October 2018
Text by Daniela Staub

Image: © nerudol/istockphoto.com

Meeting the demand for academic training for technical writers

The profession of technical writers is a comparatively young one. It came into life in the 1960s, driven by an increasing technification and the mass production of modern products. Since the 1990s, study programs in technical communication are being offered.

In Germany, there are now at least 32 universities, that either teach technical communication or subjects related to it. Graduates of these courses are highly demanded in the labor market. The need for qualified staff is high. Despite the fact that there is already a very good range of academic training on offer in Germany, only around 20 percent of technical writers have a university degree. Other European countries offer significantly fewer or even no study programs in technical documentation.

To change this, the EU-funded "TecComFrame" project was launched in 2015. This international project consortium developed an academic competence framework for the academic training of technical writers. For this purpose, exemplary curricula were developed. This will provide universities wishing to offer a course or study program in technical writing with a guideline for academic training.

But European universities often struggle to find and attract qualified teaching staff. In addition, universities need a sufficient number of prospective students to implement a course of study. The candidates that are most commonly interested in these special training programs are employed technical writers or translators who have entered the profession laterally and who would now like to obtain professional qualifications and a formal degree.

The University of Strasbourg is now offering the TCLoc program to cater for these study candidates. The course combines existing programs and, as a part time study, it is specifically geared towards international professionals already working in the field. The Master in Technical Communication and Localization (TCLoc) is a program offered by the Faculty of Languages at the University of Strasbourg, and a sister program to the CAWEB Master’s in Website Creation, Multimedia, and Localization.

TCLoc combines distance-learning and onsite academic instructions with professional certification. The training in technical communication is based on the online training course TCTrainNet and uses the same learning material. After completion of this program, graduates obtain a master’s degree from the University of Strasbourg as well as an International tekom Professional Level "Technical Communicator (tekom)" certificate.

The program is ideally suited for an international, working target group. The combination of language and technical communication training enhances the employability of graduates on the job market. According to surveys, students choose to study technical communication due to their interest in technology (67 percent), in languages (62 percent), the use of the media (59 percent), the good career prospects (56 percent) and because of the diversity of the course contents (56 percent). In addition, interest in communication management (47 percent) and in design (44 percent) is crucial for many.

In order for the profession of the technical writer to become more professional on an international level, and to cover the demand on the job market, it is very important that new and additional training opportunities are created in different countries.

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