WritersUA - Training and Information for User Assistance Professionals

The 2012
The WritersUA Salary Survey

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WritersUA Salary SurveyA central element of any job we hold is the compensation we receive. While compensation is only one factor in our decision to accept a position, it is how many of us keep score and the way all of us pay the bills. The WritersUA User Assistance Salary Survey provides you with detailed and comprehensive information about compensation for user assistance professionals. Our 2011 Salary Survey results were viewed on our web site by over 30,000 visitors. We hope you find these new survey results useful in gauging where you stand amongst your peers.

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From January 6, 2012 to February 23, 2012, we accepted responses via a survey form on our WritersUA web site. The final results presented here represent 371 responses from people in the U.S., Canada, and other parts of the world. We appreciate the input from everyone who participated!

The total annual user assistance payroll represented by these respondents is just over $22 million USD.

We separated the following groups of responses from the main data set: Canada, Other than U.S./Canada, Part-time (individuals working less than 35 hours per week), and Contractors. These groups have significantly different data values than the core group. We did not receive enough data to have useful summaries for non-U.S. countries or part-timers. We also weren't able to generate meaningful summaries for many of the questions.

This study comes with a couple of biases. First, the majority of respondents are most likely on the contact list of WritersUA. We received most of the responses in response to email broadcasts we made to our mailing list. However, the WritersUA constituency is large (8,000+) and probably is a fair representation of the overall user assistance community. The survey was also announced on user groups related to technical communication and user assistance. We allowed anyone to participate and we did not require any personal identification.


Women make up 72% of the respondents; a higher percentage than last year. Men earned, on average, $75,375 compared to $79,855 for women.

Salary Range

The overall average U.S. salary is $78,614. The salaries range from $15,000 to $170,000 and fall into the following quartile groupings:

(in $1,000s)
Lower quartile15-62
Second quartile63-76
Third quartile77-91
Top quartile92-170


While the bulk of this survey report focuses on salary, employee benefits can add up to a significant value. These often include medical and dental insurance, tuition reimbursements, professional society dues, and 401(k) plans. Since benefit packages vary widely and are valued differently, we asked the respondents not to include benefits in their salary figure. The number of overall responses don't allow for a statistically significant summary.

Work Environment

Over the past several years, our industry and our world have undergone significant changes. As computer and software developers respond to economic and technological forces, our profession is experiencing change as well. We asked the respondents what working conditions have been significantly affected over the past six months.

Working Condition Reduction No change Increase
Number of UA employees13%68%19%
Workload due to staff changes4%53%42%
Number or scope of projects6%72%23%
Funding for training28%59%13%
Salary level1%67%32%


The data values for those identifying themselves as contractors or part-time workers are significantly different than from the broader population. So we separated that data from the main set.

Of the U.S. respondents, 44 indicated that they work as either an independent contractor, through an agency, or are business owners servicing multiple projects. Average income is not a very descriptive statistic for this group because (1) many contractors are paid for every hour they work, and (2) a number of contractors work less than full-time. We converted reported income to an average hourly wage using the average number of weekly work hours submitted by the respondents. We assumed 50 weeks of work per year.

This pegs the overall average hourly wage at $41. Note that the limited sample size makes it inappropriate to use these figures for broad generalizations. Rates vary widely by regional area and experience level. The hourly wage rates fall into the following quartile groupings:

Wage Rate
(in $/hr)
Lower quartile15-33
Second quartile33-36
Third quartile37-45
Top quartile46-60

Job Titles

We asked respondents to include their job titles. The list is quite extensive. Although variants on technical writing and documentation dominate the overall list, there is quite a variety of titles. Numbers following a title indicate the number of responses for the title.

Assistant Documentation Administrator
Associate Technical Writer
Branch Head / User-Centered Design & Engineering Branch
Client Communications and Product Documentation Manager
CMS Implementation Specialist
Communications Manager
Communications Specialist - Technical Writer
Configuration manager
Consultant Manager
Consultant; President
Corporate Technical Communications Manager
Courseware Developer
Curriculum Developer
Director of Technical Education
Director of User Assistance
Director, Product Documentation
Documentation Director
Documentation Engineer
Documentation Lead 6
Documentation Manager 8
Documentation Senior Lead
Documentation Specialist 3
Documentation Team Lead
Escalations & Communications Manager
Experience Design Writer/Editor
Geospatial Technical Writer
Information & help system designer
Information Architect 2
Information Designer
Information Developer 7
Information Developer/Technical Writer
Information Engineer 3
Information Products Developer
Instructional Designer 2
Instructional Designer, Lead
IT Specialist
Knowledge Management, Tech Support
Lead technical writer 7
Learning Content Developer
Learning Product Developer
Manager 2
Manager of Software Documentation
Manager of Technical Communications
Manager, Customer Information Services
Manager, Online Peformance Support
Manager, Technical Communications
Manager, Technical Documentation
Manager, Technical Documentation and Training
Principal Content Developer 3
Principal Editor
Principal Information Developer
Principal Technical Writer 8
Principle Information Developer
Product Documentation Manager
Project Manager
QA and Project Manager
Requirements Analyst
Senior Business Analyst
Senior Content Developer
Senior Documentation Developer
Senior Documentation Localization Manager
Senior Documentation Manager
Senior Information Designer 2
Senior Information Developer 4
Senior Learning Content Developer
Senior Manager
Senior Proposal Writer
Senior Statistical Technical Communications Specialist
Senior Technical Author
Senior Technical Communications Writer 2
Senior Technical Communicator 2
Senior Technical Content Architect
Senior Technical Documentation Specialist
Senior Technical Writer 38
Senior Technical Writer/Editor
Senior Trainer
Senior User Experience Content Specialist
Senior User Experience Editor
Specialist Technical Writer (level 4)
Staff Information Designer
Staff Technical Writer
Staff XD Writer/Editor
Supervisor, Technical Communications
Team Lead / Scrum Master
Team Lead Technical Writer
Tech Communication Manager
Tech pubs manager
Technical author 3
Technical communication supervisor
Technical Communications Consultant
Technical Communications Manager 2
Technical Communications Specialist 3
Technical Communicator 3
Technical Documentation Coordinator
Technical Documentation Specialist
Technical Editor 5
Technical Publications Manager
Technical Publisher
Technical Team Lead, Documentation
Technical writer & trainer
Technical writer 86
Technical Writer, Lead
Technical Writer/Business Analyst
Technical Writing Manager
Technologies Consultant
Trainer and Training Developer
User Education Manager
User experience designer
User experience researcher
XD Writer


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shannonm *at* writersua *dot* com


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WritersUA offers cutting-edge training and information to Technical Writers, Information Analysts and Architects, Documentation Designers, Help Authors, Publication Managers, Documentation Leads, Senior Writers and Documentation Contractors, and User Education Specialists. The focus is on software user assistance, which encompasses writing, editing, planning, coding, indexing, testing, programming, localization, and standards development.

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