What Does a Technical Writer Do? 2024 Career Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn more about what a technical writer does and the skills and education you need to begin your career.

[Featured image] A technical writer works from home and reads a book while at their desk.

Technical writers, also known as technical communicators, are responsible for explaining processes to consumers of various industries, such as health care and IT. As a technical writer, you communicate complicated ideas or instructions through guidebooks, manuals, brochures, or graphics. You’ll focus on communicating information and ensuring that it’s easy for the reader to understand. 

Keep in mind. Technical writing differs from creative writing because you’re responsible for communicating instructions or information to the consumer in a concise, simplified way. The language you use should be clear and professional and should represent the company and its goals.


What is a technical writer?

Technical writers are professional writers who produce instructions and how-to guides for consumers. Technical writers write the answers to frequently asked questions for businesses and work directly with their clients to accurately create and write content for them. 

Technical writer vs. content writer

Technical writers and content writers both use writing to communicate; however, the two roles are not the same. The biggest difference is the intention behind the writing. While content writers focus on selling a product or idea, technical writers are responsible for explaining a product or service.

Technical writing is objective. While creativity is necessary for simplifying complicated ideas, technical writing itself is unemotive and straightforward. Content writing focuses more on using your imagination to market a product to a consumer.

Another major difference between the two writing styles is search engine optimization (SEO). Content writers implement SEO as a way to reach an audience through keywords. Using keywords increases the chances of your article appearing in online search results. SEO is important for any kind of writing or selling of a product, however, as a content writer you are more likely to use it.

What does a technical writer do?

Technical writers communicate on behalf of a company. As a technical writer, you have many different tasks and responsibilities that differ based on your employer and what industry you work in. You’ll also be involved directly with researching, observing, and writing documents based on your research.

Technical writer tasks and responsibilities 

Your role as a technical writer has many different responsibilities depending on the field you work in. However, certain responsibilities exist across all technical writer roles. 

Common responsibilities include:

  • Simplifying documents: Technical writers take complex ideas and make them easy for people to understand. The simplification of documents and other materials allows consumers to digest the information more easily, as well as get their questions for the company answered.

  • Editing: You are responsible for editing and proofreading documents, manuals, and other written work given to you by your employer. Proofreading and editing are essential to making writing more concise and straightforward and preventing writing errors from being published.

  • Communicating: Technical writers must communicate through the written word. You also have to communicate with your coworkers, employers, and others. You get feedback from consumers and apply that information to what you’re writing.

Technical writer skills

You need specific skills to be a successful technical writer. First and foremost, you have to know the voice and goals of the company you are working for. As a writer, you are representing your employer by answering questions and creating important documentation on their behalf. 

Common technical writer skills include:

  • Writing: Technical writers are skilled in writing and often have a degree in English or a related field. Your resume or portfolio should include examples of your writing style but also state that you can adapt to the voice of the company you work for. 

  • Research: As a technical writer, you will participate in research and study on behalf of your client. An important skill to have is knowing how to apply the information gathered to your writing. The results of your research may impact your overall message and may include feedback from customers using the company’s product or service.

  • Collaboration: An important aspect of technical writing is working with your leaders, peers, as well as with consumers of the company’s product to understand their feedback. Writing itself is usually done by one individual at a time, but the processes leading up to writing are important in creating a good final product. 

Technical writer salary and job outlook

The median salary for a technical writer in the US is $78,060 as of May 2021, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) [1]. The salary of a technical writer varies based on your location within the United States, your seniority, and your employer. 

The BLS predicts technical writer roles to grow 6 percent between 2021 and 2031, with approximately 5,400 job openings each year. There were 55,400 technical writers employed in 2021, and BLS projects that number to increase to 58,400 by 2031 [2].

Technical writer career path

A job in technical writing typically requires a bachelor’s degree and a writing portfolio. Your future employer may want to see your experience and writing abilities to determine whether you’re fit for the role. 

Education and training

To become a technical writer, employers will typically require at least a bachelor’s degree.  According to Zippia, 72.5 percent of technical writers have a bachelor’s degree and 11 percent with a master’s [3]. Relevant degrees include English, science, IT, finance, or business administration.

Associations such as the Society for Technical Communication and the American Medical Writers Association offer training and certifications for technical writers who wish to continue pursuing higher education and developing their skills. Certification or additional training is not typically required to become a technical writer, but it can help you in building your resume and fine-tuning your expertise.

Getting started with Coursera

If you’re ready to start your career as a technical writer, begin by enhancing your skills and gaining experience to build your resume. Explore Writing and Editing: Word Choice and Word Order by the University of Michigan on Coursera to increase your knowledge and get more information about technical writing. Upon completion, earn a certificate to include in your resume, CV, or LinkedIn profile. 

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Technical Writers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/technical-writers.htm.” Accessed September 6, 2023.

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