Developing a career in technical writing can be challenging, depending on what industry you want to specialize in. However, being good at technical writing itself is equally as important since it can take years of experience. The best way to learn quickly and get good is to take some technical writing courses.
A technical writing course can include anything from the basics of technical writing to the intricacies of medical writing. It depends on what level you are and what industry you’re working in. In any case, it’s always best to do as many courses as you can to build your career.
In this article, we’ll go over what technical writing is and the best technical writing courses you can complete in 2020.
Let’s dive right in.
What Exactly is Technical Writing?
Technical writing is a form of writing where you develop technical content that’s easy to understand for the common user. The point is to translate technical jargon and complex information into easier and readable content so users can understand their products and services better.
There are a lot of different types of products and services; therefore, there are various types of technical writing. Each type has a different format, template, process, and structure. You may be writing the FAQs of a technical website, or you may end up writing supporting documents for research journals.
Some common technical writing types include instruction manuals, user manuals, API documentation, financial documents, white papers, case studies, and more.
Most technical writing tasks usually depend on the formatting, and that’s why using technical writing templates is important. You can find various templates for inspiration for different kinds of technical writing online. It’s best to go through some technical writing examples and samples and then start working on your technical document.
The field of technical writing is complicated because it requires the technical writers to have knowledge of the subject matter. In some cases, people prefer that technical writers should have direct or prior experience in the field to be able to accurately grasp the complexities of the subject. In any case, the technical writer needs to have a complete understanding of the product or service they’re writing about.
As a result, if a technical writer doesn’t have any prior experience, they have to work closely with the industry experts. It’s their job to keep professional communication channels between them and any expert they need to consult.
In any case, good technical writing is not just about technical writing skills, but also about communication skills, years of experience, and overall subject knowledge.
Best Technical Writing Courses for Technical Writers Today
While technical writing can take years to master, you can always improve your technical writing skills by doing online courses and certifications. Technical writing courses are more about teaching you how to write technical documents, format them, and develop better technical documentation.
In any case, technical writing is a lot more complicated than other forms of writing, such as copywriting, report writing, and business writing. That’s exactly why technical writers tend to have higher overall salaries than other types of writers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average technical writer in the United States earns $76,860 on average. The number goes higher if you work for major companies, such as Microsoft or LinkedIn, or if you work in high-paying cities like New York or Los Angeles.
To quickly gain popularity in your industry, it’s always best to get some certificate courses under your belt. While having a business communication degree may help you, getting some industry-specific technical writing certificates will boost your professional development.
Whether you’re working in computer science, humanities, social media, project management, or any other industry, following through with certificate programs, will make you an authority.
The more technical writing courses and certifications you complete, the better it is for your career.
In any case, you should consider doing the following technical writing courses to develop a stronger portfolio.
Society for Technical Communication (STC)
The Society for Technical Communications is a member-based group of technical communicators and technical writers. It’s one of the oldest and largest associations of its kind and is dedicated to helping advance the field of technical communication.
As a complete technical writing association, the STC offers several online courses and certifications. If you’re already experienced enough, you can opt for the STC’s three-tiered professional certification that includes a Foundation, Practitioner, and Expert certification.
If you’re looking to learn, you can check out the various online courses on the STC website. If you’re a member, you can check into live online courses that take place on certain dates. They often cover different topics related to technical writing, technical communication, and even things like public speaking, leadership, and more.
Officially, the STC offers six CEUs that help fulfill the continuing education requirement for CPTC. However, there are some strict requirements you have to adhere to.
Participants have to always log in for live sessions and complete around 3-hours of homework per week. If you’re not currently residing in the United States, all courses are in Easter Standard Time (EST).
While you can opt for the courses if you’re not a member, it’s best to become a member first. You will receive discounts on courses and certifications, and you’ll receive access to countless more courses that have been covered in the past years.
You can learn more about the technical writing courses at the Society for Technical Communication here.
Udemy is a well-known library of courses and online education where you can find educational resources for practically any industry.
