Manager, Documentation Specialist, Specifications Writer, Technical Communicator, Technical Manual Writer, Technical Writer, Usability Specialist

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used.

Here is how this occupation has been classified over time.

2006 NOC

  • 5121.2: Technical Writers

2006 NOC-S

  • F021: Authors and Writers

2011 NOC

  • 5121: Authors and writers

2016 NOC

  • 5121: Authors and writers

2021 NOC

  • 51112: Technical writers

2023 OaSIS

  • 51112.00: Technical writers
Duties
Updated Mar 27, 2023

Technical writers produce information for audiences ranging from novices to technical experts. To create an effective product, technical writers need to clarify its purpose and identify the audience that will consume it. Their work explains the installation, operation, and maintenance of:

  • Computer applications
  • Mechanical, electronic, and other equipment
  • Other systems

They write:

  • Educational materials
  • Instructional manuals
  • Policy manuals
  • Procedures and processes
  • Proposals
  • Reference materials
  • Technical reports
  • User guides

Technical writers research the subjects they write about by consulting subject matter experts (SMEs). They interview SMEs to understand how to explain complex ideas or topics. Other ways to research their subjects include:

  • Using products themselves
  • Analyzing reference materials such as specifications, blueprints, diagrams, maintenance manuals, reports, and studies
  • Gathering information about target-audience needs

When producing their work, technical writers:

  • Analyze how to structure and format information to meet audience needs
  • Learn and apply the best writing style for the intended audience
  • Select appropriate technology and media to deliver technical information
  • Incorporate input from various reviewers
  • Rewrite and edit drafts after SMEs review them for accuracy
  • Correct common mistakes in writing
  • Create auxiliary resources, such as diagrams or interactive learning processes, if required

Depending on the work, technical writers may need to:

  • Define terms in glossary format
  • Index or cross-reference information
  • Obtain copyright permissions to reprint material
  • Test products, especially software and hardware

When managing their work, technical writers:

  • Identify the purpose and key elements of the main technical communicator documentation types
  • Work with business areas to set timelines and expectations
  • Prepare a plan to monitor and report on progress in developing each document
  • Perform quality-control reviews on other writer’s work
  • Use web development, social media, and content management systems to manage content in multimedia environments
  • Manage documentation projects, including translation, physical publication, and localization, if required

Technical writers may also develop a style guide outlining details including:

  • Spelling conventions (where there might be more than one possibility for certain words)
  • Punctuation styles (such as use of series commas or a “down” style of capitalization)
  • Physical formatting (such as margins, spacing, and type of bullets used in lists)

This helps to ensure that each document has a consistent appearance that supports readability. It also provides anyone who adds to the document with a guide to ensure continued consistency.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 27, 2023
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

Technical writers may work full time, part time, or on a contract basis. They may work independently or as part of a team. The team may include:

  • Computer specialists
  • Developers
  • Editors
  • Engineers
  • Illustrators
  • Management personnel
  • Media specialists
  • Other writers
  • Product specialists
  • Scientists
  • Subject matter experts
  • Videographers

Technical writers who work for mid-sized or large organizations often work standard office hours. Overtime is sometimes required to meet deadlines.

Contract writers working from home often work office hours as well. This allows them to attend online meetings and consultations with clients. They may need to work for long hours to complete projects on time. Many employers require contract writers to work in offices during normal business hours.

Meeting deadlines can be stressful.

Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Technical Writers

2006 NOC: 5121.2

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group
INNOVATIVE

Interest in synthesizing information to write manuals, user guides and other documents; may assist in the preparation and layout of publications

METHODICAL

Interest in instructing to explain the installation, operation and maintenance of software and electronic, mechanical and other equipment

objective

Interest in understanding the operation and functioning of software and equipment to prepare and write manuals, user guides and other documents

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 

It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective, and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes for this NOC group is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn About Interests

Abilities

Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 27, 2023

Technical writers need:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Attention to detail
  • Analytical and critical thinking
  • Organizational, time-management, and project-management skills
  • The ability to accept and learn from criticism
  • The ability to write clearly and concisely
  • The ability to write for different audiences and reading levels
  • The ability to translate jargon into easily understood language
  • The ability to understand complex and sometimes poorly expressed ideas and translate them into easily understood language
  • Intercultural sensitivity
  • Willingness to learn

They should enjoy:

  • Gathering and synthesizing information
  • Taking a methodical approach to explaining procedures
  • Finding out how things are built and operate

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Authors and writers

2016 NOC: 5121

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 21 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Nov 19, 2021 and Mar 13, 2024.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Personal Suitability: Flexibility
Health benefits: Health care plan
Health benefits: Dental plan
Personal Suitability: Organized
Personal Suitability: Excellent written communication
Personal Suitability: Accurate
Construction Specialization: Excellent written communication
Computer Applications: MS Word
Computer and Technology Knowledge: MS Word
Personal Suitability: Team player
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 27, 2023
  • Minimum Education Varies

There are no standard education requirements for technical writers. In general, they need to be strong writers with excellent grammar. They need to understand:

  • Plain language
  • Presentation formats
  • Readability principles
  • How to organize information so readers can find what they need easily and quickly

Technical writers also need:

  • Knowledge of technology ranging from basic to expert, depending on the project
  • Skills with research, interviewing, and analysis
  • User-centred design and testing skills
  • Editing and proofreading skills

Most employers prefer to hire writers with related post-secondary education or experience. However, the work writers have produced in previous jobs can be confidential. This makes it difficult for technical writers to show potential employers samples of their work.

Practical writing and design layout experience are assets. Technical writers may gain this experience through part-time or entry-level positions with corporate communications departments, publishing companies, or by doing web and mobile development work.

Volunteer work may provide opportunities to gain experience and build portfolios.

Technical writers must keep up with new communications technologies, such as those involving multimedia and the internet. An interest in emerging technologies can help technical writers develop and present information effectively.

Technical writers must keep their skills and knowledge current through professional development activities such as:

  • Continuing education courses
  • Workshops
  • Online courses and conferences
  • Reading
  • Communicating with others in their field

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 27, 2023
  • Certification Not Regulated

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 27, 2023

Technical writers may work for public organizations such as:

  • Government departments
  • Not-for-profit organizations
  • Schools

They may also work for businesses such as:

  • Agricultural, engineering, and manufacturing firms
  • Construction companies and safety organizations
  • Corporate communications and human resource departments
  • Financial institutions and insurance companies
  • Medical technology and pharmaceutical companies
  • Military contractors
  • Oil and gas companies
  • Publishers
  • Research laboratories
  • Software development companies, internet design firms, and multimedia content providers
  • Training companies

Experienced writers may advance to supervisory or management positions. They may move into self-employment or build their own businesses with contract workers or salaried employees. With the required knowledge and skills, they may move into related occupations. For more information, see these occupational profiles:

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 5121: Authors and writers occupational group, 75.2% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 5121: Authors and writers occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 2.6% from 2021 to 2025. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 130 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Note
NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2021-2025 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 27, 2023

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Authors and writers

2016 NOC: 5121
Average Wage
$36.47
Per Hour
Average Salary
$71,124.00
Per Year
Average Hours
37.9
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
12
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

Source
2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 5121 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production), and other forms of compensation.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $19.23 $38.46 $30.09 $31.25
Overall $21.54 $50.46 $36.47 $35.58
Top $23.13 $132.21 $58.73 $41.29

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

ALL INDUSTRIES
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services
Public Administration

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
46%
46%)
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
19%
19%
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
0%
0%
Vacancy Rate
N/A
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Communications
  • Engineering and Science Technologies
  • Humanities and Languages
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 27, 2023

Society for Technical Communication website: www.stc.org

Technology Alberta website: technologyalberta.com

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 27, 2023. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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