Re: tech communication career

Subject: Re: tech communication career
From: Peter Neilson <neilson -at- alltel -dot- net>
To: Roy Waggoner <rwfromkansas -at- yahoo -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2006 08:35:29 -0400

Possibly jaundiced report from tech writer currently
looking for work.

Roy Waggoner wrote:

I am considering technical communication as a career.
So, here are some questions:

1) What is a typical day like?
Check to see if craigslist is working, oh good, yes it is,
but there aren't any new *real* tech writing jobs.
[time passes]
Oh, good, got a contract job. It'll be in-and-out,
tight deadline. Maybe it's feasible.

2) What are hours like? Do you find it takes time
away from your family beyond 50 hours a week or so?
Contract jobs vary. Most do not want the tw spending
time-and-a-half. A few need results yesterday.

3) What are some of the major pluses and minuses of
the career?
+ Improves one's spelling.
+ Allows productive outlet for having found bugs
in the software.
+ Tech writers are always needed, even if not wanted.
+ Writer gets to talk techy stuff with neat geeks.
- Reviewers argue spelling and grammar instead of
checking for missing material and for correctness.
- Writer is treated as overpaid secretary by some.
- Writer is the last to learn of the project for
which the docs are needed in three weeks.

4) What are typical entry level salaries and later
salaries? Are you happy with your compensation?
Salaries might have been good once. They seem to be
sinking. High rates are mitigated by sporadic

5) What is most exciting to you about the job?
New stuff. Deadlines.

6) How vital is a degree in technical communication?
I have met only one person with such a degree, and he
was a very poor tech writer.

Is competition for jobs intense? I ask this since
while I have some technical knowledge, I am sure it is
not enough to start a career in technical
communication right off the bat. I would need a
certificate at the very least, plus an internship.
When I started in tech writing the demand was so much
greater than the supply of writers that our company was
grabbing anyone who could write and had some degree of
self confidence. Journalists, physicists, teachers,
historians, mathematicians. None certified, but a few
who were certifiable.

Now the new plan seems to be to find people who cannot
write but are cheap and have some sort of technical
degree. On the other hand, maybe nobody actually reads
the stuff, so who cares?

7) How is the career undergoing changes, and in what
ways will that impact the job market for technical
Overseas, something like $4/hour I think.

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tech communication career: From: Roy Waggoner

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