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Occupational Profile

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.

  • Avg. Salary $48,660.00
  • Avg. Wage $24.91
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed 1,900
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Technical Communicator, Writer

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

58%
58%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Technical Writer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Technical Writers
NOC code: 5121.2
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

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 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 More

Duties
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Technical writers produce information for audiences ranging from novices to technical experts. In general, they:

  • research subjects by analyzing reference materials (for example, specifications, blueprints, diagrams, maintenance manuals, reports, studies), consulting experts and using products themselves
  • gather information about target audience needs and analyze how to structure and format information to meet those needs
  • prepare a documentation plan for each document for monitoring progress and reporting
  • select appropriate technology and media to deliver technical information
  • create, follow and enforce the use of consistent style and formatting by developing a house style guide
  • write content for online help files, reference materials, educational materials, procedural and policy manuals, user guides, proposals, technical reports and instructional materials that explain the installation, operation and maintenance of mechanical, electronic and other equipment (for example, oil industry equipment or computer applications)
  • engage subject matter experts for the duration of the project, especially highly complex subject matter
  • create auxiliary resources such as diagrams or interactive learning processes if required
  • rewrite and edit drafts after they have been reviewed by technical experts for accuracy
  • test products (especially software and hardware)
  • manage documentation projects, including translation and localization if required.

Technical writers also may define terms in glossary format, index or cross-reference information or obtain copyright permissions to reprint material. They may work independently or as part of a team that includes scientists, engineers, computer specialists, management personnel, editors, other writers, illustrators or photographers.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Technical writers employed by medium-sized or large organizations generally work standard office hours.Overtime sometimes is required to meet deadlines. Contract writers working from home can set their own hours but must be prepared to work long hours when required to complete projects on time. However, many contract writers are required to work in offices during normal business hours. The pressure associated with having to meet deadlines can be stressful.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Technical writers need the following characteristics:

  • the ability to communicate and work effectively with a variety of people (for example, engineers, educators, publishers, editors, art directors, film producers, readers of varying ability)
  • adaptability and flexibility
  • the ability to pay close attention to detail
  • an interest in new communications technologies, particularly those involving multimedia and the Internet
  • the ability to analyze and think critically
  • the ability to deal with and learn from criticism
  • the ability to handle multiple requests during high-pressure periods
  • strong organizational, time management and project management skills.

They should enjoy gathering and synthesizing information, taking a methodical approach to explaining procedures and finding out how things are built and operate.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2016

There are no standard education requirements for technical writers, but they generally need:

  • an ability to write well with an understanding of plain language, sentence structure, presentation formats and readability
  • a good grasp of grammar and the ability to express ideas clearly in writing
  • knowledge of technology (ranging from basic to expert depending on the project)
  • research, interviewing and analytical skills
  • editing and proofreading skills.

Employers generally prefer to hire technical writers who have related post-secondary education or experience and can supply samples of their work (either online or in portfolio format). Practical writing and design layout experience gained through part-time or entry-level positions with corporate communications departments, publishing companies or magazines is an asset. Volunteer work also may provide an opportunity to gain experience and build portfolio samples.

Technical writers must keep their skills and knowledge up to date through professional development activities such as taking continuing education courses, attending workshops and conferences, reading and communicating with others in their field. An interest in emerging technologies also is beneficial, helping technical writers develop and present information more effectively.


Related Education

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

University of Alberta

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Technical writers may be employed full time, part time or on a contract basis by public organizations or businesses such as:

  • software development companies, Internet design firms and multimedia content providers
  • schools and training companies
  • publishers
  • corporate communications and human resource departments
  • manufacturing firms
  • construction companies and safety organizations
  • research laboratories
  • oil and gas companies
  • military contractors
  • government departments and not-for-profit organizations
  • medical technology firms
  • insurance companies
  • pharmaceutical companies.

Experienced technical writers may advance to supervisory or management positions. Those who have the required knowledge and skills may move into a related occupation (for more information see the Instructional Designer, Editor, Graphic Designer, Translator, Interactive Media Programmer or Training and Development Professional occupational profiles).

Technical writers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5121: Authors and writers. In Alberta, 78% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2016

According to a 2015 salary survey conducted by the Society for Technical Communication Alberta (STC Alberta), the average annual income of Alberta full-time technical writers who have 2 to 6 years of experience was $83,430 a year. The overall average annual income reported in Alberta was $77,080 a year. The average hourly rate of Alberta contract technical writers who have up to 6 years of experience was $52 per hour. The average hourly rate reported in Alberta was $71 an hour.

Authors and writers
NOC code: 5121

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.00 $37.49 $20.24 $16.63
Overall $17.74 $41.76 $24.91 $20.79
Top $21.56 $45.86 $32.31 $30.00

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.

C: Lower Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lower Reliability, represents a CV of between 15.01% and 33.00% and/or if fewer than 20 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 33% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
ALBERTA, ALL INDUSTRIES
Information, Culture, Recreation

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

58%
58%

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

20%
20%

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

13%
13%

2015 Vacancy Rate

7%
Related High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Media, Design and Communication Arts
    • Communication Technology
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Communications
  • Engineering and Science Technologies
  • Humanities and Languages
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Society for Technical Communication, Alberta Chapter (STC Alberta) website: www.stc-alberta.org

Technology Alberta website: www.albertaict.ca

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 25, 2016. 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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