Writers communicate concepts through the written word. They entertain with dramatic stories in novels and scripts, persuade with witty copy in advertising and explain with straightforward instruction in computer manuals. With a computer and Internet access, they may work anywhere, including at home or in an office. Their educational requirements depend on the type of writing they do.
Creative writers pen fiction ranging from short poems to novels running hundreds of pages. They send their efforts to editors for possible publication and payment. No educational background is necessary beyond the knowledge of grammar and spelling taught in high school. A bachelor’s degree in liberal arts or creative writing can be helpful, according to author Jennifer Weiner, because you can learn how to read, write and reason better. Acquiring life experiences is more important. You may do this by working and then writing every day to practice the craft. Marketing courses available in community colleges and technical schools can help you sell your work.
Technical writers develop operations guides, quick-start sheets, help screens and other documentation designed to help users understand machines, services and procedures. They typically need a bachelor’s degree in technical writing, English or communications. Some employers require writing education and a technical major, such as computers, engineering or medicine. When starting out, technical writers may work on parts of bigger projects under supervision until they learn their employers' writing style. They can then advance to independent work or lead complex writing projects.
Journalists, also called reporters, write stories explaining important happenings that can range from the local to the state, national and international level. They typically need a bachelor’s degree in journalism or communications, and many intern or work on college papers to obtain experience. Employers also accept degrees from other fields if applicants have related work experience. Journalists typically work for news organizations and publish their stories, sometimes several times a day, in newspapers and magazines and on websites. People skills are just as important as writing ability, because journalists obtain much of their information through interviews.
Copywriters use writing to persuade customers to buy a product or service. Positions usually require a bachelor’s degree in advertising, marketing, liberal arts or business. Experience is important, however, especially for advertising agencies, and many only hire those with at least three years of experience. Writing for community projects, charitable organizations and the school paper are some ways of gaining experience. Copywriters can become supervisors or copy chiefs, who coordinate the work of subordinates, or account executives, who handle sales and service to particular clients.
2016 Salary Information for Technical Writers
Technical writers earned a median annual salary of $69,850 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, technical writers earned a 25th percentile salary of $53,990, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $89,730, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 52,400 people were employed in the U.S. as technical writers.