Specifications Writer Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
The median annual salary for a specifications writer is around $69,030. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a specifications writer is right for you.
View available schools

A Specifications Writer Career: Pros and Cons

Specifications writers document complex technical processes, create construction manuals and write assembly instructions. Consider the following pros and cons to see if a career as a specifications writer might be right for you.

PROS of a Specifications Writer Career
Can work in a variety of fields (engineering, architecture, construction, consulting)*
Strong writing skills and technical knowledge can lead to good job opportunities*
Advancement opportunities exist (management positions, long-term contracts and higher-paying projects)*
Work can be done virtually anywhere (home, office or job site)*

CONS of a Specifications Writer Career
Tough competition is expected for new writers and freelancers*
Quickly learning large amounts of technical information can be stressful*
Project needs often require odd hours (including evenings and weekends)*
Work is usually done on a per-project basis (which may result in multiple projects or a temporary lack of assignments)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Info

Job Description

Specifications writers - generally referred to by the broader classification of technical writers - are responsible for creating and revising all types of end-user documentation, including how-to manuals, assembly instructions and online procedures. Specifications writers, in particular, often write for construction-related architectural or engineering projects. Using excellent writing abilities, they must make complex concepts more understandable. On the downside, these writers must quickly learn large amounts of highly technical information and find ways to explain it clearly under tight deadlines, which can be very stressful.

Although tight deadlines can be stressful and some projects require odd working hours, specifications writers can do their work from just about anywhere, including an office, a job site or even from home. They also use a variety of multimedia tools and programs to design projects, and those with a high level of Web and multimedia experience can advance quickly in the field, becoming managers or supervisors at technical writing departments or landing long-term contracts for work.

Job Growth and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that this field would grow 15% between 2012 and 2022, which was faster than average (www.bls.gov). Job prospects were expected to be favorable overall, especially for workers with relevant experience and computer skills. New writers and freelancers may face competition, however, as they work to establish their technical writing reputations.

Salaried technical writers generally have a more steady and reliable income than freelancers and contract workers, according to the BLS. As of May 2014, the BLS reported that technical writers had a mean annual wage of $71,950.

Career Requirements

Education and Skills

A bachelor's degree is required for most entry-level specifications writing positions. Earning a degree in communications, journalism or English can be especially beneficial. Courses in these degree areas can help you sharpen your writing skills, so you can better communicate challenging concepts in clear and comprehensible ways. Knowledge of desktop publishing, Web design and computer graphics can also help you get ahead in modern specifications writing environments, where multimedia documentation is quickly becoming the industry standard.

Since specifications writers usually deal with construction-related projects, knowledge of architectural and engineering concepts and terminologies is vital. You may also need to be versed in federal, state or local building code regulations. Knowledge of environmentally-friendly building methods might also be required for certain specifications projects.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Most companies do not specifically advertise for specifications writers, opting instead for the more common technical writer classification. Many employers seek writers with experience in the field and firsthand knowledge of frequently-used software programs. Below are some real technical writing job opportunities that were posted in February and May 2012.

  • A public agency in New Jersey seeks a technical specifications writer for temporary work on school building projects. Applicants must be state residents and have 5-10 years of specifications writing experience. Familiarity with state codes and building commission policies is also requested.
  • A Houston, Texas, firm needs senior technical writers with bachelor's degrees, experience with manufacturing instructions and knowledge of Microsoft Word, PhotoShop, Viso and Illustrator. Knowledge of the oil industry and experience with CAD and video editing software are additional preferred qualifications.
  • A company in Maryland requires a senior professional technical writer to research, write, edit and proofread manuals, procedures and specifications documents in non-technical language. Ideal candidates have a bachelor's degree, at least four years of technical writing experience and strong knowledge of desktop publishing, word processing and online documentation software.
  • A Delaware company is seeking a technical writer who can assist in writing, editing and maintaining routine technical documentation and other publications. The ideal candidate can also assist with project development and online help systems.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

In addition to earning a bachelor's degree, there are specialized skills you can learn to set you apart from other candidates. Many employers look for experience with Microsoft Office products, Microsoft Visio, Microsoft Project and Adobe Illustrator, which are all programs that allow specifications writers to create multimedia presentations. For basic document creation, Adobe Acrobat Professional is a standard program. Learning to use these programs with proficiency can make you a more desirable applicant for specifications writing positions. Consider taking software-specific courses or general courses in multimedia development to help hone your skills and abilities in these areas.

Get Certified

To further increase your marketability, you can consider technical writing certifications. Two such certifications are offered by the Certification Testing Service (CTS) and the Society for Technical Communication (STC). CTS offers a Certified Technical Writing Specialist (CTWS) credential that includes an exam and a combination of past education and experience. Technical writers who earn the CTWS certification must abide by standards of conduct and a written code of ethics.

STC awards the Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC) credential, which is based on education and technical writing experience. Testing for this certification demonstrates proficiency in task and experience analysis, information design, process management, information development and information production. Writers who earn the CPTC credential must also abide by a code of ethics and participate in continuing education opportunities.

Other Fields to Consider

Public Relations Specialist

If the highly technical nature of specifications writing does not appeal to you, but you like the idea of writing for a living, you might consider a job in public relations. Professionals in this field need similar communication skills to specifications writing, but it is much more people oriented, which is a good fit for those with a social nature.

