(fwd) re: Demographics of Tech Writers

Subject: (fwd) re: Demographics of Tech Writers
From: Connie Winch <CEW -at- MACOLA -dot- USA -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 1995 10:08:00 LCL

First, my apologies if you get 2 messages like this (the
first one significantly abbreviated). I accidently hit Send
too early. This one's complete.

Lois Harwood {LHarwood -at- aol -dot- com} writes

>In the tech writing field is it generally considered more desirable to
>entrench oneself within a company for the long haul or to work toward total
>self-employment? While this decision is obviously influenced by bothersome
>little details such as the stability of the larger economy, geographic
>location of the writer and other particulars, my assumption is that this is a
>choice determined mainly by personality type -- or is there more to it than

I have only been a technical writer for a little under two years,
but what I have heard & experienced leaves me to believe that
even if you wanted to be in it for the long haul at one company
(a scenario that has already declined generally in the workforce),
you may not get that chance. Perhaps it depends on the industry
you're in. My first technical writing position was at a computer
software company and it lasted a mere year & 2 months because
of a layoff. The computer industry is extremely volatile. So you may
be forced to move around relatively often whether you want to or not.

>I'm completely intrigued with the demographics and mentality of the tech
>writing community. If anyone is aware of valid research that would
>specifically shine some light on the percentage of practitioners in this
>field who are currently independent consultants as opposed to those employed
>in a corporate setting I would be very interested in knowing the source.

>Additionally, if anyone has participated in an attitudinal survey of
>technical writers (regardless of whether this study was conducted by a
>professional organization or by an individual company) or knows of any such
>surveys that have been conducted I would be thoroughly interested in
>obtaining the results. I'm familiar with the STC data from '90 and '92 on
>salary and membership "profile" and understand that they have plans to
>publish their '95 data within the next few months; for those who are
>interested, this will now be an annual survey.

The study you're looking for (according to one of its authors it's the only
one of its kind) is called _How Technical Communicators Feel About
Their Occupation: Facets, Attitudes, and Implications for the Future of
the Profession_ by Dr. Alice Philbin, director of the Scientific &
Technical Communication program at Bowling Green State
University; Dr. Ann Marie Ryan, director of the Institute for
Psychological Research & Application and professor in BGSU's
Organizational Psychology & Masters of Organizational Development
Program; and Lisa Friedel, doctoral student in BGSU's Department of
Psychology and an expert statistician.

If I remember correctly, the results of this research will be published in
an upcoming issue of the _Journal of Technical Writing and
Communication_, available from Baywood Publishing Company, Inc.
(Their toll-free order line is 800-638-7819.)

I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Philbin present the findings of her
research at a recent meeting of the Central Ohio chapter of the STC; I
found the data very interesting. To put it in a nutshell, three major
emerge from this study:

1. Job satisfaction. Technical communicators (TCs) rate relatively low in
satisfaction with the actual work, with management, and with coworkers
(when compared to national norms for all professions). TCs have slightly
greater satisfaction with their pay and with opportunities for promotion .

2. Some areas of job satisfaction differ along gender lines. Women are
likely to be satisfied with their pay (though their pay does not differ
significantly) and are significantly more likely to be satisfied with
opportunities. Women and men do not differ significantly in satisfaction
the work itself, with their coworkers, or with their supervisors.

3. Some job satisfaction issues are unique to TC. TCs believe they have
equipment, limited time to do the job, limited resources (training, travel,
TCs feel both under-challenged and over-scheduled. TCs want more
(in terms of projects), more autonomy in project scheduling, and more
diversity in
their work.

|Connie E. Winch | Macola, Inc. |
|Technical Writer | cew -at- macola -dot- usa -dot- com |
|------------------------------------------------------ |
|None can speak of a wound with skill, |
|if he hath not a wound felt. |

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