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What are typical technical writer salaries? Do some companies pay a lot more for this position than others? What does a top earner make in this field?

What skills should you learn to increase your salary?

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Solaris in Vancouver, Washington

85 months ago

Jane said: Why do technical writers accept low salaries for contract work? Professionals in other fields make way more than that (at least $50 an hour anyway). We're not greeting card writers. We deal with technical information.

But we do not actually create the technology. Many of the job shops charge $60 or more per hour but they do not pay it all to the writers.

There is also the supply and demand factor.

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Kelly in Los Angeles, California

82 months ago

There does seem to be a wide range suggested here. I live in Los Angeles and make $75k as mid/senior-level. I made about the same in Seattle. It's not just the location that is a factor, it's the industry as well. Certain industries NEED technical writers and will pay them top dollar.

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twirler in Voorhees, New Jersey

79 months ago

The truth:
All writers do not live in major markets.
All writers are not the same writer.
All writers do not have the same expectation.

I have what some would say is a low rate. However, I have security, average benefits, and have gone on several kick-a$$ trips in the last year.

I feel that the correct response to the poster has to be tailored to the geographic area they are targeting.

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Karen in Phoenix, Arizona

79 months ago

Alot has to do also if it's a direct hire or going thru a temp place. It seems here in Phoenix everyone wants to use agencies so they offer less money or everyone wants engineers with a degree... My husband has been looking for months with not much luck, well has had some offers but the pay stinks..12-15/hr. Don't think so. guess his having 20+ yrs in the AF as a tech writer and instructor/course developer doesn't count for much.

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B in North Kingstown, Rhode Island

76 months ago

Since 2001 to present I have consistently pulled in 70K on the Low end in 2001 to 110K on the high in 2007. On the Avg., I work in the 85 to 95K range in RI,CT, and MA. I have been Full time and Contract.

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Ani in Knoxville, Tennessee

75 months ago

As others have commented, technical writing salaries can have a great deal to do with your geographic location. Other factors that can significantly impact technical writing salaries include:

- Your ability to write to various audiences
- The 'type' of technical writing being created, e.g., writing for manufacturing, software development documentation, hardware specifications or configuration, engineering reports, policy and procedure manuals, online help and user guides, etc.
- Whether or not you are 'the' technical writer at a company or one of several technical writers on a 'team'
- Your ability to offer other related skills such as expertise in instructional design, training, business analysis,project management, understanding of print media/broadcast media, web content development, etc.
- Whether you require supervision; your ability to meet deadlines, etc.
- Your ability to handle multiple technical writing projects simultaneously
- Your specific degree

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Regina in Saint Louis, Missouri

75 months ago

Jason,

Are you saying you only make $10/hour, or you got an increase of $10/hour? I believe if you're only making $10/hour, you're below the poverty level. Not certain though.

I know no better way to say this: you're being screwed!

I have been a technical writer for almost 18 years now (following careers in journalism and PR), and you absolutely ARE doing technical writing - and you absolutely DO qualify for other tech writing jobs. AND, I've never written ANYTHING from a schematic! Those people either don't know what they're talking about or think you're really gullible.

You were smart to reach out to others in your field.

I don't know the market in your area, but you can almost always find a job in tech writing through consulting companies. I would advise that you post your resume of Monster.com, Dice.com (which is more for IT), and maybe HotJobs.com. It has been my experience that the recruiters will come out of the woodwork. Again, though, I don't know your market. If indeed.com, which I absolutely LOVE for job searches, allows you to post a resume now - do that too. In fact, do that first.

You, my friend, are selling yourself short, and there's no need for that.

Good luck!

Regina

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Jason in Orlando, Florida

75 months ago

Regina,

I'm ashamed to report that's the rate listed was not an increase. I made around $9.50/hr as the off-the-books technical writer. It jumped to $11.38 when the position was made official and had the add-more-syllables-to-it, maybe-he-won't-notice change of position title. I've heard that technical writers at a competing theme park company average at least five dollars more and are still bitter considering how that compares to the national average.

I have my resume posted on Monster.com and Careerbuider.com with a variety of search agents on each. I also scour craiglist every few days. I haven't had anything pan out yet though. I'll try indeed.com per your suggestion.

Thank you so much for your reply. It upsets me that it took me this long to seek out people to ask, but glad that I am doing so now. I've been assured by non-writers that I was being cheated, but it's a relief (and a horror) to hear it from someone with your experience.

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Regina in Saint Louis, Missouri

75 months ago

Jason,

I know it's a tough market right now. Are you open to relocation? That may be necessary.

