If you're considering becoming a technical writer or want to determine whether you're making an appropriate income for your experience level, it helps to get a sense of how much most tech writers make. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average income for a technical writer was $67,910 in 2012. However, income varies a great deal based on specialty, experience level, and location.
Factors Affecting Technical Writers' Income
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that technical writers can make anywhere from about $38,000 to over $100,000. A number of factors can affect how much you can expect to make as a tech writer. Whether you're just starting your career or are hoping to increase your income, understanding these factors is essential.
Project or Contract Work Versus Direct Employment
In many cases, companies hire technical writers on a temporary basis to complete specific projects. Searching job databases like Monster.com will turn up a number of these positions, which generally don't include benefits or vacation time. However, the wage for these positions often makes up for the lack of perks and job security. It's common to see contract positions on Monster.com paying as much as $50 per hour. That roughly translates to about $100,000 per year working full time.
On the other hand, direct employment positions are out there, and they make up for the significantly lower salary with health insurance, dental insurance, tuition reimbursement, retirement accounts, and a host of other benefits. These positions are less likely to publicly post the salary they are willing to pay, but you can expect it to be in the middle to lower end of the wage range.
Like most careers, you can expect to make more as an experienced technical writer than as a beginner. According to Salary.com, the median salary for an entry-level technical writer is about $48,000. However, a few years of experience can make a huge difference. Salary.com reports that a tech writer with between six and eight years of industry experience can expect an average salary of about $85,000. In general, the longer you have been doing tech writing, the more you can expect to make.
All technical writers specialize in turning technical information into readable content; however, the level of skill required to do this varies with the industry. In addition, certain sectors of the economy employ more technical writers than others, and they must pay a competitive wage to get the best writers for their projects.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest paid tech writers work in the electric power industry, where they have an average annual income of about $104,000. The computer industry employs the most technical writers, paying them an average of just under $71,000 per year.
How much a technical writer makes also depends on where he or she lives. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that technical writer on both coasts tend to make the most money, averaging between $67,670 and $82,780 each year. Tech writers in the plains states and Wisconsin, Iowa, Arkansas, and Mississippi are paid the least. These writers average just $37,570 to $54,640 annually.
Employment Choices Determine Income
If you're considering becoming a technical writer, it's important to understand how your employment choices may affect your income. Where you live, the industry for which you write, and the type of employment you choose will all impact your salary or wage.