I always hear how good a technical communications gig can be, however, the people who are telling me that aren’t necessarily still completely relevant in that field. This leaves me wondering, is this field really still one I want to be a part of?
First I should probably clarify that while my degree’s major, convergent media, does qualify me for most tech communication positions I do have other options; in fact, that is the main reason that drove me to research which avenue would be most beneficial to pursue.
According to stc.org, technical communication is defined as:
“A broad field and includes any form of communication that exhibits one or more of the following characteristics: Communicating about technical or specialized topics, such as computer applications, medical procedures, or environmental regulations.”
Simplified, this means that the technical communicator basically just takes all of the complicated technical terminology from subject matter experts, or SME, and simplifies it for the rest of us to understand.
Now, what really motivates someone to be in the tech communication field? The Benjamin’s of course.
According to salary.com technical writers make between $50,000 and $75,000 a year, with senior technical writers making around $85,000 to $100,000 a year. This makes technical communication one of the highest paying English degrees around.
Another thing to look at is stability and work-to-life balance meaning how much do I have to work in a week versus how much family time do I get.
If you are looking for a standard 8-5 without having to put in a ton of hours in overtime every week, and article from idratherbewriting.com says this may be the field for you.
“It depends on your company. Most technical writers I know maintain a very comfortable work-life balance. It’s nothing like investment banking or law or medicine where you’re expected to put in 60+ hour weeks as the norm.
I have an 8 to 5 day, and I come home to a home-cooked meal and then wrestle with my kids for a while before putting them to bed and wandering online to post a few entries on my blog. Okay, so it’s not that idyllic, but the work-life balance is one of the best things about being a technical writer.”
For me at least, with a 12-year-old coming home every weekend, and a stepson with Cerebral Palsy at home, this work situation seems ideal to me.
Although the hours are sound, and some technical writing jobs can be done from home, according to an article on monster.com they aren’t as simple as they first may appear.
“Contrary to what many assume, working as a technical writer involves much more than sitting alone at your PC. The job requires plenty of contact with technical professionals, from programmers and project managers to machine operators and medical technicians. Solitary? Not quite. Collaborative? Most definitely.”
So I guess I will be swapping out my PJs for a little more business casual, bummer.
Another downside to the technical communication field is that you actually have to know more than one field explains Robert Plamondon.
“The whole point of a technical document is that it tells the reader how to use a product,” he said. “If the product can be used successfully by a technically unsophisticated reader, the manual can be written by an unsophisticated writer. It helps if the writer has enough background to understand the designers’ technical jargon, but this isn’t absolutely necessary. Someone is going to have to translate it for the layperson anyway, and it doesn’t have to be the technical writer.
Things get complicated when the readers will use the product in a sophisticated way. For example, a statistical software package cannot be adequately documented by someone who knows nothing about statistics. An integrated circuit cannot be documented by someone who doesn’t understand circuit-board design.”
This does seem a bit daunting as my degree may limit me to only a niche small part of a much bigger field.
The final thing I would like to explore being a card carrying ADHD member is that the tech communication field can be downright boring.
According to a blog post from Wise Writing, the job itself isn’t really that boring, but the content you write probably will be.
“After more than twenty years trying to be a technical writer I can categorically state that it is not boring – it is just me that sometimes is.”
In the end, after going through a metric ton of content, blogs and articles, it does seem that the pros win out over the cons when it comes to the technical communications field, at least for me.
As for anyone else, they will have to make their own decision.