Careers in Technical Communication for English Majors
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  • Rachel: Hi, there. I’m Rachel Houghton, from Hillsboro and the Willamette Valley chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC).Bethany: And I’m Bethany Bowles, president of the Sigma Tau Delta Zeta Xi chapter at the University of Central Florida and student member of the STC Orlando-Central Florida chapter.Rachel: STC was invited by Sigma Tau Delta to present at this conference and provide an overview of the profession of technical communication, including the career opportunities it offers for English majors.
  • Rachel: We’ll cover the various skill sets technical communicators have, the many disciplines our profession encompasses, as well as potential career opportunities.Bethany: As a student member of STC as well as a member of Sigma Tau Delta, I’ll discuss the values of STC and the benefits I have gained from my membership with the Society.
  • Rachel: The Society for Technical Communication describes technical communication as possessing the following characteristics: “Communicating about technical or specialized topics, such as computer applications, medical procedures, or environmental regulations. Communicating by using technology, such as web pages, help files, or social media sites.And Providing instructions about how to do something, regardless of how technical the task is or even if technology is used to create or distribute that communication.”
  • Bethany: At the top of the list of a technical communicator’s skill set is something we as Sigma Tau Delta members can certainly relate to: writing and editing skills. But as we shall see when we survey the various disciplines within technical communication, many other skills come into play as well.Rachel: Take editing for “Global English,” for example. That requires skills in grammar and linguistics. In a world where the economic market is becoming more and more global, there’s a growing demand for this skill as part of “localization” (that is, translating and tailoring communication products to make them appropriate for the indigenous population).Bethany: In fact, my mentor in the STC-Orlando chapter, Dan Voss, recently edited a 280-page technical proposal to add the syntactical cues and grammatical precision necessary to ensure an accurate translation into Korean. At stake is an aerospace contract worth upwards of $100 million. He said that although his technical knowledge of the subject matter was helpful, by far the most important skills he needed to complete this assignment were the skills he mastered as an undergraduate and graduate English major, not the specialized skills he has acquired in his years as a technical writer/editor within aerospace.
  • Rachel: While technical writing and editing for Global English rely mostly on analytical skills, creativity also comes into play in technical communication, especially in the skills areas listed on this chart. Just as there is rhetorical analysis for words, the same is true for visual communication. In fact, the successful blending of the verbal and the visual elements is often the most important factor in creating an accurate and powerful means of conveying technical information in a manner that is understandable to a lay audience.Bethany: For example, photographs and videos can be extremely helpful in demonstrating proper procedures for assembly, maintenance, or repair of equipment. And technical illustration can be the only practical way to show the detailed “inner workings” of a mechanism. Can you imagine trying to convert a detailed schematic drawing, an architectural blueprint, or an electronic wiring diagram into words? Rachel: Actually, that would be my idea of “hell.”
  • Rachel: Speaking of which, a common misconception is that tech writing has to be “dry,” “dull,” and “boring.” While not many technical communication products lend themselves to haiku or sonnet, there is certainly much room—and NEED—for creativity in finding the words that will accurately capture a technical concept or process while still being understandable to an audience that is not comprised of subject matter experts.Bethany: For example, even though I’m majoring in technical communication, I’m still really an English major at heart. And while I’m not likely to ever win any awards for literary creativity, I take great satisfaction in my ability to apply my linguistic skills to make technical materials clearer and more understandable. In my opinion, that’s just another kind of creativity … and one that’s very marketable, as we shall see.
  • Bethany: We talked earlier about the emerging field of editing for “Global English.” One of the handouts we have at the STC table in the registration area provides the notes from a wonderful training session on Global English that was presented at the last STC international conference by an expert in the field, Dr. John R. Kohl, whose job title is “linguistic engineer.” We also have a copy of his landmark book, The Global English Style Guide. HOLD UP BOOK.Rachel: It is obvious that there will be increasing job opportunities in this area. While you have to be bi- or multi-lingual to become a translator, all you need to become an expert editor for Global English is a fundamental understanding of grammar and linguistics … something you already have and are in the process of refining!