You are bound to find countless courses on the correct writing process and things like document design, proofreading, and other writing-related content. It’s important to single out the courses that are specifically developed for technical writing.
For example, this course is designed and developed for relatively new technical writers. It focuses on the basics and fundamentals of technical writing and editing. It’s a complete starter course that also delves into the right way to develop a technical document template and how you can write your first user guide.
Furthermore, the syllabus focuses on things like using the right headings, revising, and formatting.
Enrollment in the course is straightforward since it’s a self-paced course; however, you will need a Windows PC and Microsoft Word and Excel (2007 or 2010) for it. The award-winning course is priced at $199.99, but you may be eligible for a discount.
The price is fairly justified because you’ll get access to a total of 107 lectures, 22 exercise sheets, 22 solution sheets, and 36 quizzes. You’ll also get six PDF e-books, 40 PDF supplement documents, and a final assignment that’s personally reviewed by the instructor.
You can also find other technical writing courses on Udemy here.
Coursera is another massive platform that’s dedicated to offering courses on different subjects. You can find various courses developed by individuals, organizations, and even universities on the site.
While you’ll find plenty of technical writing courses on Coursera, it’s best to start with a fairly simple course.
For example, this course offered by the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology is a great technical writing course for people looking to specialize in writing for STEM subjects. The course is free to enroll in, and you receive a shareable certificate upon completion.
All of the course’s deadlines are flexible, and it takes approximately 19 hours to complete. The course is typically divided into five weeks with 33 videos in total, with countless reading material, quizzes, and more.
If you’re looking for other technical writing courses on Coursera, you can find them here.
Technical Writing Course by Emphasis
Emphasis is a learning company dedicated to offering business-writing consultants and writing trainers. The site offers various resources, courses, and services to help writers and companies develop better writing portfolios.
Emphasis’ technical writing course is developed by a team of professional technical writers that are supposed to help communicate technical information more efficiently. The course isn’t designed for freelance technical writers but rather for in-house technical writing teams.
The company also offers in-house training at your company or remotely. On average, the course takes one day in total. The pricing of the course depends on the organization and the number of people that require assistance.
You can learn more about Emphasis’ technical writing course here.
Fundamentals of Technical Writing by the University of Waterloo
Like most universities, the University of Waterloo offers individual courses that don’t require any entrance exam or prerequisites. You can opt for these courses at any time you want.
The Fundamentals of Technical Writing course by the University of Waterloo is a six-week-long course designed to cover all the basics of technical writing and editing. After the six weeks, participants have two weeks to complete the final exam that’s online and open book. Upon completion and passing the exam, participants will receive the certificate of completion.
Depending on your familiarity with technical writing, you can take the course at your own pace. That means you may be able to complete the course much faster if you have prior experience with technical writing. In any case, it’s best to take your time and learn as much as you can since it’s a paid course.
You need to have Microsoft Word to start the course. Including all the resources, the course will set you back $190, plus any applicable tax.
You can learn more about the Fundamentals of Technical Writing course by the University of Waterloo here.
Online Technical Writing Course by the Oregon State University
Similar to the technical writing course by the University of Waterloo, Oregon State University also offers a complete technical writing course. The online course covers the basics of technical writing, technical documentation types, writing styles, and how you can design technical publications, among other things.
You’ll also be able to get personalized instructor feedback on your chosen writing project. The course can run for up to four weeks and starts at specific dates, so it’s best to apply before the starting date.
The course costs $425, specifically because you will be in contact with the instructor. In any case, it’s best to commit at least three to eight hours to the course per week.
You can learn more about Oregon State University’s online technical writing course here.
Choosing the Right Technical Writing Course for Your Career
Whether you’re writing technical reports for an organization or user manuals for products, technical writing will require certain skills and knowledge. The best way to attain those skills is through completing some technical writing courses.
That’s especially true if you’re starting your technical writing career. However, if you’ve spent some years in the field, you can still complete the courses above to strengthen your portfolio, but you should also look into some industry-specific certifications and courses.
In any case, choosing the right technical writing course will always be about what industry you’re in and your style of writing.