Somewhat OT: Tech Writers vs. other writers

Subject: Somewhat OT: Tech Writers vs. other writers
From: "ASUE Tekwrytr" <tekwrytr -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 16 May 2003 14:50:52 -0400

Technical writing was a hot field a couple of years ago, and quite a few colleges and universities have jumped on the (now somewhat broken down) bandwagon, cranking out graduates with BS degrees in Technical Writing, Technical Documentation, Technical Communication, Professional Writing, and Multimedia Writing. The content is pretty much the same, and with the exception of a few engineering departments who offer writing instruction for engineering or computer science majors, those majors are some of the softest around; if you show up for class and don't insult the instructor, you soon leave with a shiny BS in an impressive-sounding major.

While I understand that many technical writers are in fact "technical," with skills in a particular field in which he or she is writing documentation, many are simply writers. What advantage do the existing technical writers have over the wild prolferation of new, aspiring technical writer wannabes entering the field at an alarming rate?

That question is not meant to be rhetorical or facetious; a lot of those BS graduates are looking for jobs, finding a few available at modest salaries, and deciding that an MBA or MS is a better way to go. That means, essentially, entering the market a year or two from now as department heads or managers, rather than the "entry-level" positions at modest salaries available now. My question is whether that same amount of experience (salary aside) will provide them an equal or superior advantage, or simply prepare them to be low-level salaried employees.

Projecting a year or two in the future, who will be better off, the one who gets a little experience writing software docs for a database app he or she doesn't understand, or the one who stays in school and comes out in a year or two with an MS in TW or an MBA with a TW emphasis? My impression is that many of the current crop of TW graduates are leaning toward the latter view, and that could make a glut of MS and MBA graduates a couple of years from now just as there seems to be a glut of BS graduates in TW and TC now. Any thoughts or opinions?

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