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User Assistance Salary Survey 2017

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. We hope you find these new survey results useful in gauging where you stand amongst your peers.

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From February 9 to March 10, 2017, we accepted responses via a survey form on our WritersUA web site. The final results presented here represent 188 responses . We appreciate the input from everyone who participated!

The total annual user assistance payroll represented by these respondents is just under $17 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 30 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.

Consider attending the upcoming WritersUA West event in Portland, Oregon. We’ll be spending two days covering cutting-edge user assistance topics in a collegial, fun atmosphere. The conference fee is just $695.

Salary Range

The overall average U.S. salary is $94,730. The salaries range from $27,000 to $215,000 and fall into the following quartile groupings:

SalaryGroup Salary(in $1,000s)
Lower quartile 26-75
Second quartile 76-90
Third quartile 91-111
Top quartile 112-215

The average work hours per week was 42.6.


Do you have college education in a field directly related to technical communication or user experience?

  • Yes 51.6%
  • No 48.4%

What is your gender?

  • Female 67.9%
  • Male 32.1%

 What is the highest level of education you have completed?

  • 54% – College/University/4-year degree
  • 35.8% – Graduate School
  • 5.3% – Community College/2- or 3-year degree
  • 4.8% – High School

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

  • 3.3% – Less than 2 years
  • 3.8% – 2-4 years
  • 12.0% – 5 – 9 years
  • 15.3% – 10 – 14 years
  • 65.6% – 15 or more years

What percentage of your work is management or supervisory?

  • 76.5% – 0 24%
  • 11.5% – 25 49%
  • 5.5% – 50 74%
  • 6.6% – 75 100%

How many people are directly involved with user assistance development at your organization?

  • 49.2% – 1 to 5
  • 14.4% – 6 to 10
  • 14.4% – 11 to 25
  • 21.9% – 26 or more

Work Environment

Our industry and our world continue to undergo 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 Conditions Reduction No change Increase
Number of UA employees 26% 59% 16%
Workload due to staff changes 1% 53% 46%
Number or scope of projects 6% 28% 66%
Funding for training 27% 70% 4%
Salary level 2% 68% 30%


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. The survey asked respondents to select the Top Three Items of Importance in non-monetary compensation. Here are the top vote-getters.

  • 82.9% – Paid medical/dental
  • 57.7% – 401(k) without company contribution
  • 54.7% – Bonuses
  • 25.9% – Paid training
  • 19.4% – Stock option program
  • 9.4% – Profit-sharing
  • 7.1% – Sabbatical (one month or longer)
  • 1.8% – High-speed home Internet connection

Other Items Listed by Respondent for Non-monetary Compensation

  • 401(k) with 200% employer match
  • 401(k) with company contribution (9)
  • 401(k) with company match (2)
  • Above average paid vacation, RRSP
  • Annual Raises
  • car allowance
  • ESPP employee stock purchase plan w/discount
  • Fitness Reimbursement
  • Flexible work hours (2)
  • Free access to gym and pool
  • FSA
  • Generous PTO
  • job security and flexibility
  • Paid days off (4)
  • Paid vision
  • Partially paid medical
  • pension
  • pension
  • Relaxed environment
  • Retirement
  • Short commute
  • Subsidized meals
  • time not tracked (take vacation and sick as needed)
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • vacation and sick time
  • Vacation time
  • Vitality program
  • work from home policy

Overall Job 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 35% 54% 10% 1%
Base salary 35% 51% 10% 3%
Compensation over salary (bonuses, raises, stocks, 401k’s, etc.) 24% 53% 20% 4%
Other benefits (vacation time, health club, association fees, etc.) 25% 53% 18% 3%
Flexibility in work schedule 63% 32% 3% 2%
Professional development and training 10% 43% 35% 11%
Overall compensation 25% 63% 10% 2%


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. “Technical Writer” and “Senior Technical Writer” dominate the list.

