What is Technical Communication

So what is Technical Communication? It is difficult to settle on one definition because it extends into so many fields and blends creativity, science, and technology. You can think of it as telling people how to do things, relying on communication to manage change, using cool tools to communicate information, and getting paid to actually write!

Creativity comes into play because you have to understand multiple audiences and people's styles of communication and different media. Then you must put all of this together in a way that is going to inform and engage the people who need to use the information. Think about it this way: suppose you had to write a user manual for a software program, something people usually don't look forward to reading. As a technical communicator you would need to think of a creative way to present the information so that you could hold your audience's attention.

Science is such a pervasive part of our society. It informs our thoughts on health, the environment, politics and education. Often technical communicators find themselves helping scientists communicate with other scientists and the public. That is why it is so important for technical communicators to understand the core principles of science, which is why our program at Tech is a Bachelor's of Science with required courses in the sciences.

Technology is important because technical communicators need a mastery of the latest software and techniques to communicate their messages effectively to different audiences. In addition, technical communicators often find themselves responsible for explaining how to operate software or devices such as a DVD player, GPS receiver, and mass spectrometer.

What do Technical Communicators do?

Often, people think that technical communicators are relegated to writing instruction manuals. At one time this may have been true, but times have changed! Technical communicators create information in all of its forms for a wide variety of people, products, and reasons.

At many organizations, large and small, technical communicators do things like create webpages and websites, design GUI's and software programs, and create and carry out usability tests for complex products.

But that's not all! Technical communicators also write the grants that keep non-profit organizations running, they organize, edit and publish important documents for governmental entities, and they document the complex research, creation and results of pharmaceutical products.

Some job titles you can expect to find in technical communication are documentation manager, information developer/specialist/architect/designer, online help developer/specialist, technical writer, technical editor, usability specialist, and web designer. Technical communicators are in high demand in many industries, including computer manufacturing, software development, publishing, medical services and research, telecommunications, financial services, non-profit administration, government, and academia.

See Career Options article for more information about career opportunities  in technical communication

Benefits (in terms of compensation and pay)

According to the 2007 Society for Technical Communication salary survey, the average annual salary for technical communicators was approximately $60,000.  And according to the U.S Department of Labor, the projected 10 year job growth for technical writing (2006-2016) is estimated at 20%, which is defined as "faster than average" growth. The U.S DOL further goes on to say that:

"Opportunities should be best for technical writers and those with training in a specialized field. Demand for technical writers and writers with expertise in areas such as law, medicine, or economics is expected to increase because of the continuing expansion of scientific and technical information and the need to communicate it to others. Legal, scientific, and technological developments and discoveries generate demand for people to interpret technical information for a more general audience. Rapid growth and change in the high-technology and electronics industries result in a greater need for people to write users' guides, instruction manuals, and training materials. This work requires people who not only are technically skilled as writers, but also are familiar with the subject area." http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos089.htm

Technical communicators work throughout the United States, and even throughout the world, though some specializations are often found in very particular areas. In New Mexico, technical communicators are employed heavily by the large defense industry found in the state.  But they are also often employed by the various city and county governments and the many nonprofit organizations found in New Mexico.