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I.T. & Telecommunications

Technical Author

Job Description

Technical authors play an incredibly important role in the I.T. and telecommunications industry. Without these guys, software packages and computer equipment would seem a great deal more complicated, and members of the general public would need a degree in computer science to understand the functionality of their laptop.

Technical authors analyse and dissect complex product specifications and technical documents. They then translate the technical information into simplified documents and user-friendly resources that everyone can understand. Essentially, this line of work is all about communicating technical information in a clear, concise and accessible manner.

Understandably, technical authors need the ability to understand and interpret how technology works. Consequently, they need a decent amount of technical knowledge, as well as an ability to write user-friendly copy.

Technical authors, however, don’t simply write long, boring user manuals for I.T. products: they write everything from presentations, demos and tutorials to detailed product information and user instructions. They may even produce illustrations and graphics to enhance users’ understanding.

These technical/editorial gurus work in all kinds of industries, from avionics, defence and software development to manufacturing, energy and utilities.

On a day-to-day basis, they will spend their time researching, drafting, and editing information in order to effectively deconstruct technical jargon. Technical authors will also liaise with other technical professionals on a frequent basis to make sure that they fully understand the technical aspects of each project. 

Salary & benefits

Technical authors in the early stages of their careers can earn somewhere between £17,000 and £22,000 per annum, while senior professionals in permanent positions can earn anywhere between £30,000 and £50,000.

Many experienced technical authors eventually start working as freelance contractors. These guys tend to earn between £150 and £450 per day, depending on the client.

Working hours

Technical authors enjoy a standard nine-to-five working day, although you may be required to put in some extra hours when deadlines are looming.

Occasionally, you might have to go out on client visits, but the majority of your working life will be spent in the comfort of a nice, warm office.

Entry

Theoretically, you don’t need a degree to enter this profession. However, a degree in computer science, software engineering, English or journalism may help your chances greatly.

Additionally, you’ll need an expert command of programmes such as Word, Photoshop and InDesign, as well as detailed technical knowledge of information technology. Indeed, you’ll need to know all the buzz words, such as PHP, Apache Tomcat, object-oriented programming, HTML 5, Javascript and CSS 3.

Training & progression

Technical authors can develop their skills and authenticate their expertise by studying for niche postgraduate degrees and courses in subjects such as technical communication.

Other organisations offer training courses for technical authors, such as the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC).

As they progress, many technical authors decide to work as independent contractors. This career choice is a bit more risky, but provides an opportunity to earn a lot more money.

Eventually, technical authors may also move into different, more business-focused roles within the I.T. industry. For instance, many work as business analysts or business case consultants.