TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
The basic consensus seems to be that you need to directly relate the
available skills to the specific requirements of the job. If the job
needs an engineer or a subject matter expert, the salary and job level
goes up. If the job needs a writer and involves a subject unrelated to
the engineer's expertise, the salary goes down. You mention 15 years
writing experience. Depending on what this experience is, the salary
might not fall to entry level. If would depend on how close a match the
experience is to what the job requires. For example, if a significant
portion of the experience involves taking complex, highly technical
information and presenting it to a more generally oriented audience,
this could be a plus. A portfolio should help determine how applicable
the writing experience is. *However*, creating user guides is a pretty
specialized job--there'll be a significant learning period.
To all the others--
I suspect that saying engineers/programmers have a harder time learning
to write well than writers to program well is an incorrect conclusion
based on experience. My guess is that programmer feel far less
motivated to learn to write. Unless you're a good writer (one who
actually knows what constitutes good writing), writing quality is a
fairly nebulous concept. Lots of incredilbly bad writers think they're
great because they don't have the tools to help them evaluate their
writing. (Just ask any book agent or editor!)
Programming quality can be measured a little easier (although there are
still lots of nebulous elements to good programming). A more important
factor, however, came up on another list: there's a whole heck of a lot
of programming jobs out there and not enough people to fill them. My
guess is that, unlike writers, being good or average is not really
pertinent (outstanding and dismal will hopefully stand out, however).
Being a programmer is and its a highly valued position.
Applied Technical Systems, Inc. (ATS)
Bremerton, Washington USA
Developers of the CCM Database