  • Associate Director, Technical Publications
  • Computer Systems Trainer
  • Consultant  (2)
  • Content Strategist
  • Direction, Education Services
  • Director
  • Director, Documentation and User Assistance
  • Director, Technical Communications
  • Director, User Assistance
  • Documentation Lead (2)
  • Documentation Manager (2)
  • Documentation Specialist
  • Editing Director
  • Education Work Center Team Leader (2)
  • Informatics eLearning Specialist III
  • Information Architect
  • Information Developer (6)
  • Information Development Lead
  • Information Development Manager
  • Information Engineer (2)
  • Instructional Designer (3)
  • Lead Technical Writer (2)
  • Learning Products Developer
  • Linked Data Specialist
  • Manager
  • Manager information services
  • Manager Product Documentation
  • Manager, Information Development
  • Manager, Technical Writing
  • Online Help Developer
  • President
  • Principal Engineer
  • Principal Technical Writer (8)
  • Principal Technical Writer, Lead
  • Principal Writer
  • Product Documentation Manager
  • Program Manager
  • Programmer Writer
  • Project Manager
  • Senior Analyst
  • Senior Business Analyst
  • Senior Business Analyst
  • Senior Content Developer
  • Senior Content Specialist (2)
  • Senior Content Strategist
  • Senior Documentation Specialist
  • Senior Documentation Specialist
  • senior information architect
  • Senior Information Developer (2)
  • Senior Information Developer (3)
  • Senior Manager of Product Content
  • Senior Manager Technical Writing
  • Senior Online Help Developer
  • Senior Technical Editor
  • Senior Technical Writer (31)
  • Senior Technical Writer/Content Developer
  • Senior User Assistance Developer
  • Software Project Coordinator
  • Staff Technical Documentation
  • Supervisor
  • Team Leader (2)
  • Technical Communications Lead
  • Technical Communications Manager
  • Technical Communications Specialist
  • Technical Communicator
  • Technical Documentation Manager
  • Technical Publications Manager
  • Technical Publications Supervisor
  • Technical Writer (39)
  • Technical Writer 1
  • Technical Writer II
  • Technical Writer III (3)
  • Technical Writer Specialist
  • Technical Writer, Documentation Team Lead
  • Technical Writer/Communications Specialist
  • Technical Writing Director
  • Technical Writing Manager (3)
  • UA Developer (3)
  • User Assistance Design Lead
  • User Assistance Technology Architecture Director
  • User Experience Architect
  • User Experience Designer
  • Web and Accessibility Designer
  • Writing and Localization Manager

General Comments

  • Best of all is working remotely; we come into the office twice a week for meetings and projects
  • Good length!
  • I appreciate that you conduct the survey; it’s very valuable.
  • I have found that company training and seminars are worthless for me. I love increasing my skill by studying great technical books and ebooks combined with real world practice!
  • I have no idea how many User Assistance professionals there are in the many divisions and teams of my 55,000-person company.   Also, bonus and merit increases take place at the end of March/early April. Although I saw no change in the last six months, I will likely see a change within another month. The timing of this survey is key.
  • I think it would be useful to add a question to differentiate between independent consultants and employees (the percentage of each, and how their answers differ from each other).
  • I’ve noticed a trend at my company for the past several years – no money for training in the budget anymore. They expect us to learn on our own time.
  • My company refuses to acknowledge the importance of UA and UX. Despite having a competitive salary for my age, location, and experience level, my company has routine layoffs at least 2 times a year, and that always includes someone from my department.
  • My salary is keeping up with inflation, and that’s all. In order to bring it up to what the rest of the market is paying, I will have to change companies or freelance.
  • One of the big draws for me at my company is the remote aspect. I work from home. Perhaps that should be represented in this survey?  Telecommuting option.
  • Please note that # UA employees is based on the division (~1000) at my company. I have NO idea how many others are involved in the business units/divisions
  • Thank you!
  • Thank you! I would be interested in learning if there mare many user assistance professionals affected by the FLSA. My company converted some people to hourly; I did not agree with this change.
  • Thanks for doing this survey.  The results help us determine a fair offer for prospective employees.