Technical Writer Certification and Certificate Programs
Students in technical writing certificate programs learn how to translate difficult instructions into user-friendly formats. In addition to preparing for jobs as technical writers and editors, graduates of these undergraduate- and graduate-level programs can earn professional certification.
Technical Writing Undergraduate Certificate
Technical writing certificate programs are usually geared toward professionals already working in such fields as information technology or human resources. Programs are also offered to students who'd like to prepare for entry-level positions as technical writers. Over the course of these 1-year programs, they learn how to turn highly technical instructions into documents, such as instruction manuals and user guides.
Many certificate programs don't require students to meet educational prerequisites. However, some certificate programs are offered to students who are already enrolled in bachelor's degree programs. Applicants to these programs will need a high school diploma or its equivalent.
Course topics discuss how to format and structure documents. Students may also take elective courses in computer science or business. Common courses include:
- Technical writing standards
- Business writing
- Document creation
- Project management
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that job openings for technical writers would increase 18% through the 2008-2018 decade (www.bls.gov). This was due to the increasing need for training materials by customer service and support systems. Businesses' ability to constantly revise online materials was also expected to drive demand.
The BLS reported that, as of May 2010, technical writers earned a mean salary of $66,240. Technical writers with the highest average salaries worked in California ($82,730), Massachusetts ($81,270), New Hampshire ($75,290), Virginia ($76,620) and Washington state ($78,850).
Continuing Education Information
While certificate programs can provide students with the training needed for entry-level positions as technical writers, the BLS states that the majority of employers hire applicants who hold bachelor's degrees. Additionally, technical writers may need training or experience in fields such as biology, physics, medicine, computer science or engineering. Graduates of technical writing programs might consider pursuing degree or certificate programs in one of these areas to improve their job prospects.
Technical Writing Graduate Certificate
Graduate certificate programs in professional writing or technical communications provide business professionals and experienced writers with the skills needed to design digital and print documents for a variety of audiences. Students may also learn how to teach professional writing courses or create websites. Internship opportunities may be available in some programs.
The majority of graduate-level certificate programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree. Applicants may also need to complete prerequisite communications courses.
Many certificate programs allow students to choose electives in grant writing, multimedia applications, graphic design or linguistics. Common core classes may include:
- Rhetorical theory
- Professional writing
- Visual communications
- Proposal writing
- Technical communications editing
Popular Career Options
According to some schools, students who complete graduate-level certificate programs in this field can work for businesses, government agencies or corporate publishers. Possible job titles are listed below.
- Grant writer
- Independent consultant
- Technical editor
Technical Writing Certification Program
Some professionals choose to earn certifications through nationally recognized professional organizations. These credentialing programs are often established as a way for technical writers to demonstrate their competency to prospective employers.
Certification programs may include eligibility requirements. For example, the Society for Technical Communication (STC) requires applicants to have a bachelor's degree in a field such as English or computer science and 3-4 years of experience. Applicants with a high school diploma can qualify with five years of experience. The Certified Professional Technical Communicator credential is awarded once applicants' work samples are approved by the STC.
Other organizations, like the Procedure Professionals Association, require applicants to complete its Writer Certification Program. This entails a 3-day class followed by an exam.
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