Why Professional Writing?
Professional writers help their readers do something: complete a task, make a decision, or change their opinion. More than just writing manuals or reports, professional writers work in almost every field. To get you started thinking about life as a professional writer, here are a few areas where you might work.
What Can I Do Now for a Professional Writing Career?
Graduation may seem far off, but start preparing now for your dream job. While at school, focus on these steps:
Check out our advising page for recommended courses that will help you in your goals.
When choosing classes, think about how your electives can help you with your career goals. You might choose to build your software skills. Learn more about graphic design and how to build a website. Take classes in a specific content area. Want to be a medical writer? Take biology or exercise science courses. Going to write for the Smithsonian? Take history and anthropology courses. Use the SmartElect program at BYU-Idaho to help you plan an effective strategy for your career goals.
Learn how an internship can build your experience, introduce you to employers, and build your writing portfolio.
While any job will pay the bills, try for a job that relates to your career goals. Here are some of the great work experiences that English majors have had while completing their degrees at BYU-Idaho. Each position built their experience and skill as professional writers:
- Academic Communications Writer-University Relations
- Student supervisor and writer-Human Resources
- Web Content Curator-University Relations
- Marketing Coordinator-Academic Support Centers
- Student Project Manager-Online Curriculum Development
Check out the student employment website for a job that will pay the bills now and build your future, but don't forget networking. Talk to your classmates and teachers. They might know about job openings that haven't been posted yet.
An online portfolio is a must for a professional writer. After you complete a course, pull out the best writing sample and add to your online portfolio. Spending a little time at the end of each semester is much easier than putting together an online portfolio while you are on the job search.
Learn more about online portfolios through research. Here are few recommended sites:
Interested in seeing more examples of online portfolios? Check out networking sites such as LinkedIn. You'll find great examples of professional portfolios. Try searching for BYU-Idaho English major alumni and see how they are using their degrees.
Professional Writing Careers
Which aspect of professional writing appeals to you most? Here are the broad categories of professional writing where you might focus your career.
According to the Society for Technical Communication, technical writing falls into three categories:
- Writing about technical fields such as science or medicine.
- Using technology such as websites or social media to communicate with an audience.
- Helping a user complete a process or task.
Okay, that sounds boring, but technical writing is so much more. Technical writers help readers by writing clear, accurate, and effective documentation.
Learn more about technical writing. Check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which tells you what you'll do as a tech writer, how much you'll make, and how to become one.
One of the best ways to learn more about technical writing is to check out the top tech writing blogs. Tom Johnson's I'd Rather Be Writing was listed as one of the top 25 most influential tech writing blogs. (And he's been a speaker at our Pre-Professional Conference.) Check out his advice for beginners.
Copywriters use their writing skills to persuade others to buy or use a specific product. Once considered advertising, jobs in copywriting are now found wherever there's an internet connection, and copywriters are some of the best-paid professional writers around.
Want to learn more? Here's a short video that answers the question "What is Copywriting?" Also, check out some of the many copywriting blogs out there, such as Copyblogger.com and 7 of the Best Blogs for Learning Copywriting.
Instructional Writing and Design
Have you ever watched a YouTube video to learn how to fix your phone or solve a problem? What about WikiAnswers? E-learning and instructional design is an explosive career for writers. Develop scripts for instructional videos. Edit textbooks. Build educational websites. These are all part of the e-learning process.
Learn more about e-learning and instructional design. Check out the InstructionalDesign.org website or Instructional Design Central.