The Growing Demand for Professional and Technical Writing
by Dr. Joseph Bocchi
The market for graduates with a professional and technical writing credential is well-documented. O*Net projects that technical writing jobs will grow faster in 2012-2022 than average (15% to 20%) with 50,000 employees and 22,600 job openings (2015). The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014) projects that employment of technical writers will increase 15% during the period 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.
Employers report that all employees need solid writing skills. For example, a January 2015 report by Hart Research Associates on behalf of the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) notes that “employers say that when hiring, they place the greatest value on demonstrated proficiency in skills and knowledge that cut across all majors. The learning outcomes they rate as most important include written and oral communication skills….” (p. 1). Further, “…employers nearly universally agree that to achieve success at their companies, a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than his or her undergraduate major” (p. 6).
As part of Northeastern University’s 2013 annual innovation poll, 60% of business hiring decision-makers indicated that softer skills such as oral and written communication are most important for recent college graduates.
To examine corporate perspectives on the readiness of high school and college graduates entering the workforce, The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management conducted a study in 2006 of 431 employers, representing over 2 million U.S. employees. Employers reported that written communication was the most frequently reported deficiency for high school, two-year and four-year graduates. The lack of basic writing skills is a major stumbling block for workers entering the workforce.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers 2015 Job Outlook survey showed 73.4% of respondents chose written communication skills as the third most asked-for attribute after leadership and ability to work on a team.
To help meet the demand for employees with strong professional and technical writing skills, Excelsior College recently approved a new concentration in Professional and Technical Writing (PTW). The PTW concentration is now an option within the Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts (BSL) major. Excelsior graduates with strong professional writing skills are poised for employment and advancement in areas including health care, technology, pharmaceutical, government, science, and the military. The PTW concentration is designed for 1) students who want to enhance their skills in writing for career advancement or career change; and 2) students who want to add a credential to their BSL. The PTW concentration is an attractive Liberal Arts option for students with applied course credits and with existing experience in technology, business, health sciences, medical, and the military.
Students enrolled in the Professional and Technical Writing concentration will take an introductory course in business writing and five more additional writing courses – or their equivalent – at the advanced, upper level. Those courses could include a career planning course called Careers in Professional Writing. Professional Editing is also covered, along with Scientific and Technical Writing.
For more information on the innovative Professional and Technical Writing concentration, contact the School of Liberal Arts.
Dr. Joseph Bocchi is the Faculty Program Director for Writing at Excelsior College and a member of the OWL Advisory Board.
Association of American Colleges & Universities. (2015). Falling short? College learning and career success: Selected findings from online surveys of employers and college students conducted on behalf of the Association of American Colleges & Universities. Hart Research Associates. Washington, DC: National Commission on Writing.
The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management (2006). Are they really ready to work? Employers’ perspectives on the basic knowledge and applied skills of new entrants to the 21st century. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/FINAL_REPORT_PDF09-29-06.pdf
O*Net Online. Retrieved from http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/27-3042.00
National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) (2015) Job Outlook 2015. Retrieved from https://www.umuc.edu/upload/NACE-Job-Outlook-2015.pdf
Northeastern University (2013). Innovation imperative: Enhancing higher education outcomes – Second Annual Innovation Poll. Retrieved from http://www.northeastern.edu/innovationsurvey/pdfs/Northeastern_University_Innovation_Imperative_Higher_Ed_Outcomes_Poll_Deck_FINAL_Delivered.pdf
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/technical-writers.htm#tab-2