RE: TechWriting for Ph. D's

Subject: RE: TechWriting for Ph. D's
From: Brian Clements <bclements -at- fpix -dot- com>
To: "'JRDerr -at- aol -dot- com'" <JRDerr -at- aol -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 1999 09:17:17 -0600

I came to tech writing out of academia, and I know a couple of others who
have as well. I taught at a state university on an annual contract for
peanuts, hoping to find that ever-elusive tenure-track position, only to be
informed two weeks before the Fall '97 semester that my contract wasn't
being renewed. So I had to find work quick, and, luckily, a good friend who
has been in tech writing for about 15 years worked for a company that needed
a contractor. I think that's the best way to break in--to find an
entry-level contract position and work your way up.

And you're right on the mark to think that your ability to read, analyze,
and synthesize would serve you well in this profession. I've found that the
more highly-educated tech writers are, the faster they tend to move up the
ladder. After a year of contract work and quarterly raises (from $18/hr.
starting out to $25 at the end of the year) I was able to find a doc
management position which pays about three times what I was making in

I encourage you to check tech writing out, especially if you're in an area
like Seattle, or Austin, or Dallas, or San Francisco, or Boston, or
Virginia, etc. that has a lot of high-tech industry. It's suprisingly easy
work, even when the hours are demanding, and leaves plenty of time and
energy for other writing, if you do that sort of thing. I'm not crazy about
seeing all the people I used to compete against for teaching jobs running
over to compete with me for these jobs, but I'm happy to see other academic
refugees do well. Good luck!

Brian Clements
Documentation Manager
fpix, inc.
bclements -at- fpix -dot- com

-----Original Message-----
From: JRDerr -at- aol -dot- com [mailto:JRDerr -at- aol -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 1999 8:08 PM
Subject: TechWriting for Ph. D's

I am a soon-to-graduate Ph. D in English and, like many of my fellow Ph. D
grads, I am facing a rather bleak job market for English professors. One
possible avenue for employment that I have discussed with some others in the

department is techwriting. This seems to me like it is a fairly good option

since it is a growing area (unlike the professorial job market) which
requires writing skills, the ability to read and synthesize complex and
difficult material, the ability to work on long term self-directed projects
(rather like a doctoral dissertation) My question to all of you on the list

is how does one break into techwriting if one has previously pursued an
academic career? Most of us have rather limited technical knowledge, but we

have the ability and the desire to learn new things rather quickly. Is this

a viable option or am I comletely misinformed?

Also, do you think that listing a Ph. D on one's resume is detrimental. I
have had potential employers tell me that I couldn't possibly be interested
in working for them since I was so used to the ivory tower (ironically I
working at an inner city correspondence high school at the time)

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