  • Bethany: Twenty years ago, technical documentation for hardware and software boiled down to voluminous procedural manuals … which is exactly how our discipline got “tagged” with the “gag-me-with-a-spoon-B-O-R-R-R-I-N-G!” label. And I think that’s also why technical writing has, on many campuses, been sort of a “step-child” within the English department, the Communications department, or sometimes even the School of Engineering. But that image is rapidly turning into ancient history.Rachel: Absolutely, Bethany! Advancing technology has made instructional design a major specialty area within technical communication. And there’s always textbooks, both in traditional printed format and in new e-media.Bethany: I read that as “jobs,” Rachel!Rachel: No question.
  • Rachel: The basic principles of rhetorical analysis apply in the business world as well as in the academic world.Bethany: Except if you use the term “rhetorical analysis” in a business meeting, people are apt to look at you as if you are some kind of alien creature.Rachel: You mean like an English major?Bethany: That wasn’t nice, Rachel! Now where was I? Oh … rhetorical analysis. Dan told me of a situation where he used all the principles of rhetorical analysis to organize and implement a media/marketing campaign concurrent with a major proposal, except he called it “strategic marketing communication.” As I mentioned earlier, Dan’s secretly an English major (and English teacher) in aerospace clothing.
  • Rachel: Teamwork is extremely important in the field of technical communication. Collaborative writing is the exception rather than the rule.Bethany: How many of you have been involved in group projects in some of your courses? SEA OF WAVING HANDS.Bethany: And if this was not a literature class, as soon as your teammates found out you were an English major, you got to do most of the writing or rewriting? AWAIT RESPONSE. Believe me, I know … “been there, done that, got the T-shirt!” I think it’s an occupational hazard of majoring in English!Rachel: In industry, collaborative writing typically pairs the technical writer or editor with a technical subject matter expert. On large projects, that might involve several writers and several SME authors. Here’s where your core communication skills will serve you well … not just in generating the proposal, the software documentation, or the textbook that is being produced, but also serving a facilitating role in the group dynamics that inevitably accompany any team project.
  • Rachel: Technical communication offers many opportunities for people with web design and IT skills. If you have those skills and you can also write well, the possibilities are almost limitless.Bethany: Increasingly, companies are getting away from printed instruction manuals and going to web-based product support and technical support. If you have the skills to set up and maintain a streamlined online support site and can write the content as well, you will not have any difficulty finding employment!
  • Rachel: One of the reasons technical communication offers so many career possibilities is that the field crosses many disciplines and includes many “categories” of writing and communication. This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but it gives you an idea of what’s out there.Bethany: Every one of these areas taps into your basic skills in writing and editing, and every one of them offers excellent career opportunities.
  • Rachel: Technical communication crosses disciplines. That’s where teamwork and collaboration become so important. A skilled technical communicator has to be able to work closely with subject matter experts in a variety of disciplines, understand what they are “trying” to say, and then say it in crisp, clear English.Bethany: You know, the kind of English we have to crank out in the form of research papers in nearly every course we take. My mentor told me a story that occurred very early in his career involving an engineer who came running into the editorial area with his “hair on fire,” screaming “you changed my meaning!” Dan was about to hide under the desk when his supervisor, a cagey veteran aerospace proposal writer, took the mark-up the engineer was blandishing wildly in the air, adjusted his glasses on the rim of his nose, studied the editing briefly, and then announced: “Well, Dan cannot have changed your meaning, because as you wrote it, it HAD no meaning. Let’s work together to fix this.” That probably wasn’t the best example of client sensitivity, but it certainly conveys one of the occupational hazards of any writer or editor—author pride!
  • Rachel: Now let’s take a quick look at some of the jobs that are available for technical communicators. Technical writing and editing are our core skills, and there is a great demand for those skills both within industry and within academe.Bethany: It’s also possible to make a career as an independent contractor applying your skills to this type of material, but it’s generally best to get a few years’ professional experience to refine your skills in return for a paycheck while also gradually building up a client base via part-time work. That way your revenue stream won’t drop to zero when you take the plunge and go out on your own. Rachel: That’s true. But the rule of thumb there is to have at least 6 months’ salary tucked away in a safe place to sustain you as you expand your client base. Many technical communicators have made highly successful careers as independent contractors and consultants; indeed, one of STC’s special interest groups, or SIGs, is specifically for such entrepreneurs. Once you’re established, your problem is likely to be too much business, as opposed to too little!
