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Employers Of Technical Writers

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Apart from discussing the different types of jobs technical writers might perform, let's look at some specific employers and their technical writing staffs.

But first we refer you to a few statements from a survey, conducted by the Society for Technical Communication, of publications managers throughout the United States about the depth and breadth of publications in this country. These are just a few of the conclusions offered:
  • Most technical publication work is done in industrial multi-division corporations.



  • Most publication work comes from organizations with more than two thousand people, and the publications departments report primarily to engineering, administration, and marketing.

  • Most job titles are technical writer, technical editor, and technical illustrator.

  • An organization that requires personnel with degrees will hire those with a B.A. or B.S. in technical communication and others with a B.A. or B.S. in English or journalism. The vast majority of managers believe that employees with degrees in technical communication are better prepared.
The employee requirements of technical communicators are also highlighted by Clinton Hawes, a staff communication specialist for IBM. He says that the diversity of skills needed is indicated by the many types of technical writing done in numerous companies.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Many colleges and universities are engaged in industrial research and development, particularly those with strong science and engineering faculties.

One has only to think of Stanford University's Research Institute and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. However, groups such as these may operate almost independently of the sponsoring college. But there are hundreds of institutions throughout the country whose teaching staffs are active in government- or industry-sponsored research. As the number of academic discoveries and inventions increases, so does the need to convey information to industry and government, as well as to the general public. This policy of sharing results is known as "technology transfer."

An independent study of several such college research groups shows a trend toward hiring technical writers to prepare reports. The study asked a number of questions and received answers from a representative group. These are the results, compiled from the survey:

Question: Do you employ technical writers or editors? Answer: Over half employ one or more writers. Two institutions not now employing writers are planning to, and those already employing writers plan to hire more.

Question: Are the writers who are employed working in public relations or in research?

Answer: Over half employ writers in public relations; a small number employ writers in research. Others employ technical writers in the university press.

Question: From what sources do you hire writers? Answer: In some instances writers are graduate students studying communications. Others have been found in industries that have publications departments.

Question: What kind of training and experience do you require? Answer: The answers were varied: five or more years of professional writing experience, a B.S. or B.A. degree, an interest in science and technology, and a flair for technical writing.

The results of this study show that there are many places in academic life for technical and scientific communicators. Joseph Sanders, for example, is a writer and editor cooperating with technical communicators at the Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. In addition to working with other technical communicators, he develops programs for assistance in using media devices.

The demand for people like Joseph Sanders may never be great. But the attraction of the university environment may make certain jobs in this area highly desirable to some technical writers.

WORKING OVERSEAS

In addition to the United States, there are technical writers working for companies in South America, Canada, England, Europe, Israel, India, Japan, and other countries all over the world. If you speak or write a language other than English, you may even be given the opportunity to work in one of these countries.

The best place to start to locate overseas jobs is on the Internet. A search will reveal databases of job listings, employment agencies, and many free job placement services. America Online has an overseas employment forum. Use keyword: Career Center.
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