“writer” just scratches the surface.

  • career advice
  • September 14, 2017

The term “medical writer” does not adequately describe the wide range of responsibilities that life sciences companies place on their writers’ shoulders. Yes, medical writers are responsible for drafting scientific, research and educational life science documents. But they often must also oversee the process of submitting technical documents or articles to regulatory agencies and scientific journals, play the role of editor or graphic designer, and work with multiple stakeholders inside and outside the company.

The number of new opportunities for medical writers continues to grow, and the jobs pay well. Our research finds that medical writers can expect to earn annual salaries between $71,535 - $84,756, with an average of $77,283. Many employers are willing to hire writers who want to work from home part- or full-time. That is why Medical Writer earned a place on both our annual “hot jobs: the best in-demand jobs for 2017” and our recent “top five pharma work-from-home jobs” lists.

“The opportunity for good medical communicators is tremendous and is continuing to grow,” Brian Bass, co-author of The Accidental Medical Writer, told Mediabistro. “The medical communications field is very broad as well as very deep.”

The opportunity may be exciting and growing, but you must demonstrate a broad skillset in order to compete for the jobs you want.

Consider the job responsibilities one life sciences company in the San Francisco area is looking for in a medical writer: 

  • Prepares technical documents to support both domestic and international regulatory submissions 
  • Incorporates text, graphs, charts, tables and statistical analysis 
  • Proofreads, circulates, edits, assembles, inspects and duplicates product submissions

Or, look at the qualifications a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company wants its applicants to have:

  • Ability to interpret data tables, summarize complex information, and present data in a clear, concise, and scientifically accurate manner to a range of audiences 
  • Work with internal stakeholders, external authors and medical writers on congress abstracts, posters and oral presentations 
  • Coordinate project development activities (i.e. project timelines, project status, internal review) and recording of required steps for compliance documentation

These companies are not just looking for a writer. They’re looking for someone who can manage the entire review and editing process, and who has the communications and management skills necessary to coordinate activities across multiple groups.

Before you apply for a job, do your research. Will your responsibilities include preparing and submitting an Investigational New Drug (IND) application to the FDA? If so, go to the FDA’s website to familiarize yourself with the agency’s strict guidelines governing that process.

Look for opportunities with companies that need people with your experience and background. For example, employers may also only consider applicants with backgrounds in a specific life sciences discipline, such as Hematology/Oncology. If you have the requisite experience, you stand a great chance at making the first cut.

Also, consider joining the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). In addition to a wealth of educational resources, the AMWA and the Medical Writing Certification Commission offer the opportunity to earn the Medical Writer Certified (MWC) credential. It’s an excellent way to set yourself apart from other applications. The process includes an exam, and the next opportunity to take it is at the AMWA’s annual Medical Writing & Communication Conference on Nov. 1 in Orlando. But act quickly – the exam registration deadline is Oct. 1.

When you’re ready to parlay your writing experience and/or background in life into a career as a medical writer, you can begin your search on the Biotechnology & Pharmaceutical Jobs section of our website. You can also find out the moment new opportunities become available by signing up for Randstad's job alerts. Just tell us the kind of position you want, and we'll email you when we find it.