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. Read more about technical writing in Canada at Working as a Technical Writer in Canada.
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
Update (20 Jan 2014): Indian Technical Writer Salaries in 2013
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. Read about my experiences as a tech-comm student at Higher Education in Technical Communication- Is it worth it? ).
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?
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Hi Gurpreet, Thank you for the post. Can you please share information on institutes that give good training in technical writing in India. I’m a writing-smitten medical transcriptionist desiring to learn technical writing.
Have a look at this website. Maybe this is a solution for you.
Thank you Pascal. Could you please let me know what attributes to look at while choosing an institute.
How about an institute in bangalore
Hi Srikanth, there are some institutes in India which provide technical writing courses but I cannot recommend any institute since I do not have personal experience of learning/working with any of them. I’d suggest that before joining any institute, talk to their past/current students and ask about their experience.
Hi Srikanth…are you the one from Ahmedabad (Saral)?
Writing well in English is not the only criteria for creating effective documentation. I believe you must be good at:
Usability: The information you write has to be usable. Readers have goals and the information you write must help them meet their goals.
Information Design: Readers must be able to quickly locate the information they need. If readers have difficulty locating the information, the information becomes useless.
Style and Consistency: Technical Writers use plain words − the language of everyday speech, not the gobbledygook of specialists . The documents you create must adhere to your company’s style. You cannot have a personal voice or an individual style.
Software Tools: You must use software tools to create technical documents.
Processes: You must understand processes (Software Development Life Cycle and Document Development Life Cycle) to know where you fit in, and at what stage and how you can gather information.
At Knowledge Leaf, Bangalore (www.knowledgeleaf.com), we will teach you how to develop expertise in all of these areas.
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Really interesting article! I am just not sure what this notation means in the table: 2,85,000 – is this 285 thousands?
Hi, thanks for your comment. Yes, Rs. 285000 means two hundred and eighty five thousand. The currency used for the bottom chart shows salaries in INR (Indian Rupees). Rs 2,85,000 is about $5800 (USD) [1 USD = Rs 50 INR, approx.].
Thanks for the clarification! I was just confused about the commas – never seen such notation with the first comma delimiting the number of hundreds of thousands.
So, different countries and different salaries – expected. But how do the salaries compare against the cost of living? Writing can be done remotely in many cases, so I wonder if it is better to sit in warm India and write for colder areas of the US 🙂
Cost of living in the US is high if you consider the Bay Area or East Coast, especially when it comes to accommodation, either renting or buying. For instance, a 2 bedroom apartment in the Bay Area may cost up to $2500 in a decent area. So we cannot generalize.
Thanks for your comment Ankur. We certainly cannot generalize.
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Very useful article Gurpreet. Thanks a lot for this information. I think the salaries seem to be correct. I’m in my first year on the job, here in India, learning as I go, and working on a contract basis. But, I’m charging on a per word basis rather than an hourly rate. It’ll be a year at the end of this month, and if go through all the bills I’ve raised so far, the net total comes around the Rs. 2,50,000 mark.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think if you work as a consultant, you should get much more than the quoted figures. I worked as a consultant in India and I speak from my personal experience.
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Amazing Truth ! Gurpreet !! I appreciate the given information !!!
Accurate salary range – I’ve been a technical writer for 15 years in the Toronto area. I found starting salaries quite low but with experience you can get up to $50/hr. Americans seem to regard technical writing as a profession, and the level of courses offered reflects that. Canadians…I have a hard time making anyone understand what I do!
Can’t believe that the average salary of a technical writer in India is Rs. 11 lakhs ! That’s lot of money. I know Project Manager’s in India who earn less than that !
A lot of technical writers in India earn more than 15-20 Lakh now a days. Check the latest STC India salary survey to get accurate numbers.
Lead Technical Writer at Cisco Systems , with 4 years experience as LTW @ Cisco in Bangalore , how much do you think this person might be earning ? Just curious , as a person I know is doing that , but I don’t want to ask that person this question.
Just because of that reason, I was FTR (Forced To Retire) from my job. Within the organisation lot of husssss… why he is given so much?.
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Documentation Manager in CISCO in India at their Bangalore office. Anyone knows what the salary is ? Also Lead Technical writer in Cisco in India at their Bangalore office , what’s the salary ?
I just wanted to know when Technical Writing started in India?
Interesting thing is the salary for some with 1-2 years experience is significantly more than that for someone with 2-3 years experience. :-O I wonder what could be the reason for that
Observe that base for 1-2 years experience is 6 whereas, for 2-3 years experience is 12. This data could fluctuate highly with more number of participants.
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