FAQ – Prospective Students – Tech Writing

 I teach the Advanced Technical Writing and Information Design courses in the certificate program at California State University Dominguez Hills and get asked quite a few questions on the courses I teach and on technical writing itself as a career. I thought I’d put together a FAQ page so that prospective students can get their basic questions answered quickly.

Are the courses you teach fully online?

Yes. Remember I only teach 2 of the courses in the certificate program. For more specific information on the university, check out CSUDH.edu

Here’s the direct link to certificate program info.

Are the classes you teach self-paced?

No. There are assignments due and due dates.

Do we work on portfolio pieces in both classes (The Advanced Technical Writing Course and Information Design)?

Yes. These are dispersed with readings, exercises, and other assignments.

What software do I need for your classes?

Any word processing software is fine, however I only accept the following formats: PDF, RTF, DOC, DOCX

So if your word processor can make those files – then great!

Tip: there are free PDF generators  on the web for Windows and Macs create them in the print menu. There is also a presentation due in the Advanced course so Power Point is fine (file types ppt & pptx) but not necessary (can be done in Word or handed in as a PDF from your favorite slide program). We focus on writing for various audiences and technical writing itself so the focus is not on learning software.

What is the job market like in tech writing and who uses tech writers?

Bureau of Labor Statistics on Technical Writing Jobs

  • Jobs can be freelance, contract, or staff positions depending on the organization. Full time, part time or remote work online.
  • Fields that support and hire technical writers include:
    • Chemical, process, nuclear, pharmaceutical, medical, utilities, entertainment, software, hardware, research and development, scientific, finance/mortgage, engineering, cyber security, non-profit, publication/journals/, Information Technology (IT), government, NASA, legal, manufacturing etc. Anything that needs instructions needs someone to do technical writing.

 Do a job search on Linked in and you’ll see. There are many other job boards available as well where you can look.

 What should I do to get started before class?

I recommend getting a Linked In account and research job boards. Ask yourself ‘What fields do I want to work in?’  Learn how to use word processing software (just the basics).

Remember technical writing is a bit different than other types of writing and you can work in a lot of different fields. The best thing you can do is explore what area you want to work in and see the requirements.

What do I need to do for a job in tech writing?

A certificate  – employers will generally ask for one in technical writing or technical communication – another term for technical writing, so a certificate is highly recommended.

  1. A portfolio (we create pieces for it in the Advanced & Information Design class) because potential employers will ask to see one (this is common practice)
  2. A resume – any past experience is relevant because it generally can be applied to a particular field, even if you are fresh out of college you have been writing
  3. The ability to learn software like Microsoft Office, Visio, Photoshop etc. and know the basics of a desktop computer
  4. That Linked in account I recommended – start building your network

These are the basics. I talk more about the importance of portfolio in my class.

I don’t know software programming & principles of high-tech, can I still get work as a tech writer?

Yes. Many fields hire tech writers including aviation, medical devices, mortgage industry, automotive, food, process industry, utilities, entertainment, universities, research, etc. Today technical writing can also fall under other titles such as business analyst, communications specialist etc.

What type of portfolio pieces do your students work on?

A variety of portfolio pieces. This allows students to see what types of documents they like to write and it also demonstrates a variety of work for future employers. The Advanced class we create a:

  • Technical Report
  • Presentation
  • Technical Blog Post
  • Step-by-Step Procedure
  • Explainer / how-to video script

In the Information Design course, we do a capstone project of the student’s choosing. This can be a variety of projects including documents listed above or other documents such as infographics, white papers, data sheets, manuals, quick start guides, etc.

What is STC?

The Society for Technical Communicators

Can I take the Information Design course and the Advanced Technical Communication course at the same time or take the Information Design course first?

No. The Information Design course depends on what is learned in the Advanced course. However, I allow students to take the Advanced Technical Communications course before the Intro course or at the same time. Remember to get your certificate, you must take all the courses required. Not all courses are offered every semester. contact the University for schedules.

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