What skills do Technical Writers need the most?

The UK recruitment site, itjobswatch.co.uk, adds that for the 6 months to 17 April 2009, IT jobs within the UK that cited Technical Writer in their job title mentioned the following IT skills in order of popularity. A quick glance at this list shows us the popularity of Adobe and Microsoft tools, especially FrameMaker, Visio and RoboHelp.
What surprised me in this list was ‘Advertising’. This comes in at 12, higher than Microsoft Office, Acrobat and business analysis skills.
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The figures indicate the number of jobs and their proportion against the total number of IT job ads sampled with Technical Writer in their job title.
1 37 (44.05 %) HTML
2 27 (32.14 %) FrameMaker
3 23 (27.38 %) XML
4 21 (25.00 %) Degree
5 20 (23.81 %) Telecoms
6 17 (20.24 %) Java
7 16 (19.05 %) MS Visio
8 15 (17.86 %) RoboHelp
8 15 (17.86 %) Marketing
9 11 (13.10 %) Adobe
10 9 (10.71 %) MS Excel
11 8 (9.524 %) C
12 7 (8.333 %) C++
12 7 (8.333 %) Wiki
12 7 (8.333 %) Advertising
13 6 (7.143 %) Finance
13 6 (7.143 %) Insurance
13 6 (7.143 %) MS Office
13 6 (7.143 %) Acrobat
14 5 (5.952 %) Delphi
14 5 (5.952 %) C#
14 5 (5.952 %) Business Analysis
14 5 (5.952 %) Education
14 5 (5.952 %) Intranet
14 5 (5.952 %) Mobile Commerce
14 5 (5.952 %) Security Cleared
15 4 (4.762 %) Product Management
15 4 (4.762 %) Paint Shop Pro
15 4 (4.762 %) IP Telephony
15 4 (4.762 %) Subversion
Top Related IT Skills by Category
For the 6 months to 17 April 2009, IT jobs within the UK that cited Technical Writer in their job title mentioned the following IT skills grouped by category.
The figures indicate the number of jobs and their proportion against the total number of IT job ads sampled with Technical Writer in their job title.
Technical Writing Applications
1 27 (32.14 %) FrameMaker
2 16 (19.05 %) MS Visio
3 15 (17.86 %) RoboHelp
4 9 (10.71 %) MS Excel
5 6 (7.143 %) Acrobat
5 6 (7.143 %) MS Office
6 4 (4.762 %) Photoshop
6 4 (4.762 %) Paint Shop Pro
Again I was surprised that Microsoft Office was less in demand that Microsoft Visio. While this is a terrific diagramming tool, I’d have thought that writers with Excel and Office skills would have been more in demand.
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These figures show the most in demand skills place in IT job ads with the word Technical Writer in their job title.
Technical Writing Skills
1 37 (44.05 %) HTML
2 23 (27.38 %) XML
3 4 (4.762 %) Java SE
3 4 (4.762 %) Java EE
4 3 (3.571 %) Web Services
4 3 (3.571 %) XSL
4 3 (3.571 %) Flash
4 3 (3.571 %) .NET
4 3 (3.571 %) ASP.NET
5 2 (2.381 %) CSS
5 2 (2.381 %) XHTML
5 2 (2.381 %) XSLT
Finally, you can see the importance of mark-up languages, such as HTML, XML and its variants. Technical Writers seeking to advance their careers may want to consider the advantages of up skilling in Java and Web Services and reconsider the value of Microsoft technologies.
While I’ve done very well from Microsoft and its toolsets, the trends from this list seems to illustrate a movement to Java and web technologies. Indeed with the rising popularity of Google Docs and other online office applications, Technical Writers may consider exploring this area if they wish to stay ahead of the pack and place themselves in a more advantageous position vis-à-vis their peers.
Technologies I’m currently investing my energy in include Ajax, Cloud Computing and the Android operating system from Google. I’m preparing a web cast on Android, so if you want to learn more abut this please check back next week and look for it in the Tutorials section.

One thought on “What skills do Technical Writers need the most?”

  1. How well can I do as a Tech Writer without a degree?
    I've been reading articles about Technical Writing and is thinking about a change in career. I've worked as a non-degreed Quality Engineer in the manufacturing industries.
    Writing quality documentations and SOPs was a large part of my duties.
    In the last 12 years I've been employed as a Business Mail Entry Tech with the United States Postal Services. I'm currently making 53K, and with all my benefits add up to about 75K.
    Writing has always been a love of mine. I've been looking for a field that will provide decent living as some sort of writer.

    After reading your articles I realized that I should take courses in HTML, Frame Maker, etc.
    Is it worth the time and money to take college technical writing courses?
    Thank you in advance for your advice and for a very informative article.

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