Skip to content

User Assistance Salary Survey 2013

Posted in Surveys, and Uncategorized

For Software User Assistance Professionals

bills_smallA central element of any job we hold is the compensation we receive. While compensation is only one factor in our decision to accept a position, it is how many of us keep score and the way all of us pay the bills. The WritersUA User Assistance Salary Survey provides you with detailed and comprehensive information about compensation for user assistance professionals. Our 2012 Salary Survey results were viewed on our web site by over 24,000 visitors. We hope you find these new survey results useful in gauging where you stand amongst your peers.

To receive news and updates on future WritersUA surveys and events, join our mailing list.


From February 13-28, 2013, we accepted responses via a survey form on our WritersUA web site. The final results presented here represent 432 responses . We appreciate the input from everyone who participated!

The total annual user assistance payroll represented by these respondents is just over $32 million USD.

We did not expect to receive enough data to have useful summaries for non-U.S. countries, so we limited the study to those working in the U.S. We separated part-timers (individuals working less than 35 hours per week), and Contractors. These groups have significantly different data values than the core group.

This study comes with a couple of biases. First, the majority of respondents are most likely on the contact list of WritersUA. We received most of the responses in response to email broadcasts we made to our mailing list. However, the WritersUA constituency is large (6,000+) and probably is a fair representation of the overall user assistance community. The survey was also announced on user groups related to technical communication and user assistance. We allowed anyone to participate and we did not require any personal identification.

Salary Range

The overall average U.S. salary is $85,464. The salaries range from $18,000 to $170,000 and fall into the following quartile groupings:

(in $1,000s)
Lower quartile 18-67
Second quartile 68-82
Third quartile 83-98
Top quartile 99-170


How much experience do you have developing some form of software user assistance?

3% – Less than 2 years

5% – 2 to 4 years

15% – 5 to 9 years

77% – 10 or more years

What percentage of your work is management or supervisory?

72% – 0 to 24%

13% – 25 to 49%

7% – 50 to 74%

9% – 75 to 100%

Work Environment

Over the past several years, our industry and our world have undergone significant changes. As computer and software developers respond to economic and technological forces, our profession is experiencing change as well. We asked the respondents what working conditions have been significantly affected over the past six months.

Working Condition Reduction No change Increase
Number of UA employees 21% 59% 19%
Workload due to staff changes 5% 54% 41%
Number or scope of projects 8% 23% 69%
Funding for training 29% 62% 9%
Salary level 3% 66% 32%

Non-monetary Compensation

Employee benefits can add up to a significant value. These often include medical and dental insurance, tuition reimbursements, professional society dues, and 401(k) plans. Since benefit packages vary widely and are valued differently, we asked the respondents not to include benefits in their salary figure.

67% – Paid medical/dental

50% – 401(k) without company contribution

43% – Bonuses

40% – Paid training

14% – Profitsharing

29% – Stock option program

6% – Highspeed home Internet connection

4% – Sabbatical (one month or longer)

Compensation Satisfaction

The following table shows how satisfied we are with the various compensation elements we received.

Non-monetary Benefit Very Satisfied Satisfied Dissatisfied Very Dissatisfied
Work responsibilities 32% 55% 11% 2%
Base salary 26% 53% 17% 4%
Compensation over salary (bonuses, raises, stocks, 401k’s, etc.) 21% 51% 22% 6%
Other benefits (vacation time, health club, association fees, etc.) 27% 53% 18% 2%
Flexibility in work schedule 54% 39% 6% 1%
Professional development and training 12% 47% 35% 7%
Overall compensation 21% 61% 15% 3%


The data values for those identifying themselves as contractors or part-time workers are significantly different than from the broader population. So we separated that data from the main set.

Out of 52 respondents identifying themselves as contractors, 14 were Independent hourly, 20 contracted through a placement agency, and
18 were business owners with multiple concurrent projects.

Average income is not a very descriptive statistic for this group because (1) many contractors are paid for every hour they work, and (2) a number of contractors work less than full-time. We converted reported income to an average hourly wage using the average number of weekly work hours submitted by the respondents. We assumed 50 weeks of work per year.

This pegs the overall average hourly wage at $41.70. Note that the limited sample size makes it inappropriate to use these figures for broad generalizations. Rates vary widely by regional area and experience level.

Job Titles

We asked respondents to include their job titles. The list is quite extensive. Although variants on technical writing and documentation dominate the overall list, there is quite a variety of titles. Numbers following a title indicate the number of responses for the title.

