Skills Needed in the Field of Technical Communication | Technical Communication
December 11, 2020

Skills Needed in the Field of Technical Communication

By Julianna Soberanis and Ciara Donley-Burnham

The field of technical communication is broad and allows for many different career paths, including content development, technical writing, and user experience. To help students understand what options a degree in tech comm provides, UNT offers a class called TECM 2800: The Profession of Technical Communication. The class introduces students to three main career paths and helps them understand what skills they will need to succeed in each one. Throughout the class, students complete projects that allow them to learn about specific responsibilities they might have in the workplace.

Three Career Paths of Technical Communication

The three main career paths introduced in TECM 2800 all have particular skill sets that students will need in order to be successful in those fields. The following descriptions of each career path will help students understand what skills are most important in each area.

Content Development/Management

Content developers research and prepare information used in marketing and communications materials, including blog posts, podcasts, and videos. Content managers are responsible for supervising content creation and tracking its success. Additionally, content developers and content managers are also trained in concepts such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and HTML/XML. Content developers and managers need to be skilled in

  • writing for many different audiences
  • using color, images, and other visual elements to organize content and highlight important features
  • researching, planning, creating, and managing content that will be used for a website, product, or service
  • reaching a target audience using SEO and keywords in order to attract new users to a website or product
  • editing existing content and modifying it to fit the target audience

Some classes in the technical communication major that build these concepts and skills are

  • TECM 3550: Content Strategy in Technical Communication
  • TECM 4500: Content Analysis in Technical Communication
  • TECM 4190: Technical Editing
  • TECM 3100: Visual Technical Communication
  • TECM 3200: Information Design for Electronic Media

Technical Writing/Editing

Technical writers and editors specialize in working with complex information commonly found in reference guides, user manuals, journal articles, or proposals for potential business customers. They work closely with subject matter experts (or in some cases, they may be one themselves) to obtain information, and they are masters at transforming complicated material into formats appropriate to their audience. Technical writers' and editors' main skill sets include

  • displaying strong writing and grammar skills, and knowing how to communicate objectively and effectively through writing
  • researching complicated topics and maintaining an expert-level understanding of the product or service, how it was created, and how it works
  • communicating face-to-face with subject matter experts using strong interpersonal skills
  • delivering complex ideas with illustrations, graphs, and other visual elements
  • editing existing documents for conciseness and modifying them to fit the target audience

Classes that give a better understanding of how these skills are used in the workplace are

  • TECM 4100: Proposal Writing
  • TECM 4180: Advanced Technical Communication
  • TECM 4190: Technical Editing
  • TECM 4250: Writing Technical Procedures and Manuals
  • TECM 3100: Visual Technical Communication
  • TECM 3500: Digital Media for Professional Communication

User Experience Designing/Researching

User experience (UX) professionals research how people use web-based applications and use that information to aid in application design. Following the best practices of Information Architecture, UX researchers and designers have a range of responsibilities--from conducting usability tests to collaborating with other specialists to produce working prototypes. UX professionals' skill sets include

  • understanding good interface design, or the elements that make up a website, document, or application
  • understanding good interaction design, or how users interact with a layout and its elements
  • adapting UX design and research to both desktop and mobile devices
  • using color, images, and other visual elements to improve overall design and benefit user experience
  • displaying a strong grasp of basic usability principles such as intuitive design, learnability, efficiency of use, memorability, and error frequency

Classes that give students a better idea of what these skills are and how to use them are

  • TECM 3550: Content Strategy in Technical Communication
  • TECM 3100: Visual Technical Communication
  • TECM 3200: Information Design for Electronic Media
  • TECM 4400: Advanced Information Design
  • TECM 4300: Usability & User Experience

Where to Start

While each career path is different, many skills in these fields overlap because they frequently use the same principles. It is important for tech comm students to have a wide range of skills when looking for a career. For students who are unsure of what career interests them or what classes they should take, TECM 2800: The Profession of Technical Communication gives students firsthand experience with each career path through lectures, projects, and other assignments.

Students interested in learning more about what the department has to offer can contact Oren Bruton, Director of Undergraduate Programs, at Students can also follow UNT's Department of Technical Communication on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.