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What Does a Document Control Specialist Do?

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell

A document control specialist typically spends much of his or her time fine-tuning the literature, manuals and instruction materials that accompany highly technical products. Most of these specialists work in industries such as engineering or pharmaceutical manufacturing, where the work is complex and simple language is a rarity. Clear instructions and product use information are imperative, however, which is where the document control specialist comes in. This professional essentially acts as quality control for literature and texts that are released to the public. The job entails mostly corroboration, data inputting and consistency checks at a high level.

In most contexts, a document control specialist works as a member of a technical writing team. Technical writing basically seeks to capture the essence of a procedure or product, then frame it in language that is more readily understood by consumers. This involves more than simply describing and translating, however. A technical document specialist must be extremely accurate and must ensure that consistent language and coding is being used throughout the materials. Information that is published or distributed that cannot be readily understood can lead to injury or product misuse, both of which can have negative consequences for the manufacturer.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

Most of what document control specialists work on are the instruction manuals and technical documentation that accompany electronic and technological products. When the writing team has finished compiling this information, the specialist reviews it, looking for clarity and accuracy. This often involves the use of a special industry-specific lexicon of highly technical terms. Those terms must be defined and used consistently throughout the materials. When specialists find errors or discover places where more clarification is needed, they usually will send the documents in question back to the writing team.

Effectiveness in document control specialist jobs generally requires a keen attention to detail and an aptitude for complex material. Specialists usually do not need to possess a lot of subject matter expertise, however. Most of the time, document specialists are permitted to learn the ins and outs of the industry on the job. Exceptions exist for projects in the military and national defense arena, because these specialists usually must have first-hand knowledge of the parts that are being built and described. In most other contexts, however, a bachelor’s degree, experience writing and editing and strong organizational skills are the only requirements.

Outside of engineering and science, the term “document control specialist” is sometimes, albeit rarely, applied to entry-level employees who are often little more than mail clerks. These employees handle the influx of documents, process memos and sort ingoing and outgoing mail. This sort of professional and those who work in the top tiers of manufacturing have little in common aside from job title.

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