Standard Occupational Classification #27-3042 Technical Writers
SOC definition Technical Writers #27-3042 -- Write technical materials, such as equipment manuals, appendices, or operating and maintenance instruction manuals. Many assist in layout work. Examples of other common names are documentation writer, assembly instructions writer, specifications writer
Technical writing work is classified as a media and communications occupation with the largest share working in the professional and technical services industries, almost 36 percent of the jobs. Among the professional services computer systems design and related services has 18 percent of the jobs, but other professional services like architectural and engineering services, management and scientific and technical consulting services also employ a large number.
Another 16 percent are in various manufacturing industries that need owner’s manuals and repair manuals to go with manufactured products. Computer and electronic product manufacturing has 6 percent of these jobs alone with small percents scattered in many manufacturing industries.
The publishing industry employs a little over 8 percent with 5 percent working for software publishers. Government employs 3.4 percent; 2.5 percent in the federal government. The rest are scattered as small percents in many industries because finance, health care and so many industries need to explain technical material. A little over 9 percent are self employed.
National employment as technical writers was 47,300 in 2013. Jobs are down from 50,700 since 2000 in a modest decline. Annual average job decline was 262 per year since 2000 at a growth rate of -.53 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is forecasting job growth for technical writers of 280 per year through 2022 with a growth rate of 2.07 percent a year.
Job openings make a better measure of new hiring than job growth. Job openings are job growth and the number of net replacements. Net replacements are people who permanently leave an occupation for another occupation or retirement and must be replaced before there can be job growth. Job openings for technical writers are forecast to be 2,260 a year through 2022.
The recently updated BLS Education and Training Classification assignments lists BA degree skills as necessary for entry into jobs as technical writers. However, percentages from survey data are published for technical writing that show an educational distribution where 47 percent have a BA degree and another 26 percent have advanced degrees. Another 21 percent have some college, but no degree, or an associate’s degree. Some specialized knowledge or experience may be satisfactory in some industries, but less than 6 percent who work as technical writers have high school or less than high school training. Previous experience of 1 to 5 years is considered important, but short term on-the-job training is expected for new hires.
Relevant BA degree programs include Professional, Technical, Business and Scientific Writing, English Language and Literature, General and also Journalism degrees that teach writing as a career. For those interested in technical writing it is wise to find a college that offers the Technical Writing specialty in that only a few actually specialize in technical writing.
There were 685 Professional, Technical, Business and Scientific Writing BA degrees for the last full year of data reported by the Department of Education. In addition, there were 363 more advanced degrees. The ratio of relevant degrees to openings equals 0.464, or 1,048/2,260, assuring a shortage of highly trained and specialized candidates to fill job openings. There were also 43,260 BA degrees in English Language and Literature, General, and 12,249 BA degrees in journalism. Even though these degrees are not as specialized to technical writing, Professional, Technical, Business and Scientific Writing degree candidates should expect other qualified candidates in the applicant pool.
The entry wage for the national market in the 10th percentile for technical writers is reported as $40,270 in 2013. The 25th percentile wage equals $51,850. The median wage is $67,900, the 75th percentile wage equals $86,340 and the 90th percentile wage is $105,760.
The wages of technical writers have kept up with inflation for the last decade. For example, to have the buying power of the 2006 median wage of $58,050 in 2013, the technical writers wage would need to be $67,079.11. In stead it was $67,900, a 1.22 percent increase in the real wage for those six years.