I just checked the 2008 Poverty Guidelines (aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/08Poverty.shtml), and I was off by a lot if you only support yourself. At $10/hour, you're making about $20,000/year. These figures are for the contiguous states: The poverty level for a one-person household is $10,400; two-person, $14,000; three-person, $17.600; four-person, $21,200.

I just checked Florida's minimum wage, and it's $6.79/hour. That's about $13,580 a year. (In case you don't know, you can convert hourly to annual quickly by multiplying the hourly by 2000 hours. The actual amount of hours for a 40-hour week is 2080, and you can use that figure too, but you have to remember if you're paid hourly, you may not get paid for days off - so 2000 hours a year actually may give you a closer estimate.)

To give you a comparison, btw, I started a PR job at a midwest university back in 1985 at $13K, and my boss got me job reclassified so I could get $17K (both figures were low even then). And I supported one young child. I know how hard it was to live on $17K in 1985, and I can't imagine how hard it is to live on $20K in 2008!

I hope you find something soon.

Regina

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Regina in Saint Louis, Missouri

75 months ago

That last post cut off everything past the URL. Here's the full message:

Jason,

I know it's a tough market right now. Are you open to relocation? That may be necessary.

I just checked the 2008 Poverty Guidelines, and I was off by a lot if you only support yourself. At $10/hour, you're making about $20,000/year. These figures are for the contiguous states: The poverty level for a one-person household is $10,400; two-person, $14,000; three-person, $17.600; four-person, $21,200.

I just checked Florida's minimum wage, and it's $6.79/hour. That's about $13,580 a year. (In case you don't know, you can convert hourly to annual quickly by multiplying the hourly by 2000 hours. The actual amount of hours for a 40-hour week is 2080, and you can use that figure too, but you have to remember if you're paid hourly, you may not get paid for days off - so 2000 hours a year actually may give you a closer estimate.)

To give you a comparison, btw, I started a PR job at a midwest university back in 1985 at $13K, and my boss got me job reclassified so I could get $17K (both figures were low even then). And I supported one young child. I know how hard it was to live on $17K in 1985, and I can't imagine how hard it is to live on $20K in 2008!

I hope you find something soon.

Regina

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Regina in Saint Louis, Missouri

75 months ago

Jason,

I just looked at your qualifications again. Are you searching for instructional design positions? That's what you're doing: "I'm in charge of creating and revising all training materials>" And you have the tech writing covered with this "including operating procedure manuals."

Search on: writer, editor, "instructional designer," trainer, "technical writer," communications (which can sometimes pull up a writing job), documentation ...

Anyone else have ideas?

Regina

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Jason in Orlando, Florida

75 months ago

It's been VERY rough trying to make a living on that salary. Especially wanting to start a family of my own but not being able to do so. =P

The searches I have going are for the Central Florida area and several key locations in the northeast. My girlfriend (hopefully fiance when I can afford a ring for her) is a pilot and was recently hired by Piedmont Airlines. They only operate in the northeast, so I'm trying for any of her potential base cities as well.

Thanks for everyting, Regina. I'll start searching with those parameters this evening!

~ Jason

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Emily in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

75 months ago

I am a recent graduate with an BA in English. I had hoped to be a technical writer but am finding it extremely hard to find a company that is willing to interview me let alone give me an opportunity. Most companies want a technical writer with experience, but how can you get experience if no one will hire you? I have considered going back to school, but without experience I may be spending money to further my education with the same results. Did anyone have similar problems getting into the field and if so how did you overcome them? Thanks.

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Jacob in Bowling Green, Kentucky

74 months ago

Regina, it's good to hear from someone who actually has direct experience in this field! I have a few questions for you, if you care to entertain them:

1. as a seasoned veteran in the tech writing department, do you have any tips for us recent college graduates who are trying to break into technical writing?
From what I've experienced so far -after intense job searching for the past month- it is nearly impossible to get an interview with anyone for an entry level tech writer job.

2. If we can actually get an interview, what type of salary should we be asking for?
On my resume I have 40k/yr - $21/hr expected salary (as I read 40k/yr was the median entry level salary)

I feel that if I could get into a face-to-face interview I'd be able to land a job, as I'm proficient in most of the popular software, I have great writing skills/grammar, and I have an extensive Automotive mechanical/technical/modification background.

As I mentioned above, I've done some intense job hunting over the past month (I've applied for about 50 jobs all over the country!) and all I've gotten is a few pre-employment screenings and IT recruiters contacting me to no avail.

