Question: Where are API documentation jobs for technical writers located?
I recently received a question about API documentation jobs for technical writers. A reader asks,
For the next phase of my career, I'm looking to break into API documentation. Do you know of any other regions besides Silicon Valley where API doc is hot? I'm in the Boston area, and I see some API writing jobs posted, but not as many as I would have thought. Do you expect these jobs to become more popular outside of Silicon Valley in the future?
Undoubtedly, Silicon Valley (the San Francisco Bay area in California) is where most API documentation jobs are located. However, you will also find API documentation jobs for technical writers in other tech hub cities, such as Seattle, New York, Portland, Boston, Dallas, Atlanta, Austin, Phoenix, and more. As far as statistics or percentages of API tech writing jobs by city, I don't believe that research has been done.
However, there's a great way to gauge how many technical writing jobs a city provides. I did a test a while back. Given the high cost of housing in San Jose, I wanted to keep an eye out for other potential job locations. I went to indeed.com and set up a job alert for "technical writer" in Portland, Seattle, and San Jose (the last acting as a benchmark).
Indeed will send you a daily job alert whenever there are new jobs in that area. Over a period of time, you can consistently see how many new tech writing jobs are popping up in a city. Without question, there were about 3-4 times more technical writing jobs appearing in San Jose than Portland, and a 2-3 times more than in Seattle.
I didn't run comparisons for more cities, nor did I add "API" into the job description. I'm willing to bet that API technical writing jobs will always be a fraction of normal technical writing jobs (maybe 15%?).
Your best option might be to select a few cities where you might like to live, set up some job alerts on Indeed.com for those areas, and then monitor the frequency of jobs there over the next month.
(BTW, I was also running these job alerts to see if DITA was a common requirement in these jobs or some other markup/tool. I didn't do a quantitative analysis, but I did see DITA appear consistently in about 20% of the jobs.)
Another resource for technical writing jobs you might find helpful is the STC Salary Survey. You have to be an STC member to download it (otherwise there's a fee). See my post, Move to a tech hub to find a job in technical writing, for some highlights of what it contains. Here are a few screenshots from the report to give you an idea of the information in the STC Salary Survey:
This post, Silicon America: A Map of Tech Hubs in the United States, also provides excellent information about where tech hubs are. Remember that any tech hub city that employes engineers will also employ technical writers.
It lists places such as New York City, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Seattle, Phoenix, Portland, Charleston, D.C., Austin, Salt Lake City, Kansas City, and others as cities that are nipping at the heels of Silicon Valley.
(I wonder if anyone has ever calculated the ratio of engineering jobs to technical writing jobs based on this data.)
Tech companies will continue to grow and expand outside of Silicon Valley. There's not enough space here, and the number of engineers gets fewer and fewer as companies grow. Google is buying up huge plots of land, and so is Facebook, just to keep a hold of resources and housing in this area.
About Tom Johnson
I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.