Documentation Specialist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
Documentation specialists work in fields such as technology, healthcare and library science. Read real job descriptions and get salary and career info to decide if becoming a documentation specialist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Documentation Specialist

Documentation specialists generally create, organize and manage documents. Check out the following pros and cons to determine if becoming a documentation specialist is right for you.

Pros of a Career as a Documentation Specialist
Above average salaries for some positions (about $72,000 mean wage for technical writers as of 2014)*
Good job growth prospects (22% for medical records technicians from 2012-2022)*
Pleasant working environment*
Wide variety of applications*
Lower education requirements for some positions*
Working from home may be possible*

Cons of a Career as a Documentation Specialist
Freelancers can spend a lot of time finding work*
Some employers require certification for medical records technicians*
Deadlines can be stressful*
Extensive education might be required*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Documentation specialists typically manage documents (paper, online or via other forms of media) to provide, record or preserve information or historical materials, though job duties can vary by field. For example, technical writers, who generally work for engineering or computing firms, create documents such as technical manuals and marketing materials describing products that companies produce. Medical documentation specialists often work as medical records or health information technicians, reviewing, organizing and securing patient records. And archivists work for libraries, museums or colleges to appraise, organize and preserve historical documents and archival materials.

Salary and Employment Info

In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that over 48,000 technical writers, around 184,000 medical records technicians and almost 5,400 archivists worked in the U.S. (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported median salaries of approximately $69,000 for technical writers, just under $36,000 for medical records technicians and around $49,000 for archivists as of May 2014. The BLS also projected increases in job opportunities of 15% for technical writers and 22% for medical records technicians between 2012 and 2022, and 17% for archivists between 2012 and 2022.

What Is Required to Work as a Documentation Specialist?

Education and Training

Education and training requirements vary by occupation. Technical writers tend to have bachelor's degrees in technology-related subjects, English, journalism or technical writing itself; degree programs in the latter combine a science-focused education with writing and writing technologies coursework. To work as a medical records specialist, you'll generally need a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree in health information technology (HIT) to learn terminology and electronic record-keeping systems. Admission to an HIT program usually requires a criminal background check, and most programs prepare you for certification, which is required by some employers. Working as an archivist generally requires completing a master's degree program in library science, which might have archival track or coursework options. Undergraduate degrees for archivists tend to be in history or library science.

Skills

To do this type of work, you'll need to be well organized and detail oriented. You'll also need excellent verbal and written communication skills and proficiency with technology. In virtually every documentation specialization, you'll deal with computerized scanning, recording and/or organization technologies.

What Do Employers Look For?

A survey of ads for documentation specialists showed employers seeking candidates who were able to write well and to work on multiple projects. Strong interpersonal skills were often mentioned, as was certification. The following are examples of real job postings from December 2012:

  • A California manufacturer of lighting solutions sought a technical writer with 5+ years of writing experience and a bachelor's degree in English or journalism to create marketing materials. Strong proofreading and collaboration skills were required.
  • A Texas control engineering firm advertised for a technical writer to work in its curriculum development group. Responsibilities included writing training materials as well as eventual assessment of the efficacy of the training. Expert proficiency in MS Office tools and a bachelor's degree with experience in technical writing were required; a background in the oil and gas industry was preferred.
  • A New York university posted an opening for an archivist to acquire, organize and catalog archival and special collections materials. Duties also included arranging materials and teaching archiving courses. A master's degree in library science and experience with digital materials and archival and special collections materials were required. Certification from the Academy of Certified Archivists and professional experience were preferred.
  • A New Jersey psychiatric hospital looked for a medical records technician to work full time (35 hours/week). Job duties included maintaining medical records, codes, files and abstract data for file summaries. Candidates needed a valid driver's license plus certification as a Certified Professional Coder or Registered Health Information Technician. A complete benefits package was offered.

How to Maximize Your Resume

Add Certification

Certification is available through a variety of sources and is sometimes required, particularly in the field of healthcare. In medical records, you can become a Certified Coding Specialist or Registered Health Information Technician by taking an exam administered by the American Health Information Management Association (www.ahima.org). Technical writers can be certified through the Society for Technical Communicators (www.stc.org) by taking a test. Archivists who have a master's degree and experience can apply to sit for the Certified Archivist exam offered by the Society of American Archivists (www.certifiedarchivists.org).

Add Education and Experience

Many jobs require some level of experience. In many cases, volunteering to write for a charitable organization, help out in a library or museum or assist at a free clinic can help you meet experience requirements. Additional education - for example, having focused coursework in English composition or grammar, library science, history or technology - also might stand out on a resume.

Other Career Options

Writer

If you'd prefer to create your own work, you might find that writer is an interesting career option. Most writers have a college degree, particularly if they write for a company, whether as an employee or a freelancer. The BLS reported a median salary of approximately $56,000 for writers as of May 2011. Job opportunities were expected to increase by only six percent between 2010 and 2020 since a lot of people find this an attractive job option.

Editor

Editors plan, revise and rework written content for publications, both print and media. If you would prefer not to produce or manage documents, this might be a good career choice. Most positions require a bachelor's degree in English or a related field, and you'll need to be highly detail oriented. Job growth projections for this field were estimated to be very low, at one percent, with an expectation of about 800 new jobs being created between 2010 and 2020. The median salary of an editor was just over $52,000 annually as of May 2011, according to the BLS.

Medical Transcriptionist

If you don't want to manage records, but are interested in working with doctors and have a good ability to type, you might enjoy working in medical transcription. Requiring 1-2 years of postsecondary training, medical transcriptionists transcribe recorded material from medical professionals into readable form for record keeping. You'll need to be proficient in grammar and medical terminology to do this type of work. According to the BLS, medical transcriptionists earned around $33,000 per year in 2011 and were expected to see six percent growth in job opportunities between 2010 and 2020.

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Purdue University Global

  • Bachelor of Business Admin
  • BSBA - Investment
  • Associate: Business Admin.
  • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt

Which subject are you interested in?

Grand Canyon University

  • MBA
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Business Administration - Management
  • BA: Business Administration - Logistics
  • AA: Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Full Sail University

  • B.S. - Music Business

What is your highest level of education?

Utica College

  • MBA - General

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Management
  • MS - Organizational Leadership
  • BS - Business Management
  • BS - Organizational Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • Associate of Science - Business Studies
  • Diploma: Bookkeeping and Payroll Accounting

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Law - Business
  • Master of Business Administration - General Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Business
  • Bachelor of Science in Business - General Management

What is your highest level of education completed?