  • Rachel: One of the exercises that professors in technical communication give their students is to write a precise procedure for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as if for someone who has never heard of, let alone experienced, that venerable delicacy that can make one from scratch.Bethany: Wow, Rachel, how’d you know? We actually had to do that in one of my classes. It’s a lot harder than you think.
  • Bethany: Now there’s a word that strikes terror into the heart of every student! It usually comes with another word right after it, as in “paper.”Rachel: That, I can understand. However, in this case we’re talking about research as a career, not a classroom assignment. It comes in two forms: pure and applied. As the word would indicate, “pure” research is scientific investigation for its own sake, without any specific practical application. “Applied” research adds the dimension of practicality—not to mention profit. There are two career avenues in research for technical communicators: (1) actually conducting and then writing about research within the specialized areas of our profession, such as usability testing, accessible web site design, etc., and (2) working with a subject matter expert who is conducting the research but lacks the verbal skills to capture it in an article for a research journal or, in the case of industry, “selling” new technologies in marketing literature such as fact sheets, brochures, etc.Bethany: The latter situation is where rhetorical analysis comes into play. Your SME will want to write about all the cool features of his/her new technology or invention (for an audience of “one”), whereas you’ll need to translate those features into tangible benefits for potential customers.
  • Bethany: It’s too bad Dan couldn’t be here. He has spent the last 35 years in aerospace, with the same company! Over that time, he has been involved in all of these areas. And he never took a course in technical communication—heck, they didn’t even have them back then; they were just breaking in the printing press. LOLRachel: It’s good Dan’s not here to hear you say that.Bethany: I don’t think he’d mind. The important point is that he was an English major, just like most of the people in this room. His technical background consisted of a few science electives.
  • Rachel: Technical marketing writing demands a special kind of creativity. Corporations are moving into a new paradigm on advertising. Instead of relying purely on “push” advertising where they blitz you with their brand until it finally sticks, they are exploring interactive communication with customers and potential customers in online forums such as blogs, wikis, Facebook, and Twitter.Bethany: But at the end of the day, it’s still all about writing.
  • Bethany: As part of my graduate coursework at UCF, I completed a grant-writing project for Hearing Me, a program run by the Howard Phillips Center for Children and Families in Orlando, Florida. Collaborating with other students in the course, I wrote a grant proposal to fund a coordinator for the program which focuses on teaching sign language to the parents of hearing-impaired children. We don’t know yet if the grant proposal was successful, but it got us an A in our graduate class in proposal writing!Rachel: There are many opportunities for good writers in the non-profits sector, and, in most cases, the writing isn’t that technical. In general, the salaries are lower than they are in the commercial sector, but it can be a great place to start and gain some experience. There’s also satisfaction in helping a worthy cause, as opposed to building the corporate “bottom line.”
  • Rachel: The health care industry is one of the largest economic sectors, and it has a significant need for technical communicators. Medical writing comes in several forms, as you can see on this chart.Bethany: And the sheer size and variety of the health care industry means that it taps into all the skill sets of technical communicators, not just writing and editing.
  • Bethany: While it is not quite as big as health care, video gaming is another huge, multi-billion-dollar market.Rachel: And technical communicators and linguists who have creativity as well as analytical skills play a vital role in the design and development of video games. I encourage you to read the article in STC’s intercom magazine on this subject. We’ve got some copies of it at our STC table in the registration area.
  • Bethany: So, how good is the job market for technical communicators? We’ll look at some of the numbers on the next few charts, but as you can see, it’s a huge market, and it’s a growing market.Rachel: And technical communicators bring business value to the companies they work for, which is directly reflected in their median salaries.Bethany: Speaking of those core skills … ADVANCE TO NEXT CHART.
  • Bethany: … have you heard these before?Writing accurately— It’s important get it rightWriting clearly— It’s vital to keep it clearWriting concisely— It’s wise to keep it shortWriting coherently— It had better make sense (outline!)Writing creatively— It needs to come across to a lay audienceTapping diverse media— It’s a multi-media world. Text must be reinforced with, visuals, multi-media, web design, and social mediaCrossing boundaries and cultures— Here’s where “Global English” becomes so critical. And you can do that!
