How Do I Become a Senior Technical Writer?

Rebecca Mecomber

A technical writer blends two skills into one career: writing and technical knowledge. Language skills are crucial to success, but so is knowledge in technical topics. To become a senior technical writer, you must have strong written communication skills and a diverse background in technical science. Most employers look for formally educated candidates with hands-on technical expertise in a variety of fields. Technical writers usually begin their careers slowly, starting as junior writers and gaining experience until they are ready for senior responsibilities and pressures.

A technical writer may be responsible for writing operation manuals.
A technical writer may be responsible for writing operation manuals.

Higher education is often a requirement for senior writers, and it enhances your employment and promotion opportunities as well. To become a senior technical writer, consider attending a college or university and obtaining a degree in journalism, writing, computer science, engineering or some other related field. Some employers may even fund higher education for writers, to groom junior writers into becoming senior writers or to expand the depth and range of their staff senior writers. If you currently hold a position as a junior writer, check with your employer for any continuing education opportunities.

To become a senior technical writer, you must have strong writing skills. Writing styles vary greatly, and editors seem to encourage it. Some writers express a breezy, informal style popular with technology news Web sites and online tech support, while others are better suited writing structured manuals or information design documents. No matter your style, your language skills must be well developed as good grammar, spelling and coherent language style is a requirement for anyone wishing to become a technical writer. Education teaches you writing skills, but experience and talent develop them into the maturity required for such a position.

Additionally, a senior writer needs to have developed diverse skills in various technology fields, and so broad exposure of the various branches of technical science is important. Qualifications might include skills or knowledge in typography, database and Web site management, Web design, training and system manuals, and other technical documents. An exceptional technical writer is knowledgeable in a broad spectrum of tech sciences, but does not necessarily need to be master of any one branch. As a blossoming writer, your emphasis is on technical communication. Your talent lies in the ability to understand and analyze technical topics and communicate information to the reader.

Finally, work toward developing your own personal advancement in the technical field. Monitor new technological advances, critically edit user manuals, and maintain a Web site and database. Become familiar with technological gadgets and how they work. These small exercises hone your expertise, give you an added perspective, provide depth to your work, and help you to become a senior technical writer who excels in his or her field.

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