The U.S. Dept. of Labor’s “Occu­pa­tional Out­look Hand­book, 2002-03 Edi­tion, Writ­ers and Edi­tors”, is rec­om­mended read­ing for those con­sid­er­ing tech­ni­cal writ­ing as a pro­fes­sion.

Some of the main points high­lighted in the hand­book make inter­est­ing reading:

  • Most pro­fes­sional writ­ing jobs still require a col­lege degree either in the lib­eral arts with a pref­er­ence for Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Jour­nal­ism, and English.
  • Com­pe­ti­tion is expected to be less for lower pay­ing, entry-level jobs.
  • Writ­ers who fail to gain bet­ter pay­ing jobs usu­ally can trans­fer read­ily to communications-related jobs in other occupations.

Employ­ment

In 2000, Writ­ers and Edi­tors held about 305,000 jobs, and of those: 

  • 126,000 jobs were for writ­ers and authors.
  • 57,000 were for tech­ni­cal writers.
  • 22,000 were for editors.

Nearly 25% of jobs for writ­ers and edi­tors were salaried posi­tions with news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines, and book pub­lish­ers; other posi­tions were in edu­ca­tion, adver­tis­ing, radio and TV, PR, and non-profits.

Jobs with pub­lish­ers, mag­a­zines, broad­cast­ers tend to be con­cen­trated in New York, Chicago, Los Ange­les, Boston, and San Francisco.

Train­ing and Qualifications

To break into tech­ni­cal writ­ing, a col­lege degree is gen­er­ally required, for exam­ple in com­mu­ni­ca­tions, jour­nal­ism, or Eng­lish. A degree in a spe­cial­ized field (engi­neer­ing, busi­ness, or sci­ence) is very much a bonus.

Many tech­ni­cal writ­ers migrate into this pro­fes­sion from jobs as pro­gram­mers, lab tech­ni­cians, research sci­en­tists, or engi­neers. Oth­ers begin as trainees in an IT depart­ment, develop their writ­ing and gram­mar skills, and then move into full­time tech­ni­cal writ­ing positions.

In the cur­rent mar­ket envi­ron­ment, knowl­edge of elec­tronic pub­lish­ing, graph­ics, and video are increas­ingly in demand. Online pub­li­ca­tions, such as news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines, all require web skills to man­age con­tent, graph­ics, audio, video, and 3-D animation.

Employ­ment Oppor­tu­ni­ties to 2010

Accord­ing to the hand­book, the employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties for writ­ers and edi­tors are expected to increase faster than the aver­age for all occu­pa­tions until 2010.

Posi­tions in news­pa­pers, peri­od­i­cals, and book pub­lish­ers are expected to increase as demand grows for their pub­li­ca­tions, espe­cially those that see the web as an alter­na­tive pub­lish­ing chan­nel. The sleuth of web pub­li­ca­tions is likely to increase the demand for writ­ers and edi­tors, with most com­pa­nies now devel­op­ing newslet­ters and content-driven websites.

Demand for Tech­ni­cal Writ­ers, espe­cially those with exper­tise in areas such as eco­nom­ics, biotech­nol­ogy and med­i­cine, is expected to increase due to the con­tin­u­ing expan­sion into these areas.

Invest­ments into IT, elec­tron­ics, and biotech­nol­ogy should result in a greater need for peo­ple to write user guides, instruc­tion man­u­als, and train­ing courses.

Finally, those with Inter­net and web-facing expe­ri­ence are likely to find more employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties. Roles for skilled writ­ers will include posi­tions as Edi­tors, Writ­ers, Con­tent Man­agers, Course­ware Devel­op­ers, Instruc­tion Design­ers, and Infor­ma­tion Architects. 

Earn­ings

The U.S. Dept. of Labor’s details of the median earn­ings for salaried writ­ers, tech­ni­cal writ­ers, and edi­tors as follows: 

Salaried Writ­ers

The median annual earn­ings for salaried writ­ers were $42,270 in 2000. 

  • The low­est 10% earned less than $20,290
  • The mid­dle 50% earned between $29,090 and $57,330.
  • The high­est 10% earned more than $81,370.  

Tech­ni­cal Writers

Median annual earn­ings for salaried tech­ni­cal writ­ers were $47,790 in 2000.

  • The low­est 10% earned less than $28,890
  • The mid­dle 50% earned between $37,280 and $60,000.
  • The high­est 10% earned more than $74,360.

Salaried Edi­tors

Median annual earn­ings for salaried edi­tors were $39,370 in 2000.

  • The low­est 10% earned less than $22,460
  • The mid­dle 50% earned between $28,880 and $54,320.
  • The high­est 10% earned more than $73,330.

You can get more details from the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s, “Occu­pa­tional Out­look Hand­book, 2002-03 Edi­tion, Writ­ers and Edi­tors”, at http://www.bls.gov

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