The BLS reported that jobs as public relations specialists were expected to grow 23% between 2010 and 2020, but competition was expected to be stiff, especially for entry-level positions. Like specifications writing, public relations work often involves odd or irregular hours, and most positions require at least a bachelor's degree. The BLS stated that the median annual wage for public relations specialists as of May 2011 was about $53,000.

Author or Writer

Another alternative to specifications writing is a more broad career as an author or a writer. According to the BLS, close to 70% of writers were self-employed as of 2010, and many work on a freelance basis. Writers and authors develop all types of written materials, including books, articles, websites and other documents.

A bachelor's degree is generally the minimum requirement for jobs in this field. Work experience, internships and a strong writing portfolio can help writers and authors secure work in this highly competitive occupation. The BLS stated that job growth between 2010 and 2020 was expected to be slower than average at six percent. The median wage for writers as of May 2011 was about $56,000, according to the BLS, although freelance writers can make much less and often have unreliable streams of income.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis
      • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
      • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorder
    Certificate
      • Applied Behavior Analysis Certificate
      • Autism Spectrum Disorder Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS in Health Care Quality
      • Masters in Interdisciplinary Secondary Transition Services
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality
      • Graduate Certificate in Multimedia Development
      • Graduate Certificate in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
      • Graduate Certificate in Transition Special Education
      • Education Specialist in Educational Leadership and Administration
      • Graduate Certificate in E-Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Finance
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
      • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
    Master's
      • MSCJ: Law
      • Master: Legal Studies
      • MS in Psychology
      • Master : Business Admin
      • Master: Psychology/General Psychology
      • MSPY - Industrial/Organizational Psychology Specialization
    Bachelor's
      • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
      • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
      • Bachelor of Business Admin
      • BSBA - Investment
      • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
      • Bachelor: Nutrition Science
    Associate's
      • AASBA in Business
      • AAS in Legal Support and Services
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
      • Associate: Accounting
    Certificate
      • Psychology
      • Medical Assisting
      • Certificate in Human Services
      • Medical Office Administration
      • Human Services Certificates in Child and Family Services
      • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA
      • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA: Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Project Management
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
      • B.S. - Business Management: Entrepreneurial Studies Concentration
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Security Technology Concentration
      • Bachelor: Health Care Management
      • Bachelor: Accounting
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Network Management Concentration
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Business Management
      • Associate of Science - Business Studies
      • Associate: Health Information Management
      • Associate: Healthcare Management
      • Associate of Science - Information Technology Admin and Management
      • Associate of Science - Accounting
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Medical Office Admin
      • Diploma: Medical Assisting
      • Diploma: Bookkeeping and Payroll Accounting
      • Networking Systems Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Communication
      • Master of Liberal Arts
      • Master of Arts in Science Writing
      • Master of Science in Applied Economics
      • Master of Science in Geographic Information Systems
      • Master of Science in Bioinformatics
    Certificate
      • Certificate in Government Analytics
      • Post-Bachelor's Certificate in Applied Research for Communication
      • MS in Food Safety Regulation
      • Certificate in Science Writing
      • Certificate in Science, Technology, and International Security Studies
      • Post-Master's Certificate in Sequence Analysis and Genomics
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • DBA - Management
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Special Education
      • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Cognition and Instruction
      • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Industrial and Organizational Psychology
    Master's
      • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
      • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Human Factors
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
      • MS in Psychology: General Psychology
      • M.B.A. with an Emphasis in Project Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
      • BS in Applied Management
      • BS in Psychology
      • B.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance and Sports Psychology
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • BS in Accounting
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in GeroPsychology
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Industrial and Organizational Psychology
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Forensic Psychology
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Health Psychology
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Human Factors Psychology
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Life Coaching
  • Online Programs Available
    8. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Public Administration
      • Master of Business Administration
      • Master of Business Administration - Finance
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Concentration
      • Master of Business Administration - International Business
      • Master of Education in Teacher Leadership
  • Campus and Online Programs
    9. Judson University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership Online
      • Master of Business Administration Online
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology Online
      • Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration - Entrepreneurship - Online
      • Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration - Human Resource Management - Online
      • Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration Online
      • Bachelor of Arts in Human Services Online
      • Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership Online
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Purdue University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Communication
      • Master of Science in Education in Special Education
      • Master of Science in Engineering Technology
      • Master of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management
      • Master of Science in Education in Learning Design and Technology
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Strategic Communication Management

Featured Schools

George Mason University

  • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
  • Applied Behavior Analysis Certificate
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder Certificate

What is your highest level of education?

The George Washington University

  • MSHS in Health Care Quality
  • Masters in Interdisciplinary Secondary Transition Services
  • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality
  • Graduate Certificate in Multimedia Development

What is your highest level of education?

Georgetown University

  • Master of Science in Finance
  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate

What is your highest level of education completed?

Kaplan University

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • MSCJ: Law
  • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
  • AASBA in Business
  • Psychology

Which subject are you interested in?

Herzing University

  • MBA
  • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
  • Associate of Science - Business Management
  • Diploma: Medical Office Admin

What is your highest level of education?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts in Communication
  • Master of Liberal Arts
  • Certificate in Government Analytics
  • Post-Bachelor's Certificate in Applied Research for Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • DBA - Management
  • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
  • Graduate Certificate of Completion in GeroPsychology

What is your highest level of education?

University of Delaware

  • Master of Public Administration
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Business Administration - Finance

What is your highest level of education completed?