A lot of readers often ask me to blog about my experience of working as a Technical Writer in Canada.
I’ve lived and worked almost half of my life in the mesmerizing, beautiful, and energetic land of India. India is a land full of opportunities, especially for a technical writer. I was fortunate enough to work with very talented colleagues and supportive bosses and have learned a lot from the Indian Technical Writing industry through STC sessions and TWIN mailing list.
However, one fine day I decided to leave everything to pursue my dream of getting formal education in technical communication. I was fortunate to get a paid co-op (internship) which got extended even during my last semester. Not only that, I was fortunate enough to receive two great job offers and I started working even before my course was finished.
When I was in India, I had heard (and read) so many bad stories about engineers and doctors driving cabs and waiting tables in Canada that I came only to pursue my studies. I promised myself that I will go back in case things didn’t work well. Luckily, for me, things went fine and I’m happy about my decision. However, what worked for me did not work for others. Sadly, I know many who had to go back from Canada to their home countries after not being able to find a decent job in the Canadian job market.
Canadian job market is very different from the U.S. or the Indian job market. The terms used in context of job searching, the nature of job (contracts vs full-time), the interview pattern, and the hiring cycle in the Canadian job market are very different from rest of the world.
In this post, I’d talk about few things about working as a technical writer in Canada.
Interview of a Canadian Technical Writer
Here is a good interview of a technical writer working at Research In Motion (RIM, makers of blackberry mobile devices) campus at Waterloo, Ontario that provides a good overview of a technical writer job in Canada.
The (in) famous Canadian Work Experience
The biggest challenge a newcomer technical writer face in Canada is the lack of Canadian work experience. Now what exactly is this dreaded Canadian work experience? If you will ask this question to 10 different employers in Canada, you will probably receive 10 11 different answers. In simple terms, Canadian work experience refers to having experience of working at a Canadian workplace.
Canadian job market is very conservative and technical writers often find it challenging to get a job without Canadian work experience. And without getting a job, they cannot get this experience. This catch-22 situation often leads to reduced motivation, bruised ego, and disappointment even in experienced technical writers.
I overcame this challenge by doing a certificate course in technical writing which also provided a four-month (co-op) internship. I was lucky to get a paid internship and worked as an intern technical writer for four months. When I started looking for a job at end of my course, I already had four months of the golden Canadian work experience which made it easy for me to land a great job.
Finding a Technical Writing Job in Canada
Give this guy a job (and give me one, too) (Photo credit: Just some dust)
Finding a job as a technical writer in Canada is difficult, extremely difficult, as there are very few job openings and most of them are not even advertised. You may be surprised to know that more than 80% of jobs in Canada are not advertised and most people get hired through networking. LinkedIn is very famous and widely used tool for recruitment in Canada and I got my first job after graduation through LinkedIn.
When I arrived in Canada, I started looking for part-time work and received my first part-time job as a technical writer within few weeks of landing (I consider myself lucky). After finishing my studies, I received two contract offers after searching for about three weeks. However, I know several technical writers (both beginners and experienced) who waited for several months to get their first job opportunity or their next contract.
Whether you get a job as a technical writer in Canada in few weeks, or in few months, seems to be a combination of luck, location, and skills. However, it is not easy as it seems and required considerable amount of hard work, networking, and huge amount of patience.
Location of Technical Writing Jobs in Canada
During my job search, I realized that technical writing jobs exist in these locations in Canada:
GTA (Greater Toronto Area)- GTA consists of Toronto, Mississauga, Markham, Brampton and Scarborough and seems to have several jobs. Markham has an IT hub and often had opportunities for technical writers. Down town Toronto, a hub for big financial institutions, also offer technical writing jobs in the financial domain.
London (Ontario) and Burlington (Ontario), both cities near Toronto, also seem to have occasional technical writing job advertised by recruiters.
Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is also a good place to look for work as a technical writer.
Vancouver, Waterloo, Calgary are other good places to look for work but the number of jobs in these areas seems to be less compared to the GTA region.
Contract or Permanent?
More than 80% of jobs advertised for technical writers are contracts with duration ranging from one week to one year. As a contractor, you do not get paid or sick leaves or any other health benefit (dental or vision) though you save some taxes if you get incorporated.
