RE: Education necessary for tech writing

Subject: RE: Education necessary for tech writing
From: "rpl" <rpl -at- iexplain -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 8 Apr 2001 07:52:49 -0600

Hello Ugne,

IMO, the best college degree to pursue for a career in technical writing is
a technical writing degree. There are undergrad and post grad (MA) programs
now appearing in the Humanities departments at many colleges and
universities. There are even a few PhD-in-Tec writing programs around.

Next best degree to have on the "writing" side of things is either a BA or
MA (or PhD, HA!) degree in English or Linguistics or even History/Classics
(notice these have to do with language or telling accurate stories and they
all involve a lot of writing). Actually, these days it might be a better
idea to go for a Bachelor of Education degree because many employers choose
to foist any and all of their job-training duties on the technical-writing
department. A B.ED. would stand you in good stead if you chose to pursue a
career in developing courses and training people.

The nature of technical writing requires that you not only have a good grasp
on the writing end of things. As well, you must have a technical background
or at least be able to show you are mechanically inclined and able to
understand and interpret mechanical/technical processes. The best degree to
get on the "technical" side of things would probably be a toss up between a
Computing Science and an Electronic Engineering degree. It's advisable to
have at least a technical diploma in "something". Again, probably the best
technical diplomas to get would be the ones relating to the computer

A diploma course in business is considered by most employers a valuable
asset in someone they hire. Plus, it can come in very handy if you decide
you want to branch off into independent contract technical writing.

Of course having all this education would be the ideal. If you look through
"How I got started in technical writing" stories on the raycomm techwhirl
site you will see that many people there do not fit the ideal. Many of them
have instead gained tremendously valuable on the job experience in technical
writing which (usually) more than makes up for any lack of education.

The following is not an educational requirement but it is an important
characteristic for a Tec writer I think. That is, patience coupled with a
sense of urgency, coupled with an undying desire to "help" people, coupled
with persistence, coupled with a willingness to be both a team player AND to
work independently, coupled with a wry (or make it rye) sense of humor, etc,
etc, etc....



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