  • Rachel: Technical communication may not be as well-known a profession as many, but as you can see in this chart, there are a lot of technical communicators in the United States. Not surprisingly, the highest concentration of technical communicators is in the states that have the greatest concentration of high technology and industry. Like every profession, technical communication took a dive during the Recession, but as the economy starts to crank back up, so will technology and industry.Bethany: And technology isn’t going away. In fact, over the long term, it is ever accelerating. That represents good job security for technical communicators!
  • Bethany: When we graduate and look for a job, we are all hoping for the ideal job—one that will tap into all our skills, challenge us, and stimulate us … JOB SATISFACTION. But jobs like that are hard to find, particularly right out of college. Which brings us down to the less “noble” reason we work … that thing called money. We’re going to need a paycheck to pay the rent and utilities, keep the refrigerator full, pay our part of whatever health insurance plan is available, maybe even have a little fun occasionally.Rachel: That’s where the competitive nature of salaries in technical writing is very good news. This chart and the one that follows compare the mean and median annual salaries of tech writers with four other types of writers. We extracted the data from a much larger chart to show the nine states that show the highest salaries for tech writers. If you’ll excuse the expression, the key is the bottom line on the chart. Here you can see how tech writers stack up to reporters and correspondents and to public relations specialists in terms of salary.PROCEED TO NEXT SLIDE.
  • Bethany: Here’s the second half of the chart. You can see that the only other type of writing that brings a comparable average salary to tech writing is the category of “writers and authors.” If you look closely, you’ll see why … check out the blue cell that highlights the average annual salary of writers and authors in California!Rachel: Well, that’s not exactly rocket science, is it?  I think we all know what city in California drives that average through the roof, and it brings the national mean salary of the writers and authors up to the same level as tech writers. But now look at the cell highlighted in yellow in the lower right. That’s the median national salary for writers and authors, which is much lower than the mean. That tells you something you already know—some creative writers do very well, but a lot more don’t. Now look at the national mean and median salaries for tech writers at the bottom left. See how close they are? That’s important, because it mean financial security. Tech writers may be less likely to get rich, but they are more likely to be comfortable.Bethany: We’ll have a printed copy showing these salary comparisons at the STC table in the registration area, so you can read all the numbers.PROCEED TO NEXT SLIDE.
  • Rachel: This map shows the level of tech writers’ salaries in the major metropolitan areas across the country. You can see that the highest salaries correlate with the higher concentrations of industry and technology. Bethany, you look wistful … PROCEED TO NEXT CHART.
  • Bethany (JUST STARTS READING)“I shall be telling this with a sighSomewhere ages and ages hence:Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference.”Bethany: Show of hands on the poet and the title of the poem?  Well, I guess that’s a pretty easy question for a Sigma Tau Delta conference!Rachel: We figured we should toss in a little literature into our presentation on technical communication! So, let’s say you’re considering the road less taken. What are some paths an English major can follow to a career in technical communication?
  • Rachel: Up until the 1980’s, before technical writing programs appeared in college curricula, on-the-job-training was the only career path into the profession, and it is still a common path. However, for entry-level positions specific to technical communication, some formal education, training, mentoring, or certification would make you more competitive with graduates of technical communication degree programs. An alternative would be to seek a different entry-level position in a company that has a requirement for technical communication, then train on the job and transfer into the technical communication (or publications) department (possibly along with pursuing certification in technical communication)
  • Bethany: There are a number of formal educational paths into the profession. At this point, more than 200 colleges offer degree programs in technical communication. Here are 4 potential paths you could take as an English major to move into the field of technical communication:A graduate with a BA in English could take an MA in technical communicationA graduate with an MA in English could pursue a Ph.D. in technical communicationA current undergraduate student majoring in English could minor in technical communicationA student at any level could complete a certificate program based on a specified number of course credits in technical communication, typically 12, though the number could vary based on your school’s schedule (semesters vs. quarters).
  • Rachel: STC recently sponsored the establishment of a professional certification in technical communication. A professional certification is different from a university certificate in that it does not involve college classes. It took STC many years to finally establish a certification program, because, as we’ve described, the profession includes so many disciplines and spans such a broad spectrum of skill sets. We tried to develop a comprehensive test instrument, but that proved to be impossible. The key to our ultimate success was to develop a portfolio-based system in which candidates send in samples of their work to demonstrate proficiency in key skill sets.Bethany: That’s good news for English majors, because, as we’ve said, you already possess the most critical skill set of all—written and oral communication—and you almost certainly have competencies in some of the other skill sets we’ve discussed as well.Rachel: Thus, an English major working toward a BA or MA in English could take the new STC-developed professional certification program in technical communication by adapting course assignments to demonstrate the required skill sets wherever possible. Realistically, you’d probably also have to get some work experience as an intern or perhaps a volunteer for a non-profit to complete your portfolio, but it’s definitely achievable, and it’s much faster and far less expensive than pursuing another degree or even a 12-credit certificate.
