What career title progression makes sense?


#1

Hi! What do you folks think of the following “individual contributor” career title progression?

Junior Technical Editor
Technical Editor
Senior Technical Editor

and then what? Staff Technical Editor?

Or what about numbers?

Technical Writer I / II / III etc.

What career title progression is the most appealing? How many levels should there be?

Are there any titles (or lack of titles) that you’d avoid?


#2

It’s difficult to choose. As the only technical writer in my shop, I prefer, “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” (no, just kidding).

In almost every place I’ve worked, I’ve been called “technical writer”. Even when I worked with multiple writers, there was no real differentiation between our titles except maybe between “writer” and “editor”.


#3

I was Sr. Technical Editor II at my last position. It was the level I was hired into, and there was no higher step on the official career ladder.

Some companies I know use the term “Manager” to indicate a position that includes the ability to set direction and change processes, whether or not a particular team or process is being managed by the person in that role: “Content Manager” or the like.

To me the Junior to Senior / I, II, III progression indicates a hierarchical organization firmly stuck in the 1950s Dagwood/Dilbert corporate mindset. And I’m pretty sure no one wants the word “Junior” in their title!


#4

Both levels and titles vary all over the place. In lots of places I’ve seen only two: Junior for the first year and then senior afterwards. This is too few, IMHO.

In the largest companies I’ve seen mostly four levels, which may be just numbered (I, II, III, IV) or have titles like the ones you suggested (junior TW, TW, Senior TW). The top level is often Principal. In the higher levels you are expected to be able to lead projects.

Large companies are also more likely to have separate editor vs writer vs tool roles. At some companies (notably Microsoft) they also make a specific distinction between “programmer writers” (who work on developer/API docs have have a tech background) and “technical writers”(who are less technical and work typically on user docs or UX writing.)


#5

Would anyone feel weird going from a company with senior titles to a company with flat titles? Would you be worried about your resume?


#6

It’s splitting hairs. If someone is looking only at the titles, that’s weird. What matters more is the years of experience. If someone has two years and is calling themselves “senior”, I’m going to question that to some degree, but after a few years, the titles are pretty irrelevant (unless they are a “documentation manager” and then go back to “technical writer”).


#7

True to technical writing form, we only add modifiers to a term when there’s something to distinguish. You only need to say “Senior” writer when there are other kinds of writers, such as “Junior” writers. On our team of four writers we have three Programming Writers and a Documentation Manger. All of us writers have 10+ years or more of experience, so I suppose we could all be Senior Programming Writers, but to what end? The work and the pay would stay the same.

The only place this looks a little weird is on my LinkedIn profile where my career progression goes from “Senior Programmer/Writer” to “Programmer/Writer” even though the scope of my current job is broader than it was as a “Senior” writer. But then, the past 20 years of my career have been decidedly non-linear, so maybe that just looks normal.