A Mixed Bag of Job Prospects for Tech Writers
Shedding some light on job prospects for tech writers is a new report recently released by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). The ITAA is a non-profit service organization supported by a membership of over five hundred information technology (IT) corporations in the United States. The report, When Can You Start?, is based on the results of close to 700 telephone interviews with hiring managers.
The ITAA recognizes eight broad job classifications in the survey. These include Technical Writing, Programmer/Software Engineering, Web Development/Administration, and Network Design/Administration.
A general conclusion of the study is that "companies appear ready to rein in their hiring plans and proceed cautiously. But not freeze hiring. This trend suggests that job candidates should likewise sharpen their professional focus in building skills and seeking work."
One of the areas the survey looks at is supply and demand. Of the estimated 258,332 jobs that IT hiring managers predict they will add this year, only 1,799, or less than 1%, are for tech writers. This is down a whopping 91% from the year 2000 where the 20,773 available tech writer jobs accounted for almost 5% of the total. The news may not be as bad as it sounds. On the supply side, there is an expected shortfall of 1,008 qualified candidates in filling the open tech writer jobs.
Another aspect examined by the report was hiring qualifications. For technical writers, having specific experience with the responsibilities of a prospective job was the number one important factor to the hiring managers. The most important type of formal education was a 4-year college degree. The managers ranked formal on-the-job training as the top approach for garnering career advancement.
In terms of career path, Technical Writing lagged in advancement opportunities behind Technical Support, Network Design, and Programming. Web Development slightly trailed Technical Writing in advancement potential.
The survey also looked at employment incentives. The number one incentive among all IT employees was good compensation. Forty-three percent picked that as most important. Trailing far behind were flexibility (hours, dress, environment), frequent reviews/raises, formal on-the-job training programs, and educational opportunitiesin that order. Breaking out incentive preferences by job function, 48% of programmers valued good compensation at the top compared to 39% for tech writers. A higher percentage of writers (18%) valued educational opportunities at the top than did programmers (12%).
The complete printed report is available from ITAA at a cost of $75 for non-ITAA members ($50 for ITAA members). An executive summary is available online, but that doesn't show the specific data or analysis.