  • Bethany: We’d like to wrap up our presentation by telling you about STC membership.Rachel: The Society has authorized us to offer a 50% discount on an STC student membership for the balance of 2013 as well as a 33% discount for next year if you renew before December 31, 2013.
  • Rachel: STC is the world's largest and oldest professional association dedicated to the advancement of the field of technical communication. We’re coming up on our 60th anniversary this year. The Society’s members span the field of the technical communication profession and reach across every industry and continent. In fact, the Society has members in almost 50 countries and is continuing to grow rapidly outside of North America and Europe.Through a growing global community, the Society and our members set the global standards for technical communication. The Society’s award-winning publications, the monthly newsmagazine intercom and the peer-reviewed quarterly journal Technical Communication, are widely read in the field of technical communication, and our annual international conference, the STC Summit, is one of the most-attended technical communication events of the year. We welcome you to browse through our publications at our STC table in the registration area.Bethany: In addition, the Society, our geographic chapters, our Special Interest Groups (SIGs), and our student chapters produce a wide array of educational events throughout the year designed to advance the knowledge of members and promote technical communication education globally. STC educational events regularly feature the thought leaders and practitioners who represent the future of the profession.
  • Bethany: These are the values and behaviors which characterize our profession. First, these are the core values which form the basis of our Ethical Guidelines.InnovationWe cultivate and embrace new ideas, and we take the initiative. We are willing to take reasonable risks.IntegrityWe deal openly, honestly, and directly with customers, with business partners, and with each other. We adhere to the highest standards of business ethics, as reflected in our Ethical Guidelines.ProfessionalismWe define and adhere to the best techniques, knowledge, and practices of the technical communication profession. We are the face of the profession to the world.RespectWe foster a culture of respect, where all are encouraged to share and nurture ideas as we work together to advance the profession.Commitment  We are passionate about the technical communication profession and dedicated to our mission of advancing it.Rachel: The list of behaviors is a direct outgrowth of our values. It describes how we interact both internally—with members, leaders, and office staff—and externally—with employers, other professional organizations, governmental entities, and the general public.TransparencyWe are open, honest, and direct in all our dealings. We act in ways that are visible, predictable, and understandable. We take responsibility for our actions.Open CommunicationWe communicate in a timely, effective, and appropriate way. We openly share information and actively seek the opinions of members, partners, industry, the academic community, and others toward the betterment of our members, the Society, and the profession.InclusionWe are a global organization committed to providing meaningful and relevant services to members, communities, partners, industry, and the academic community, throughout the world. We are strongly committed to diversity in every way: nationality, ethnicity, culture, gender, religion, age, disabilities. We understand that a diverse team is a stronger team. We are better together!LeadershipWe have a clear vision of how our society and our profession can move forward, and we help others to understand and work toward our vision. We cultivate and value leadership within our society.
  • Bethany: An STC student membership brings you many benefits. The student membership fee is much lower than the general membership fee, and we’re offering a 50% discount on that … more on that in a moment. As you can see, your student membership buys you three important affiliations.Rachel: It also gives you access to intellectual property that can be invaluable in your job search and placement and in career advancement.Bethany: That’s one of greatest benefits I have experienced as a student member of the Orlando chapter. Most of the UCF tech comm graduates have had little difficulty finding employment.FLIP TO NEXT CHART.
  • Bethany: The job placement rate is particularly high for STC student members who participate in the mentoring program with the Orlando chapter. In addition to having access to STC’s extensive job listings (both locally and nationally), the mentees make valuable professional connections at the chapter meetings, by being actively involved in the chapter, working on projects with our mentors and with other professionals in the chapter.Rachel: And we offer a wide range of opportunities for professional growth and development. We’ve talked about all these things before. Many are free, and the member discounts you get on the others will very quickly exceed your student membership fee.