3. What do I do at this point?

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Regina in Saint Louis, Missouri

74 months ago

Jacob,

I am convinced contract technical writing is your best bet. Be willing to take short-term assignments - I once took one for 5 weeks @ $17/hr., when I was used to making $30. If you are able to relocate for a short gig, that's a plus too. So many people are not in a position to do that.

I think the rate you're asking is quite reasonable. And once you get some experience with it, start boosting it a couple dollars at a time. Especially if you get into a long-term position, renegotiate your rate at least once a year. If the client likes you, the consulting firm pretty much has to do what they can to keep you there.

Fortunately, I haven't had to search for about 18 months, but the best source 18 months ago was right here at indeed.com, because they pull from many search engines, including individual corporate ones.

I see several of you are new grads. Don't give up. I worked at a place in 2001 that hired two writers straight out of college with their BAs. The boss even said to me one time, "These 'kids' are the future of our company." (I reported him for that ageist statement, but that's another story.)

I graduated from college in 1976, and I can't really say the job market has ever been good for writers in the years I have worked (at least in St. Louis). However, I have usually managed to find something. So, don't let the 2008 economy scare you. Just keep searching.

You need to spend hours at your computer - at least every work day - trying to find leads. I used to try different things - like finding a list of the 100 top companies in the country and systematically going through each of their websites looking for job listings. When you feel like what you're doing isn't working, allow yourself to be a little creative in your search.

That's about the best I've got to offer right now, except GOOD LUCK!!!

Regina

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slr in Vancouver, Washington

74 months ago

Since you're writing what engineers develop, your salary is a percentage of what the engineer is paid. I have several friends with 10 - 14 years' engineering experience who work for different companies and industries in the same market. All three individuals make $82 - $96K.
I've worked in tech writing almost that long and would not expect to be paid the same as an engineer, any day. My work is demanding, but an engineer has talents that put them on the intellect level of a lawyer, physicians assistant, or chemist --- careers I would never have the intellect to study, much less perform.
It makes logical sense that we writers are paid a fair percentage of what the creators/designers/problems solvers that engineers are.

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Jacob in Bowling Green, Kentucky

74 months ago

slr,
If that's your rationale behind making the salary that you make as a technical writer, I can see why your friends make more money than you.
Try doing a search for the salary of a Sr. Technical Writer.

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Z-Nail in New Prague, Minnesota

73 months ago

Hello All.

I held Technician/ Tech. Support roles for a Microelectronics industry supplier for 14 years when my position was eliminated in March of this year. With these positions, I wrote many Engineering reports, work instructions, and many other documents. While I enjoyed the "hands-on" work with these positions, I found that what I really liked was the writing aspect.

I'm now thinking about pursuing a Technical Writing career, and am just not sure where to start. Should I go back to school (I have a B.S. in Biology), or will my previous experience possibly get me "in the door" somewhere?

Any and all ideas welcome!

Z-Nail

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fred in Livermore, California

63 months ago

if you are able to mix a few different sources of income you can increase the amount you make over all, check out www.allvoices.com/rewards/aaa

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missaugustina in Seattle, Washington

62 months ago

@Emily: What kind of Tech Writing do you want to do? If you want to go into Computer Software, you need computer skills. Continuing Education courses at community colleges offer courses that may be helpful for you. Besides being an excellent writer, having technical expertise in other areas may be helpful. Additionally, consider Copywriting or other Marketing oriented positions. Finally, you need a writing portfolio of technical writing for applying to tech writing jobs.

To gain experience, write for Open Source projects! Open Source software is community driven, free to download and install, and always needs documentation! It's also a great way to improve your computer skills.

www.fsf.org/

Emily in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania said: I am a recent graduate with an BA in English. I had hoped to be a technical writer but am finding it extremely hard to find a company that is willing to interview me let alone give me an opportunity. Most companies want a technical writer with experience, but how can you get experience if no one will hire you? I have considered going back to school, but without experience I may be spending money to further my education with the same results. Did anyone have similar problems getting into the field and if so how did you overcome them? Thanks.

