January 2019
By Dr. Daniela Straub

Image: © Roman Herrmann

Technical communication across Europe

In our highly developed world, technical communication is a necessity: Wherever technical products are manufactured, there is a need for product information. A new report shows that the predominating industrial sectors and the type of technical documentation that is required vary from country to country. So do the people who are responsible for creating product information.

The tekom Europe Country Reports, which were compiled by the international Advisory Board Professional Development and Training, show the current situation in technical communication in Europe. You might be surprised to find out how different it is. 

The results reveal a discrepancy between the actual state and the target state. To sum it up, there is a need for professional technical writers in all countries where the manufacturing industry or software industry is represented. In contrast, there are relatively few countries in which the profession is broadly known and listed in the national occupational classification. However, the level of awareness for the profession is continuously improving. Career changers are working in this field in all countries. This is due to the fact that – with a few exceptions – there are or only a few or even no training options and offers for further education in most countries. 

The table below shows the different situations in European countries, but not all are listed. What is the situation like in your country? We look forward to receiving your comment or information, so it can be added to our table.

International job offers

As a technical writer you can now search for jobs right across Europe. With EURES,
the european commission offers a Europe-wide jobs search network to forster European job mobility. Here in Eures, you can search for technical writers.

 

 

Country

Job profile and recognition

Training and education

Demand

Industries

Germany

The job profile “Technical Communication” was established in 1996 and it is very well-known. It was officially accepted by the Federal Employment Agency under the job code 8214.

It is mostly training companies that offer education in the field of technical communication to people who would like to change their careers. Furthermore, 32 higher educational institutions teach technical communication or offer subject-related courses. Graduates of these courses are in high demand on the job market.

Estimates show that the number of people currently employed in the field of technical communication is around 85,000. Qualified technical communicators and skilled personnel for technical communication are sought-after: 4,000 open positions are recorded annually in this area by prognosis.

Technical communication can be found across all sectors, mainly in the mechanical engineering and large-scale plants, but also in the manufacturing of medical equipment or motor vehicles and in the software industry. There are specialized service companies as well. Around 10-12 percent of technical documentation is outsourced.

France

Technical communication is generally refered to as technical writing and is more related to language studies and/or information engineering.

Technical writing is part of the curriculum for studies in engineering. There are several educational offerings at universities for technical communication.

The demand for technical writers or technical communicators is growing throughout industrial companies, engineering and design offices as well as service companies.

Most of the time technical communicators are employed internally for companies from different sectors, including software, healthcare, aerospace,  transport, information, energy, telecommunication, finances, and automotive. There are only a few service providers for the technical communication.

Belgium

The job profile for technical communication is known as technical writer or technical author. The Flemish Employment Service, VDAB and the Brussels regional Employment Service, Actiris collaborate and give detailed job descriptions of "technisch redacteur".

Educational measures are run by companies that dominate the educational and training market of technical communication. Some of them work closely with KU Leuven and Thent University and give the opportunity for postgraduate programs in the field of translation.

29 vacancies for technical writers were officially registered in the period March 2017 – Feb 2018 by the Flemish Employment Service VDAB. The real number of vacancies is not clear, because they are launched by interim offices, head hunters or company websites and have not been investigated. It is certain that more technical communicators are needed.

Various domains for technical writers are listed by VDAB and Actiris, such as aeronautics, automotive, electronics, computer science, mechanics, automation, information and communication technology. Some companies are providing technical communication as well as consultants. The technical communication service market appears to be dominated by a few service companies.

Ireland

Technical communication was unknown in Ireland until the 1980s. It only developed with the establishment of the IT industry. Technical communication has a limited profile in Irish media, and is rarely referred to in the mainstream media.

There are synergies between technical communication and localization, and between technical communication and e-learning, instructional design, and training. There are two educational offerings at universities:The University of Limerick has run programs in technical communication since the late 1990s. Since 2016, the Cork Institute of Technology has   offered an MSc in Information Design and Development.

There is a consistent need for technical writers in Ireland, employers recruit directly through the University of Limerick, and the graduates are in high demand.

Most technical communicators work in information technology sectors. Industry does outsource some technical writing work to service providers.

Finland

The job profile is not known in Finland as technical communication but it is generally referred to as technical documentation or technical writing. There are many experienced practitioners working in the field with little or no training in technical communication.

Some universities offer educational programs, such as a MA program, a one-year technical communication program. There are individual courses in information design as part of English philology studies and some Universities of Applied Sciences offer basic communication courses as part of their programs for engineering and technology.

There are two movements in technical communication: a tendency towards technical communicators with an engineering background and a shift towards crowd-sourcing and collaborative writing.

Although the hardware industry has gained ground in recent years, the software industry is still the largest employer of technical communicators in Finland. Many companies outsource technical documentation, but now some companies hire in-house technical writers.

Italy

The profile of the technical communicator is not yet recognized. But more than ever before, technical communication is now drawing a lot of interest.

Most technical communicators come from technical institutes, faculties of engineering or foreign languages. There are no faculties of technical communication. There are synergies between technical communication and technical translation.

The awareness of the importance of technical communication for any organizations is increasing, but there is still much to do.

The main industry is the manufacturing industry, e.g. machinery and automotive.

Spain

Technical writing can be found in the occupation of "writer" of the National Classification of Occupations (CNO 2011, code 2921). For other variants of professions included in the technical communication frame, such as technologists, information architects, technical illustrators and technical translators, occupations can be identified that also fit their activity.

The training offer is very small, and primarily consists of direct and personalized offers of technical communication outsourcing companies. There is still no generic and regulated training offer, although there are several initiatives that could be realized in 2019.

It is estimated that there are about 25,000 technical communicators in Spain. Perhaps more than 95 percent of them have never received any specific training in their profession.

The profile of the recognized professional technical communicator is found in companies in highly regulated sectors, with very demanding end users and/or very large international distribution. Reference sectors are aeronautics, biomedicine, pharma or the military sector. There are also profiles of professionalized technical writers in software development companies and in the automotive industry OEM’s.

Hungary

The job profile technical communication is hardly known in the wider job market in Hungary. However, there is a growing awareness of the profession, mainly within the software industry, which acts as a main employer.

There are two active educational offerings in the field of technical writing, a one semester course and a Bachelor program in Information and Communication Design and Technology. But there are no in-depth educational offerings or any   post-graduate programs or professional trainings for technical communication.

The demand for   technical writers is growing, but not yet urgent. As per current estimation, there may be about 300-400 technical writers in Hungary.

Technical communicators are typically employed in the software industry, but many genuine native Hungarian manufacturing companies would employ technical writers.

Greece

There is no official job profile in the National Classification of Occupations. The job profile of the technical communicator is not well-known. The duties of a technical communicator are included in other job profiles.

Technical communicators in Greece usually come from different educational backgrounds such as language studies, translation studies, or communication studies. There are no courses or training in technical communication available, only for “scientific writing”.

There is a growing need for skilled technical communicators, especially in industrial companies and software engineering.

Quite often translation agencies offer technical communication services to companies as external agents. It seems that there is not any agency in Greece that specializes solely on technical communication.