  • Bethany: Student STC members build a strong foundation for their careers by networking within their affiliated STC communities. Obviously, if there’s already an STC student chapter at your university, that becomes your base community. If there isn’t, you can either form one (it only takes 5 student members and a faculty advisor) or you can have a virtual membership in an existing STC student chapter at another university.Rachel: As we mentioned, your student membership also buys you an affiliation with an STC geographic community. That affiliation can be face-to-face or virtual depending upon whether there is an STC geographic community near your university. Bethany: And your membership also gives you an affiliation with one STC special interest group (SIG) in a technical communication discipline of particular interest to you (for example, web site content and design, technical marketing communication, academics), including possible virtual mentoring from a subject matter expert within the SIG. You can join additional SIGs for just $10 apiece.Rachel: Building on those three STC community affiliations, being an STC member serves you well all the way along your career path, from initial job placement, to career advancement, and to continuous professional development.
  • Bethany: To learn more about student mentoring programs, attend our presentation on “Student Mentoring Programs” right after this presentation at 5:45! We will be covering the following topics: What is mentoring? Types of mentoring Benefits of mentoring programs How to start a mentoring program How to adapt this presentation on STC student mentoring programs to establish similar programs in other disciplines within the English curriculum
  • Rachel: Now we’ll make you “an offer you can’t refuse.”Bethany: Well, of course you are free to refuse it, but we encourage you to look at the benefits and the exceptional discounts we are offering at this conference.
  • Rachel: Here are your options: A current undergraduate or graduate student majoring in English can join STC as a student member (at one third the regular annual membership fee) A graduate with a BA or MA in English can join STC as a “New Technical Communicator” (at 30% less than the regular annual membership fee) Sigma Tau Delta members who become STC student members are eligible participate in STC student mentoring programs
  • Bethany: Take advantage of our generous “Tryout Special” STC student membership for Sigma Tau Delta members: We’re offering a 50% discount on the annual student membership fee for the rest of 2013 ($37.50) And, if you’re still a student (undergraduate or graduate) next year, you are eligible for a 33% discount on a student membership for 2014 ($50.00) if you renew your membership by December 31, 2013.
  • Rachel: So “come on down!” Come visit and get to know us at our table in the registration area.Bethany: And, if you like what you see, take advantage of this exceptional opportunity. Join us!!!
  • Rachel: Think about it … we have so much in common.
  • Rachel: If you have any questions after the conference, don’t hesitate to email Bethany or me. You’re also welcome to email Bethany’s mentor, Dan Voss, who helped us develop this presentation.Bethany: Our presentations will be posted to the Sigma Tau Delta web site after the convention.

Careers in Technical Communication for English Majors Careers in Technical Communication for English Majors Presentation Transcript

  • RACHEL HOUGHTON ANDBETHANY BOWLESCareers in TechnicalCommunication for English MajorsPresentation for the Sigma Tau Delta International ConferenceMarch 21, 2013
  • Agenda Technical communication Skills Disciplines Career opportunities Paths to careers in tech comm Society for Technical Communication Values Benefits of membership
  • Technical Communication is …• Communicating about technical or specialized topics interms the layperson can understand• Communicating by using technology, includingemerging new media• Providing instructions about how to do something
  • Skills• Core skills in writing and editing• Creative page design• Photography and videography• Technical illustration• International communication: “Global English” for non-native-English speakers and for translation• Training and education• Web and IT skills
  • Creativity Visual design Photo Video Technical illustration
  • Writing“Tech writing? Yccch! Bor-r-r-r-ing!”“Not so. The days of „Tina theBrittle Technical Communicator‟in Dilbert are gone! Newtechnologies bring newexcitement in exercisingtraditional skills.”
  • Linguistics and International CommunicationSource:
  • Education and Training Training is much morethan manuals! Online rhetoric Tutorials Web-based instruction Textbooks New media
  • Rhetorical (Audience) Analysis• The basic principles of rhetoric apply to business communicationas well as to literature and the arts:o Research your marketo Know your readers/viewers
  • Collaboration• Teamwork is critical in technical communication• Collaborative writing is the norm in the field• Your communication skills also posture you well forleadership in collaborative teams in the workplace
  • Web/IT Skills Opportunities for bothanalytical and creativetechnical writing andmarketing communication Web site content anddesign Blogs Wikis Social media IT expertise forcollaborative writingenvironments
  • Disciplines• Technical writing and editing• Hardware and software documentation• Technical marketing communication (e.g., proposals, brochures)• Scientific writing (and “ghost writing”)• Medical writing• Grant proposals• Web design• Usability and accessibility• Indexing• Information/knowledge management• Instructional design
  • Interdisciplinary ApproachAn interdisciplinary approach is essential tosuccessful technical communication, because theprofession spans so many disciplines.
