According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of technical journalism is predicted to grow by 12% between 2020 and 2030.
With such a statistic for the US alone, it’s safe to say that, internationally, tech journalism is a rapidly growing field that holds great potential for aspiring tech journalists.
While the field is expanding and can be lucrative for established journalists, it’s also highly competitive. So it’s important to gain the appropriate skills and experience to help you get into a career in technical writing.
So how does an aspiring tech journalist get into the game? Read our step-by-step guide to find out how to start your career as a tech journalist. Follow the practical steps we’ve outlined to help you start your journey to become an established professional, secure the jobs you want, and generate a respectable income.
What is a technical journalist?
Tech journalists take complex and detailed technical information and transform it into an easy-to-read, understandable written format for their intended audience. They are highly skilled and understand abstract concepts and yet are able to convert these to layman’s terms.
A data lake definition contains a large amount of raw data. That data can’t be used without being processed. It’s up to the technical journalist to transform that raw information into understandable content.
A tech journalist’s prime aim is to use precise language and write using straightforward sentences. Their creations range from instruction manuals and user guides to web content.
Did you know that Amy Tan once worked as a technical writer before she penned her best-selling novel, The Joy Luck Club?
From pharmaceutical companies to the IT sector, the market for tech journalists is endless. For example, testing methodologies could be a minefield without a technical journalist to break it down into a clear and easy-to-read format. Would you want to read a medical report before all of the scientific jargon had been removed, and it was transformed into an easy-to-understand format?
There really is no limit to the sectors where a tech journalist can apply their skills and knowledge.
How to become a technical journalist
If you want to create straightforward and understandable copy about complex and technical subjects, you need to start with decent writing skills, plus the ability to put together a comprehensive and logical piece of content. Take an online writing course to help you hone your skills in written communication, plus experience with design and formatting, research, and analysis is vital.
If you think you’ve got the basics nailed, here are some practical steps you can take to apply those skills and become an accredited technical journalist.
1. Attain a bachelor’s degree
Some may argue that it’s not essential to have a degree to become a technical journalist. That may be true, but if you want to show you have the skills needed by potential employers, you’ll improve your prospects by having a bachelor’s degree. That could be a degree in communications, scientific writing, or journalism.
If you want to specialize and write for a niche market, gaining recognized credentials through additional training will improve your prospects.
For example, you may wish to specialize in email technology. If you want to write that article on email tracking systems, additional training on the subject will prove useful before you can make it easily understandable for someone else.
2. Become a certified technical writer
Enhance your existing qualifications by gaining accreditation for technical writing. Many professional bodies offer tiered certification programs with memberships for foundation, practitioner, and expert certification levels.
If you wish to specialize in medical writing, you could join the European Medical Writers Association, a network of professionals that represent, support, and train medical communicators — or a similar organization.
3. Build your portfolio
A portfolio of your work is a valuable resource. You can use it when you apply for jobs or pitch for projects as evidence of your work, demonstrating your skills and experience.
Whether you’re employed or work freelance, build a portfolio of your relevant projects, even those you do for friends or relatives, from blog posts to instruction manuals. Make the most of every item that showcases your talent to potential employers.
4. Get networking
It’s all about connections these days, and for freelance technical journalists, it’s especially important to build a professional network.
It’s worthwhile joining a professional association, like the Society for Technical Communication. Professional associations run networking events where you can meet other technical writers. These may be people who are new to the profession or people who are highly experienced. It always helps to get tips and advice, or even moral support, from others who are taking the same journey or have already navigated the perils of your chosen career path.
Use your network connections to help you establish your reputation and source projects. You can even learn how to start an affiliate marketing program, partnering with your network connections to help secure projects for you both.
5. Hone your knowledge
You can’t be a technical journalist if you don’t stay up to date with the developments in your industry.
If you really want to hit your chosen niche market and secure projects, consider learning specialized vocabulary to make your expertise clear.
Whether you write about technology and software or scientific research, if you don’t keep your knowledge current, your technical writing will be sub-par.
Reading books, journals, magazines, and web content will help you maintain your knowledge. If you become a member of a professional body, like the Association of Legal Writing Directors, they offer endless resources that will help you to stay at the top of your field.
Time to sum up…
Technical writing is a highly coveted skill across innumerable and varied industries.
From software-focused articles titled “What is continuous testing?” to extensive legal projects, you can find the perfect niche for your technical writing skills.
To become a technical journalist, it takes time and effort to:
- Generate your credentials
- Build a professional network
- Hone your craft
- Maintain your knowledge
If you go that extra mile, you will certainly be able to stand out from the crowd and secure a rewarding career.
About the author:
Emily Rollwitz is a Content Marketing Executive at Global App Testing, a remote and on-demand app testing company helping top app teams deliver high-quality software, anywhere in the world. She has 5 years of experience as a marketer, spearheading lead generation campaigns and events that propel top-notch brand performance. Handling marketing of various brands, Emily has also developed a great pulse in creating fresh and engaging content. She’s written for great websites like Airdroid and CEO Blog Nation. You can find her on LinkedIn.
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