I was heartened by the news that technical writer has been added to the 2010-11 edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). STC has worked hard for this. It is a strange, though, that this is finally happening at a time when a trend is starting to emerge in which technical writers are being switched to non-exempt status and being paid hourly rather than salary.
The emerging de-professionalization of tech writing is just a trickle right now and mostly going under the radar. Most companies are still looking for either permanent salaried technical communications workers or for temporary contract (1099 status) workers. However, a small number of job listings are now starting to be for full-time, permanent, hourly non-exempt tech writers at fairly low rates. I noticed one in particular that was offering $27 per hour for a senior tech writer with 7+ years of writing experience and developer-level technical skills.
I am starting to wonder if this is the tip of the iceberg and we are going to see software engineers becoming hourly workers as well. On the other hand, maybe this isn't a trend at all. Maybe it's just a few employers on each coast who are trying to cut costs. Time will tell.