3 Levels and 3 Profiles of Technical Writing

If you are wondering what levels to expect in a technical writing career, here are 3 profiles just to give you a rough idea.

Don’t forget that this is only an approximate image and doesn’t mean you have to go through each level in exactly the same way.

You may start from the middle level if you bring a strong background in software skills and job experience.

Or who knows you might reach a senior level in just 5 years? It is certainly also possible.

Individual cases always vary. But I think the following is still a useful general picture in terms of presenting an overall overview of the technical writing landscape and providing some general benchmarks. They are not based on any scientific study, but on my personal experience over 10 years as a technical writer.

Please tell me if you have any questions about these career profiles.

Profile 1: Technical writer at junior level

Time at work: 0-5 years

job skills:

  • Writing interface documentation including user guides, installation guides, quick reference guides, release notes, help files.
  • No supervisory or leadership skills.
  • Optional: graphics and illustration skills.

Software Skills:

  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Optional: FrameMaker (unstructured)
  • Optional: Photoshop
  • Optional: Illustrator
  • Optional: Help file editor (RoboHelp, Flare, Quadralay, DoctoHelp, etc.)
  • Optional: Version management software (MS Source Safe, etc.)

Profile 2: Medium level technical writer

Time at work: 5-10 years

job skills:

  • Writing and editing interface and procedural documentation including user guides, installation guides, quick reference guides, release notes, system configuration guides, help files.
  • Single-sourcing and structured author.
  • Graphics, illustration, print page and web design skills.
  • Assistant projects such as lead writer and supervising one or more junior writers.
  • Optional: simple document and site locating and translation capabilities.
  • Optional: publishing articles in popular professional journals such as STC’s Intercom.
  • Optional: serves as a juror in professional technical communications competitions.

Software Skills:

  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • FrameMaker (unstructured and structured)
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Edit file help (RoboHelp, Flare, Quadralay, DoctoHelp, etc.)
  • Version management software (MS Source Safe, etc.)
  • Optional: Advanced version and content management software (Agile, etc.)
  • Optional: Dreamweaver and / or HTML encoding

Profile 3: Senior level technical writer

Time at work: Over 10 years

job skills:

  • Writing and editing interface and procedural documentation including user guides, installation guides, quick reference guides, release notes, system configuration guides, help files, API guides.
  • Single-sourcing and structured author including DITA structuring and database publishing.
  • Graphics, illustration, print page and web design skills.
  • Leading projects as a lead writer and supervising one or more junior and senior writers.
  • Advanced printing location and online documentation skills.
  • Publication of articles in peer-reviewed professional journals such as STC’s technical communication.
  • Optional: Serves as Lead Juror in professional technical communications competitions.

Software Skills:

  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • FrameMaker (unstructured and structured)
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Edit file help (RoboHelp, Flare, Quadralay, DoctoHelp, etc.)
  • Version management software (MS Source Safe, etc.)
  • Optional: Advanced version and content management software (Agile, etc.)
  • Optional: Dreamweaver and / or HTML encoding
  • Optional: XML Editor (FrameMaker, Arbortext, Oxygen, etc.)
  • Optional: Database Publishing Editor (TEX, PatternStream, etc.)