Technical writing in 4-H:  From a project to a career

MSU Extension says 4-H members can develop a career in technical writing from participating in 4-H projects, record-keeping and notebooks.

As a 4-H member or a student in school, did you know that certain tasks related to a project can lead to a career field? Throughout the year in 4-H, youth are participating in projects and activities that benefit their development as a young person. When youth participate in 4-H, they learn different skills as a result of something they are really good at or enjoy.

Some 4-H projects require other assignments along with displaying the project at a youth fair, youth achievement days or youth event in general. For example, 4-H members who participate in a livestock project or a project related to the arts and crafts or technology, turn in a record book or a project notebook. Michigan State University Extension says a record book can consist of a series of questions about the project or how the 4-H member worked with his or her project. Members who display a skill by thoroughly explaining the “how to” of their project and have a passion for writing about it may be great candidates for a career in technical writing.

What do technical writers do? From the Open Education Database, technical writers specialize in writing certain types of documents such as how-to manuals, assembly instructions and frequently asked questions. They also can specialize in other types of support documents and web-based product support pages. The instruction manuals and guides, which are created by technical writers, are related to science and technology. To help people understand the content in the documents, technical writers will work with engineers, software developers, scientists and other subject matter experts.

A student interested in a career in technical writing can check into majoring in English, or something related to communications and business, in college. The technical writing field is expected to increase in employment by 17% from 2010-2020; the salary for technical writers is also good. The median salary for technical writers in 2010 was $63,280.

Michigan 4-H Youth Development has resources to help youth develop the skill of technical writing through Michigan 4-H Communications. The Michigan 4-H Communications Toolkit will help 4-H members and all youth develop and refine their skills in writing in the Written Communications section. Encourage 4-H members and all students to develop their writing skills as they participate in various projects. It can lead to a good, stable career.

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