  • Tech Writing/Editing Hardware and software documentation Policies and procedures Textbooks Proposals Marketing collateral Video scripts Magazine articles Copy editing for publishers
  • Traditional Tech Writing Instructions forinstalling, maintaining, and repairing hardware Instructions on how toproperly use software Detailed manufacturingprocess plans User manuals foreverything from toastersto automobiles Medical reports andresearch articles
  • Research Pure Applied Research and writingwithin the field oftechnical communication Collaborative writingwith SMEs researchingwithin their specialty
  • Aerospace & Industry Proposals to capture newbusiness Technical reports andpresentations Marketing collateral toattract new customers Multi-media presentations Web site content anddesign Internal policies andprocedures Employee communications Media relations Community relations
  • Advertising & Marketing Communications Advertising across multiplemedia Print Radio TV Billboards Web sites Social media Diverse marketing collateral Brochures Flyers Fact sheets Trade show graphics Narrated video Web sites
  • Writing for Non-Profits Grant proposals Fund-raising collaterals Literature for those whoare served by the non-profits Web sitedesign, content, andmaintenance Empathy andcommitment
  • Healthcare Editing or ghost-writingarticles by physicians formedical journals Patient-oriented web sites Flyers describing illnessesand treatments, fordoctors‟ offices Medical transcription Instructions forprescription medication Marketing collaterals andweb sites for for-profithospitals, pharmaceuticalcompanies, etc.
  • Gaming Game designers Documentation writersand designers Strategy guide writers Promotional writersExcellent article in STC‟s intercom magazine:
  • Career Opportunities• Technical communication spans many disciplines  thejob market is huge• Unless technology stands still, it will always be a growthmarket• Companies are beginning to realize that poor writing andpoor communication hurt their bottom line• Solving that problem taps into your core skills as Englishmajors
  • Tap Core Skills Writing accurately Writing clearly Writing concisely Writing coherently Writing creatively Tapping diverse media Crossing boundaries and cultures
  • Growing Job MarketThere are 45,000+ technical writers in the U.S.!Geographical Distribution of Jobs in Technical Communication
  • Competitive CompensationStateTechnical Writers Reporters, Correspondents Public Relations SpecialistsEmployed Mean$/yMedian$/yEmployed Mean$/yMedian$/yEmployed Mean$/yMedian$/yOregon 570 69.6K 74.5K 580 38.5K 32.4K 2,180 55.6K 52.2KMaryland 2,000 70.0K 69.7K 600 39.0K 30.7K 2,900 70.7K 62.1KNewHampshire180 71.1K 65.3K 190 43.8K 38.6K 870 60.5K 55.2KNew Jersey 1,530 71.5K 67.7K 860 47.3K 42.9K 3,820 64.6K 58.2KConnecticut 910 71.7K 72.2K 570 40.8K 34.6K 990 59.4K 56.6KVirginia 2,880 76.3K 72.9K 960 41.9K 35.0K 7,300 69.3K 62.6KWashington 1,610 79.5K 79.7K 740 44.4K 34.4K 4,990 59.3K 56.2KMassachusetts 1,960 82.1K 81.5K 1,170 64.1K 52.4K 8,650 62.1K 56.7KCalifornia 5,910 84.4K 80.1K 4,010 48.5K 38.7K 22,920 71.0K 62.6KU.S. 45,120 67.3K 64.6K 45,270 43.6K 34.9K 212,510 60.4K 52.4KSalary Comparison Table, Part 1Data is shown for the 9 states with the highest salaries in technical writing,plus the national average.
