Technical Writing: What’s in a Name?

By Michael Benavidez

One interesting challenge I’ve noticed in searching for employment as a Technical Writer is how many different names companies might use for the same position. While I’ve seen plenty of employers list their need for a Technical Writer, I’ve also run into more than a few postings for Content Managers, Associate Editors, Documentation Specialists, and others that serve the same purpose.

The aspiring Technical Writer therefore has an opportunity to familiarize him or herself with several important keywords in order to cast the widest net when looking for jobs in the field. You don’t want to miss out on a great chance because you didn’t know what to look for!

Here are a few common titles I have noticed employers often substitute for Technical Writer:

  • Content Editor/Manager/Writer
  • Technical Editor
  • Documentation Engineer
  • Communication Specialist
  • Web Writer

Any one of these titles can also be combined with the others, depending on the employer’s preference, which may be as varied as their reasons for using such alternative titles in the first place. Some hiring managers may feel “Technical Writer” is too generic and vague for the scope of the position and that one of these other titles better reflects their needs. In other cases, internal budgeting issues can force a manager to get creative if hiring for technical writers becomes problematic. I recall a time at my job where HR was reluctant to approve hiring more Project Managers due to recent restructuring, where many PMs were eliminated. Suddenly the IT Department began hiring “Implementation Specialists” instead!

Whatever an employer’s reasons, the informed Technical Writer only benefits from an awareness of the many names and classifications their profession may come under. Not only will you be more likely to recognize opportunities, you’ll be more likely to tailor yourself to the needs of your audience by speaking their language.

Update: Whatever you call yourself, make sure that you can perform the key requirements of the position you’re applying for.