Auburn Family

As a first-year student in Auburn’s Master of Technical and Professional Communication graduate program, I often get asked, “What is technical communication, and how is it different from regular communication?” Because it is such a broad term, it is sometimes difficult to define. Dr. Derek Ross, an MTPC assistant professor, briefly defines technical communication in this video. Ross received his Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric from Texas Tech University, and his current research focuses on environment-related rhetoric and communication.

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In addition to Ross’s accurate definition, the Society for Technical Communicators describes technical communication as including the following:

  • Communicating about technical or specialized topics, such as computer applications, medical procedures, or environmental regulations.
  • Communicating by using technology, such as web pages, help files, or social media sites.
  • Providing instructions about how to do something, regardless of how technical the task is or even if technology is used to create or distribute that communication.

The field of technical communication has steadily grown over the last decade with the increasing dependence on technology. Likewise, the demand for technical writers has grown exponentially in a variety of fields, such as engineering, business, marketing, and health. Popular careers include technical writer, editor, content manager, and web developer. In addition to a wide range of career options, the profession has the potential to be quite lucrative. According to a Forbes study based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, technical writer was ranked second on the top 20 most surprising professions that earn six-figure salaries. Of course, money isn’t everything, but most find their technical writing jobs to be rewarding due to the positive impact they make on the world of communication.

So, whether you like to write or just have a passion for making things easier to understand, technical communication may be a field for you. If not, at least you can now answer the question--what is technical communication?

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