  • Acting Technical Communications Manager
  • Advisory Technical Writer
  • Application Development Consultant
  • Assistant professor
  • Associate Technical Writer
  • CBT Specialist
  • Change Management Director
  • Chief Documentation Specialist
  • CMS Implementation Specialist
  • CMS Services Lead
  • Communications Manager
  • configuration manager
  • Consultant
  • consultant technical writer
  • Content Developer
  • Content Specialist
  • Content Strategist
  • Corporate Documentation Manager (2)
  • Course Developer
  • Director (2)
  • Director of Proposal Development/Technical Writer
  • Director of Technical Communications
  • Director of User Experience
  • Director, Career Services
  • Director, Documenation and User Assistance
  • Director, Technical Publications
  • Documentation and Training Manager
  • Documentation Director
  • Documentation Lead (5)
  • Documentation Manager (10)
  • Documentation Specialist (7)
  • Documentation Supervisor
  • Documentation, Senior User Experience Manager
  • eLearning and Documentation lead
  • Executive Director, Employee Development & Program Enrichment (Procedures and Training)
  • Expert Technical Writer
  • independent contractor/project manager
  • Information Architect (4)
  • Information Developer (10)
  • Information Development
  • Information Development Lead
  • Information Development Manager
  • Information Engineer (3)
  • Information technologist I
  • Instructional Designer (4)
  • Instructional Technologist
  • IT Specialist
  • IT Technical Writer
  • Knowledge Architect
  • Knowledge Base Manager
  • Lead Business Analyst
  • Lead Documentation Analyst
  • Lead Technical Writer (5)
  • Learning Experience Design Manager
  • Learning Products Engineer
  • Manager (3)
  • Manager – Information Development
  • Manager – Technical Publications
  • Manager of Documentation Development
  • Manager of Technical Communications
  • Manager of User Assistance
  • Manager Technical Communications
  • Manager Technical Publications
  • Manager, Documentation and Training
  • Manager, ISD/Documentation
  • Manager, Multimedia Services
  • Manager, Online Performance Support
  • Manager, Software Documentation
  • Manager, Technical Communications
  • Manager, Technical Documentation
  • Manager, Technical Publications
  • Manager, User Experience
  • Marketing Communications Writer
  • Open-Ended Response
  • Performance Support Consultant
  • Performance Support Copywriter
  • Principal Content Project Manager (2)
  • Principal Documentation Specialist
  • Principal Information Designer (3)
  • Principal Information Developer
  • Principal Technical Writer (12)
  • Principal Writer
  • Product Documentation Manager
  • Project Lead
  • Project Manager (2)
  • Project Manager/Information Architect
  • Psychologist/Human Factors Engineer
  • Publications Manager
  • Self-employed technical writer
  • Senior Analyst
  • Senior Business Analyst
  • Senior Director UX and Product Management
  • Senior Document Architect
  • Senior Documentation Analyst
  • Senior Documentation/Proposal Writer
  • Senior Editor
  • Senior Information Designer (2)
  • Senior Information Developer (10)
  • Senior Principal Technical Writer
  • Senior Program Analyst
  • Senior Programming Writer
  • Senior Technical Author (2)
  • Senior Technical Communicatinos Writer
  • Senior Technical Communicator (2)
  • Senior Technical Editor (2)
  • Senior Technical Writer (62)
  • Senior Technical Writer and Editor
  • Senior Technical Writer and Requirements Engineer
  • Senior Technical Writer, Team Lead
  • Senior Technical Writer/Editor
  • Senior Training Specialist
  • Senior User Experience Manager – Documentation
  • Senior Writer (2)
  • Service Documentation Specialist
  • Specialist Technical Writer / Lead
  • Sr Associate IT Technical Writer
  • Sr Documentation Manager
  • Sr research associate II
  • Sr Technical Communicator
  • Sr User Experience Content Specialist
  • Sr. API Writer
  • Sr. Application Content Manager
  • Sr. Documentation Writer
  • Sr. Information Developer
  • Sr. manager, engineering
  • Sr. Manager, Technical Communications
  • Sr. Project Manager
  • Sr. Systems Analyst
  • Sr. Technical Communications Specialist
  • Staff Technical Writer
  • Staff Technical Writer
  • Staff Technical Writer
  • staff technical writer
  • Technical and Sales Support Representative
  • Technical Author
  • Technical Author
  • Technical Communications Consultant
  • Technical Communications Specialist
  • Technical Communications Supervisor
  • Technical Communicator
  • Technical Communicator Team Lead
  • Technical Documentation Manager
  • Technical Documentation Specialist
  • Technical Editor (3)
  • Technical Information Developer
  • Technical Publications Manager (2)
  • Technical Team Leader, Documentation
  • Technical writer (101)
  • Technical Writer – Help Desk
  • Technical Writer and Web Developer
  • Technical Writer II
  • Technical Writer IV (2)
  • Technical Writer Senior Analyst
  • technical writer/editor
  • Technical Writer/Trainer
  • Technical Writer/Translation Coordinator
  • Technical Writing Manager
  • Technical, Communications Manager
  • Technologist
  • Trainer
  • Training Consultant
  • Training Manager
  • Training Specialist II
  • Usability and Requirements Engineering, Documentation
  • User Assistance Manager
  • User Documentation Manager
  • User Education Manager(2)
  • User Experience Analyst
  • User Experience Designer
  • User Experience Lead
  • UX & story writer
  • Web content manager
  • Writing Director

