Without money (Photo credit: Toban Black)
In our society, money is the most important reason for which people work. Of course, other factors such as learning and gaining a sense of accomplishment after doing their work are also a major driving factor for many. However, most of us will never work for free (at-least not full-time) since we all need to pay the bills. Compensation is often a closely guarded secret and we seldom talk about this important subject.
When I came to Canada, I tried to research over the salaries in the Toronto region and was surprised to see a wide range of reported salaries for technical writers in Canada (but none for the Toronto region). The best and honest advice about technical writing salaries in my area came not from the Internet but from the network I made with fellow technical writers in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area).
In this blog post I will try to share that knowledge for the benefit of others and will try to compare technical writer salaries in the U.S., Canada, and India.
Technical Writer Salaries in the U.S. and Canada
Salaries, in general, are higher in the U.S. compared to Canada. I’ve heard this from a number of fellow technical writers and this fact is often reflected when you compare Canadian and US job advertisement for technical writing positions. Despite the fact that salaries are a bit higher for our US brethren (compared to Canada), the living cost in the U.S is much lower than Canada. See this link for a detailed comparison of living cost between the U.S. and Canada.
WritersUA did a salary survey in 2012 and published a report on what full-time and contract technical writers make in the U.S. The salaries in Canada for Technical Writers, in my personal experience, are slightly (10-15%) less than the reported US salaries.
In the U.S., salaries for full-time technical writers range from $15,000 to $170,000 (average salary of $78,614) which seems true for Canadian tech writers as well. I believe the average technical writer salary in Canada would be around $60,000. Few of my classmates started their technical writing career with $40,000 and I know few technical writers who make over $80,000 every year in the GTA.
In the U.S., contract technical writers get an average hourly rate of $41. This means, on average, technical writers get paid $1641 every week. In Canada, the average hourly rate for technical writers would be around $35. I’ve seen contracts which paid from $15/hour to $60/hour in the GTA.
Update (11/12/2012): Richard D. Persen shared information about STC Austin Chapter salary survey 2012 in a LinkedIn forum. You can download the survey results (in a pdf format) here.
2012 WritersUA Salary Survey for full-time Technical Writers based in the U.S.
Image Credit: WritersUA
2012 WritersUA Salary Survey for Contract Technical Writers based in the U.S.
Image Credit: WritersUA
Technical Writer Salaries in India
Technical Writing has seen an explosive growth in India. With all big companies moving their development and testing activities to India, the demand of technical writers has been on a record high. I mean seriously high!
Few years back, the technical writer community in India estimated that there were 5000 technical writers in India, and the need for technical writers in India at that moment was about 15,000. Imagine, there exists three jobs for every technical writer in India!
Even though such a demand for technical writers exists in India, there are hardly any good community colleges or Universities offering technical writing at a graduate or post-graduate level. Most people learn on the job or by enrolling in one of the hundreds of technical writing training institutes (only few are good, rest are, well….). This is one of the reasons which brought me to Canada since I wanted to study technical writing and couldn’t find a suitable course in India (I pursued a year-long graduate certificate from Seneca college in Toronto).
It may sound astonishing, especially for technical writers in the U.S or Canada who have never worked in India but every technical writer in India has three job offers waiting for them (on an average). When I last looked for a position in India, I received four job offers within a three-week search period and I was only applying to big companies.
Since the living cost is lower in India, so are the salaries. STC India 2012 salary survey (read the complete salary survey results here) suggests that the average salary of a technical writer in India is Rs 11,12,360 per year or about $20,000 USD per year.
In India, there is no concept of minimum wages and wages are proportional to the number of years of experience you have. See the chart below to see what I mean and notice that the difference between the salary of a technical writer with one year of experience and a technical writer with ten years of experience is almost ten times!
Note: In the chart below, the salaries are listed in INR (India Rupees). 1 USD = Rs 50 (INR ) approx. Link to the complete STC India 2012 Salary survey is here.
The ranges exclude the upper most limits. If you are looking for a boundary case, you should read the range where the case is lower limit of the range. For example, if you are looking for the salary level of a Technical Communicator with exactly 2 years of experience, you should refer to the 2-3 range and not the 1-2 range.
Image Credit: STC India
Base: The total responses in a given category.
Average: The value computed by averaging the tabulated responses.
TrimMean: This value is the mean taken by excluding 10% of data points from the top and bottom tails of a data set. In other words, this is an average of values excluding the extreme cases.
10%: Ten percent of the responses were below this value; ninety percent were above this value.
25%: Twenty-five percent of the responses were below this value; seventy-five percent were above this value.
50%: Fifty percent of the responses were below this value; fifty percent were above this value. This is also called the median.
75%: Seventy-five percent of the responses were below this value; twenty-five percent were above this value.
90%: Ninety percent of the responses were below this value; ten percent were above this value.
I’d love to hear back from you.
If you are living in the U.S., Canada or India, does these numbers sounds right? If you live elsewhere, how much do technical writers make in your country?