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missaugustina in Seattle, Washington

62 months ago

@slr: I whole-heartedly disagree. I have a BS in Computer Science. There is a difference in how work is valued. Engineers focus on "things" whereas Technical Writers focus on the interactions of "people" with "things". Technical Writers who focus on end-user documentation do not get paid as well as Technical Writers who write for engineers. Just because one is a Technical Writer does not mean they are not as intellectually capable as an Engineer.

slr in Vancouver, Washington said: Since you're writing what engineers develop, your salary is a percentage of what the engineer is paid. I have several friends with 10 - 14 years' engineering experience who work for different companies and industries in the same market. All three individuals make $82 - $96K.
I've worked in tech writing almost that long and would not expect to be paid the same as an engineer, any day. My work is demanding, but an engineer has talents that put them on the intellect level of a lawyer, physicians assistant, or chemist --- careers I would never have the intellect to study, much less perform.
It makes logical sense that we writers are paid a fair percentage of what the creators/designers/problems solvers that engineers are.

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regae72 in Saint Louis, Missouri

62 months ago

missaugustina, I think your advice to Emily was spot-on! All of it!

missaugustina in Seattle, Washington said: @Emily: What kind of Tech Writing do you want to do? If you want to go into Computer Software, you need computer skills. Continuing Education courses at community colleges offer courses that may be helpful for you. Besides being an excellent writer, having technical expertise in other areas may be helpful. Additionally, consider Copywriting or other Marketing oriented positions. Finally, you need a writing portfolio of technical writing for applying to tech writing jobs.

To gain experience, write for Open Source projects! Open Source software is community driven, free to download and install, and always needs documentation! It's also a great way to improve your computer skills.

www.fsf.org/

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regae72 in Saint Louis, Missouri

62 months ago

missaugustina, you win one, you lose one. I just complimented your response to Emily, but your response to slr is erroneous. You don't have to have technical knowledge or capability to be considered intellectual. I have a friend, for example, who has 1,000 classical music CDs and a head full of information on that subject, but doesn't know how to crop a photo online.

Intellectualism has nothing to do with technical ability. However, I agree a more technically oriented technical writer will probably make more than one who is less so.

-One of those English Major Tech Writers

missaugustina in Seattle, Washington said: @slr: I whole-heartedly disagree. I have a BS in Computer Science. There is a difference in how work is valued. Engineers focus on "things" whereas Technical Writers focus on the interactions of "people" with "things". Technical Writers who focus on end-user documentation do not get paid as well as Technical Writers who write for engineers. Just because one is a Technical Writer does not mean they are not as intellectually capable as an Engineer.

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regae72 in Saint Louis, Missouri

62 months ago

Oh my, missaugustina! Please accept my apology. I just realized you pulled a double negative on us in this sentence, "Just because one is a Technical Writer does not mean they are not as intellectually capable as an Engineer." To put in the positive: "Technical Writers are as intellectually capable as Engineers!"

Hear! Hear!

Regina

regae72 in Saint Louis, Missouri said: missaugustina, you win one, you lose one. I just complimented your response to Emily, but your response to slr is erroneous. You don't have to have technical knowledge or capability to be considered intellectual. I have a friend, for example, who has 1,000 classical music CDs and a head full of information on that subject, but doesn't know how to crop a photo online.

Intellectualism has nothing to do with technical ability. However, I agree a more technically oriented technical writer will probably make more than one who is less so.

-One of those English Major Tech Writers

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Michael Aprile in Johnson City, Tennessee

33 months ago

Most employees of companies have mediocre benefits, except perhaps for the President of the company. $40,000 plus a year is not too bad for a young writer, still coming up. If it were possible, in this modern economy, or lack thereof, you could take your six years and go to another company, to raise your salary, do around 5 to 7 years there and then move again. If you can get a raise at each new place, that will raise your pay much quicker. I was earning $70,000 plus as a Senior Technical Writer in 2001, by using this approach.

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Monique in Washington, District of Columbia

26 months ago

Host said: What are typical technical writer salaries? Do some companies pay a lot more for this position than others? What does a top earner make in this field?

What skills should you learn to increase your salary?

I started off in 2010 making $20/hour as a Correspondence Analyst. Since then I've jumped around several different contracts working my way up as a Technical Writer and now I am a Senior Technical Writer making $70K. It really honestly depends on your location and/or company. My benefits have been great thus far, except with my current company the health package is slightly crappy. I suggest going into contracting, therefore you can try different technical writing genres and see which one best fits for you.

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Gable in Hurst, Texas

16 months ago

$9.50/hr is not a white collar wage. Very few Administrative Assistants are paid that little. As an experienced writer, you should be making twice that much, especially if you have a degree. If you are being paid as a contract/consultant writer, then three times that much. Look around. I wouldn't quit one job until I have another, but do look. They are taking advantage of you egregiously, even if it is a depressed economy.

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