By Bryan S. Adar (Guest blogger)
Being a technical writer can be a lot of fun. You get to meet a lot of people, write about a variety of topics, and, if you're lucky, get to do some travel. But let's talk about the bottom line - how much money can you make as a technical writer?
It's hard to say how much money full time freelance technical writers make. But we do have some data on salaries made by full time technical writers working for a company.
Let's take a look at the percentile salary estimates for technical writers. (Note: The following data is based on research in the U.S. If you live outside of the U.S., you should research technical writing salary statistics in your region.)
Percentile 10% / 25% / 50%(median) / 75% / 90%
Hourly Wage $18 / $22 / $29 / $37 / $45
Annual Wage $36,490 / $46,680 / $60,390 / $76,650 / $94,550
Source: U.S. Department of Labor
Note that those in the top 10% average $94,550 a year. That's a pretty good salary for a technical writer. Can you make $90,000 plus per year as a technical writer? The answer to this question depends on two factors:
1. Your level of experience
Broadly speaking there are three levels of technical writers:
Entry level technical writers - 0 to 3 years of experience
Mid level technical writers - 3 to 7 years of experience
Senior level technical writers - 7 plus years of experience
Let's match these three levels to the annual wages in the chart. If you're an entry level technical writer, you fall into the 10 - 25 percentiles and make between $36,490 and $46,680 per year. A mid level technical writer falls into the 50% percentile and makes $60,390 a year. Senior level technical writers at level three make between $76,650 and $94,550 a year.
You have to be a senior level technical writer to make $90,000 plus per year. This doesn't mean it will take you seven years to become a senior level technical writer. For some of you it may take longer. For others the journey will be shorter.
It will also depend on which companies you worked for and the degree of complexity of your projects. If you have worked on complex projects at major companies you can apply for senior level technical writer jobs for sooner than seven years.
2. Your location
State and local taxes and standard-of-living play a part in determining your salary also. The pay level is higher in some states than in others. Technical writers get paid more in California and Massachusetts as opposed to Texas and Louisiana.
Top paying states for technical writers:
State Hourly Mean Wage Annual Mean Wage
California $36 $75,470
Massachusetts $35 $72,820
Washington $35 $72,490
New Hampshire $34 $69,680
Nevada $33 $69,530
Source: U.S. Department of Labor
Keep in mind that these are averages. You could make more or less depending on your skill and experience.
Whatever your location or skill level, these figures show that there's a lot of opportunity for technical writers, and there's potential for a good income.
Being a tech writer is a great job. Go interesting places, meet really smart people, learn new things and make really good money. Which is why it's such a rapidly growing profession. The down side, though, is that there are people who get into the business without knowing as much about it as they should.
If you want to become a technical writer try out these free weekly exercises. They are easy and fun to do. You'll also learn common tech writing terms and current industry trends. Article source here.