Respondent Comments About Work Environment

  • 2% cost of living adjustment
  • agile development = less work for us
    company wants fewer employees and more outsource
  • corporate reorganization — increased workload
  • Department of 8 (not all technical writers) reduced by 50% this year
  • Far fewer openings for end-user docs specialists
  • I entered reduction in salary because in 11 years I have had one 2% increase. However, cost of living increases significantly.
  • If this were over the past year, my answers would be quite different rather than no change across the board
  • Losing US jobs, hiring in India. Company no longer pays for professional memberships.
  • My Team was split to handle more, effectively reducing my staff
  • No promotions or raises since 2008 – so wage cut in real terms
  • Reduced salary percentage increase
  • Reduction in IT resources to support my role.
  • Sub-department (formerly Training, now Business Analysis)
  • Technical Publications is no longer a separate department. The writing group has been added to Technical Support.
  • We are “on hold” from several acquisitions.
  • Workload from new devices (mobile, tablet) increase

Respondent Comments About Non-monetary Compensation

  • 125% company match 401K
  • 20% discount at company-owned restaurant for whole family
  • 34 responses for 401 (k) with company contribution
  • 401(k) with 3.5% company match
  • 5 responses of 401 k with company matching
  • 401K 3% contribution
  • 401k matching up to 4%
  • eye care, legal program, life insurance, LTD, STD, tuition assistance, 28 days PTO.
    free snacks and drinks, free workout facility
  • 401K with company match up to 3%
  • 401K with company matching and quick vesting
  • 401K with contribution from agency
  • 403b with contribution
  • 40k with company contribution, FSA plan
  • 5 weeks vacation yearly
  • a few paid company holidays after x no. of hours worked
  • Bonuses suspended, 401 contribution reduced, and more expensive health care coverage.Wooie!
  • cell phone provided; paid vacation, sick time, personal time
  • Company contributes to medical
  • Company RRSP contribution
  • Company stock plan
  • Employer pays $5000 FSA (Benny) card for medical/dental items not covered by insurance.
  • Flexible hours; company supplied equipment and software; option to work from home
  • Flexible work hours and working from home
  • Group retirement plan with company contribution
  • HSA contribution
  • I pay some of insurance – but company pays most Do have 401 with a company match
  • insurance only partly paid
  • Life insurance for self & family
  • Med/Dental: Company pays 25%. We pay 75%. 401k includes 3% from Company
  • mobile
  • Not sure how to answer medical/dental question because employer pays SOME of the cost.
  • Onsite wellness/fitness center
  • Paid Gym Memberships
  • Paid vision insurance, life insurance, short term disability, and long term disability
  • partially paid insurance and cell phone
  • Partially paid medical/dental
  • Partially paid medical/dental- we contribute. Also FSA and HRA
  • partly paid massage, fitness.
  • Pension Contributions
  • Phone bill, newspaper
  • Stock grant program
  • Stock grants, health club, legal plan
  • Stock purchase plan
  • stocked kitchen for lunches on site, Costco membership
  • Travel expenses, some meeting expenses
  • work at home
  • Work completely from home on a schedule entirely of my choosing. Allows me to homeschool my children and function largely as a SAHM.
  • Work from home twice a week, flexible hours


  1. Laura S.
    Laura S.

    I’m not surprised at the variety of job titles or variety of salaries: “they” (employers, public, even writers) never did understand what tech writers or user experience/usability design was all about. I would be very curious to see how the salary numbers compared to the job titles, but since there’s almost no consistency in job titles that’s not possible.

    An excellent survey. I learned a lot and it confirmed some of my guesses in other areas, too. Thanks for posting this information publicly, too, so that we can refer our managers to these results if we’re being grossly underpaid yet they claim to pay “highly” or “at market value”. (The bottom salary quartile, for example, would NOT be “highly” or “at market value).

  2. Rand McKinney
    Rand McKinney

    For something called a “salary survey” there is surprisingly little information on actual salary information, and it is not presented well. There is one sentence and one somewhat muddled table.

    I would like to see: median and average salary (for staff and contractors), graph or bar chart of salaries reported (vs. number of responses), x/y graph of salary vs. experience level, and so on.

    The other information that composes the majority of this article is interesting but seems somewhat peripheral.

    I realize that Joe is providing this information to us gratis, so I really have no room to grouse, but when did that ever stop me? 🙂

  3. Joe Welinske
    Joe Welinske

    Thanks for the input Rand. I try to apply statistical significance in my analysis. As the raw data is filtered with comparisons it reduces the sample size and therefore the validity of a statement. In the future, more respondents would make it possible to break things down by region, experience, etc.

  4. Cathy Shea
    Cathy Shea

    I would like to see a table with an actual range of salaries. Did I miss this? For example, at my company where I’ve worked for thirteen years, I’ve received no cost of living increases, no bonuses, and my salary has increased 2.5% over this period. We are constantly told that no raises and no increases of any kind to salary/hourly rate will be issued. This is in spite of consistently receiving above average rating in performance reviews. I would love to see a comparison in actual dollars, presented in quartiles of percentile. Thanks.

  5. Mark Ladouceur
    Mark Ladouceur

    Is it possible to see results for respondents by region?


Comments are closed.