Sumedh Nene, an experienced technical writer based in Toronto, wrote a series of articles about technical writing in Canada which are a pretty good read to understand the technical writing job market in Canada:
I am a native Canadian and have been working as a technical writer in Canada for a little over a year. With only formal training and no experience in the technical writing industry, I was able to get a full-time (permanent + benefits) position at a good company within a few months of graduation.
My observations about the job market are comparable to yours. I heard about my job through a local professional group. Networking certainly sped the process of getting hired, as did having a solid portfolio (much of which was the product of school).
One thing I would like to add–and this is simply my observation–is that the technical writing industry in Canada is quite immature compared to the American one. Canadian schools have only recently begun teaching technical writing and there aren’t a lot of schools that offer formal training. Those that do usually include it as a small part of a more diverse skill set. This could be a blessing or curse depending on where you go.
Having said that, industry looks very good. The energy industry in western Canada is booming (and has been for decades), there is a thriving and growing software/technology industry, and southern Ontario has a good manufacturing industry. These are only three examples of industries that hire lots of technical writers.
One other thing to note is the climate. All of Canada is subject to long, dark, and [in most places] cold winters. Some people may not be bothered by this (some even love it), but those who are not used to lethal cold may not be prepared for the difficulties it can introduce into your life: difficulty/danger getting places, car not starting, high heating costs, etc. Mostly, I find the climate in my area to be a mild but regular nuisance, made tolerable only by some pretty good summers. If cold is a concern for you, seek out the Vancouver or Toronto areas, which probably have the best climates (though Toronto is known for brutal summer heatwaves as well).
Thanks for your comment. I live in the Toronto region and summers are not that bad (compared to Indian summers).
I’ve been a full time contractor working in Saskatchewan for the last 13 years. I’m self-taught as a technical writer, but have a wide range of previous experience (technical school instruction, industry, business, etc). Before going full time I took on side work that gave me valuable experience.
Saskatchewan has historically not had a lot of opportunities for tech writers but the economy is booming now and there are more jobs all the time. I have heard that saskjobs.ca has several thousand jobs available (of all types), which is significant in a province that only has a little over a million people.
From 2010 to mid-2012 it was a slow period for me but before that it was busy and I had a couple of people working for me on various contracts. In the last six months I’ve had several offers but I took on a two-year contract in the mining industry so I have turned down a few contracts recently.
I get most of my work by networking, although I saw my current job online.
For a contractor, technical writing tends to be “boom and bust” at the best of times. You have to build up a reserve while working because you never know how long you may go between contracts. Overall I’ve had it fairly good, and when I haven’t had a large contract I’ve been able to find smaller ones to fill the gaps.
Great insight about technical writing industry in SK. Thank you very much for leaving a comment.
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Hello gurpreet singh, thankyou for the valuable information which led me to understand the situation in canada for technical writers. I have gone through the internet and found that there is a vast scope for aerospace technical writers in canada.
If you have any idea could yoy give me details regarding the smae. I have done my M.SC in aviaiton and aircraft maintenance engineering. I have a work experience of over 4 years as an aerospace technical author. I want to know how good are the job oppurtunities for the same and is there a chance of full time jobs or mostly there will be part time jobs in canada in this field.
I observed that you have done an course in technical communicatio in canada after going there. Could you please provide me details regarding the course fee and whether we should apply for it before from india or after coming to canada. Actually i am trying to apply for permanent residence in canada.
You can mail me details if possible.
Thanks for your time and patience and reply.
Hi. Were you able to get PR for Canada and then a job as. Technical writer. Just curious. Because at the moment, I am working as a technical writer in India and thinking of getting a PR for Canada in a few months.
I am working as a technical writer in India from the past 15 months. I am planning to relocate to Canada and wish to work there as a technical writer in some good company. Do you think there is a chance of me getting a good job ? Or would it involve only risks ? Please let me know the details soon so that I can plan accordingly.
Just curious, whether you were successful to get a PR for Canada and relocate there. I am sailing in the same boat at the moment. Wondering if Technical writers do relocate to Canada and secure a job in the same field.
Hi, I am a tech writer with ten years ofworkexp. Can you assist meget a job in canada? Preferably in vancouver. Currently I am not working.