  • Competitive Compensation (Cont.)StateTechnical Writers Editors Writers and AuthorsEmployed Mean$/yMedian$/yEmployed Mean$/yMedian$/yEmployed Mean$/yMedian$/yOregon 570 69.6K 74.5K 1,050 52.8K 52.2K 630 56.4K 52.7KMaryland 2,000 70.0K 69.7K 2,150 59.2K 55.2K 900 73.5K 66.6KNewHampshire180 71.1K 65.3K 330 51.0K 46.4K 240 51.3K 48.1KNew Jersey 1,530 71.5K 67.7K 3,450 64.6K 58.2K 1,070 57.5k 53.3kConnecticut 910 71.7K 72.2K 990 59.4K 56.6K 380 63.8K 62.2KVirginia 2,880 76.3K 72.9K 3,190 59.8K 55.2K 1,640 62.4K 57.0KWashington 1,610 79.5K 79.7K 2,580 64.0K 55.5K 870 70.7K 66.3KMassachusetts 1,960 82.1K 81.5K 3,860 65.8K 58.2K 960 65.9K 58.7KCalifornia 5,910 84.4K 80.1K 10,930 60.3K 52.9K 6,500 93.7K 65.2KU.S. 45,120 67.3K 64.6K 98,990 60.5K 52.4K 40,930 68.1K 55.9KSalary Comparison Table, Part 2The mean and median salaries for tech writers are much closer than for otherwriters, reflecting dependable income.
  • Tech Writing Salaries Around the U.S.Tech Writing Salaries in Major Metropolitan AreasThe higher the concentration of technology and industry, the higher the salaries.
  • Paths to Careers in Tech Comm
  • On-the-Job TrainingBefore tech writing programs appeared inuniversities, “OJT” was the only path to acareer in technical communication
  • Degree Programs B.A. in tech comm M.A. in tech comm Ph.D. in tech comm Undergraduate minor intech comm A certificate based on agiven number of coursesin tech comm
  • Professional Certification STC-developedprofessional certificationprogram Portfolio-based, not test-based Candidates submit worksamples demonstratingcore competencies Faster and cheaper thandegrees or certificates
  • STC Membership
  • Society for Technical Communication Largest and oldest professional association dedicatedto the advancement of technical communication Sets the global standards for technical communication Members reach across every industry and continent Produces a wide array of educational events Publishes award-winning publications: intercom andTechnical Communication (a quarterly peer-reviewedjournal) Maintains a comprehensive website including anextensive archive of webinars World‟s largest technical communication conference
  • Values Behaviors Innovation Integrity Professionalism Respect Commitment Transparency Open communication Inclusion LeadershipValues and Behaviors
  • Benefits of Membership• Affiliation (geographic or virtual) with an STC studentchapter• Affiliation (geographic or virtual) with an STCgeographic chapter• Affiliation with one STC special interest group (SIG) ina technical communication discipline of particularinterest to you• Access to salary scales, job listings, and other valuableintellectual property on the international STC web site
  • Benefits of Membership (Cont.) Eligibility for STCstudent mentoringprograms Professional networking E-access to industry-leading professionalpublications Reduced rates for STCconferences, webinars(plus free webinars), andcertification in technicalcommunication
  • Career GrowthNetworking within yourAffiliated STC CommunitiesJob Search andPlacementCareerAdvancementProfessionalDevelopment
  • MentoringStudent Mentoring Programs:The Why’s, How’s, and MoreBethany Bowles and Rachel HoughtonPresentation to Sigma Tau Delta International ConferenceMarch 21, 2013
  • Joining STC
  • Membership LevelsStudentMembershipNew TechnicalCommunicatorClassicMembership
  • Special for Sigma Tau Delta Members•50% discount on membershipfor the rest of 2013 (save$37.50)•Eligible for 33% discount onstudent renewal for 2014(save $25.00)*• Sign up at the conference• Call 1-571-366-1909• barbra.sanders@stc.orgOffer Ends April 30!* Renew by Dec 31, 2013.
  • Questions? Come See Us!•SMEs from STC for questions and answers•Materials on the benefits of STC membership•Materials on the various disciplines within technicalcommunication•Materials on careers in technical communication•Materials on core skills for technical communicators•Typical salary scales for jobs in technical communication•“Toolkit” (printed book and accompanying DVD) on how toestablish and sustain a student mentoring program•Discounted STC student memberships!•Free giveaways!
  • Better Together!The Society for TechnicalCommunication
  • Thank you forComing!Feel free to contact us! Rachel Houghton Twitter rjhoughton Bethany Bowles Dan Voss**Co-developer of presentation.