Have a passion for sciences and a knack for writing? Read our tips on how to become a medical writer.
What makes a great medical writer? First, the ability to communicate complex topics clearly. Second, a familiarity with (and passion for) medicine, health care and science. Combine these two traits and you can build a successful career in this in-demand profession. Read on for advice on how to break into medical writing.
what is a medical writer?
A medical writer can go by several different names, including medical/regulatory editor, medical communicator and technical writer. The meat of the job is writing about clinical and scientific information, a task that involves:
- researching primary medical documents and clinical studies
- following style and annotation guidelines
- ensuring the factual accuracy of the text
- copy editing and proofreading
What kind of content you create depends on the organization you work for. Common employers of medical writers include pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, government agencies, academic institutions and medical journals.
do medical writers get paid well?
According to Randstad’s 2022 Salary Guide, the salary for a medical writer ranges from around $80,000 at the entry level to about $155,000 at the most senior levels, depending on location, market size and level of experience. Medical writing also typically allows a good deal of flexibility for remote work.
do you need a degree to be a medical writer?
A bachelor’s degree in a scientific field like medicine or biology is almost always expected for medical writing positions. Senior roles also usually require an advanced degree. If you’re interested in pursuing these higher level positions, look for universities that offer targeted science writing or health communication masters programs, including remote learning options.
a 3-step plan to becoming a medical writer
Would-be medical writers need more than just an impressive set of academic qualifications. Here are three ways to kick-start your career.
1. join the American Medical Writers Association
The American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) can be a one-stop source for your medical writing career. Annual membership, ranging from $80 for students to $199 for professionals, gives you access to a private online forum for medical communicators, free webinars and discounts on specialized courses. You'll also get entry to a members-only job database listing full-time and contract positions.
2. find a focus
Medical communications is a vast field with tons of specialization opportunities. Interested in cutting-edge research? You might want to seek out pharmaceutical companies or academic institutions that are at the forefront of developing new drugs and medical techniques. Want to communicate directly with the public? A position with a web content company or news agency, such as Kaiser Health News, might be more up your alley. Whatever your interest, take some time to explore your options before diving in.
3. hone your skills
Clear communication and science comprehension are the umbrella skills for medical writing. Within those, it’s a good idea to work on the following:
- familiarity with the American Medical Association (AMA) style
- how to read and interpret statistics, tables and graphs
- how to find and access primary research materials
- grammar and sentence structure
Medical writing is a hot field right now, with plenty of open positions for qualified candidates. See what’s out there near you.