Science and Medical Writers
Pharmaceutical and drug companies, medical research institutions, government organizations, insurance companies, health care facilities, nonprofit organizations, medical publishers, medical associations, and other medical-related industries employ medical writers.
Science writers may also be employed by medical-related industries. In addition, they are employed by scientific research companies, government research facilities, federal, state, and local agencies, manufacturing companies, research and development departments of corporations, and the chemical industries. Large universities and hospitals often employ science writers. Large technology-based corporations and industrial research groups also hire science writers.
Many science and medical writers are employed, often on a freelance basis, by newspapers, magazines, and the broadcast industries as well. Internet publishing is a growing field that hires science and medical writers. Corporations that deal with the medical or science industries also hire specialty writers as their public information officers or to head up communications departments within their facilities.
A fair amount of experience is required to gain a high-level position in this field. Most writers start out in entry-level positions. These jobs may be listed with college placement offices, or you may apply directly to the employment departments of corporations, institutions, universities, research facilities, nonprofit organizations, and government facilities that hire science and medical writers. Many firms now hire writers directly upon application or recommendation of college professors and placement offices. Want ads in newspapers, trade journals, and Internet job boards are another source for jobs.
Participation in an internship in college can provide you with valuable experience and give you the advantage of knowing people who can give you personal recommendations. Internships are also excellent ways to build your portfolio. Employers in the communications field are usually interested in seeing samples of your published writing assembled in an organized portfolio or scrapbook. Working on your college's magazine or newspaper staff can help you build a portfolio. Sometimes small, regional magazines will also buy articles or assign short pieces for you to write. You should attempt to build your portfolio with good writing samples. Be sure to include the type of writing you are interested in doing, if possible.
You may need to begin your career as a junior writer or editor and work your way up. This usually involves library research, preparation of rough drafts for part or all of a report, cataloging, and other related writing tasks. These are generally carried on under the supervision of a senior writer.
Many science and medical writers enter the field after working in public relations departments, the medical profession, or science-related industries. They may use their skills to transfer to specialized writing positions or they may take additional courses or graduate work that focuses on writing or documentation skills.
Writers with only an undergraduate degree may choose to get a graduate degree in science or medical writing, corporate communications, document design, or a related program. An advanced degree may open doors to more progressive career options.
Many experienced science and medical writers are often promoted to head writing, documentation, or public relations departments within corporations or institutions. Others take on editorial duties. Some may become recognized experts in their field and their writings may be in demand by trade journals, newspapers, magazines, and the broadcast industry.
As freelance writers prove themselves and work successfully with clients, they may be able to demand increased contract fees or hourly rates.
Tips for Entry
Write as often as you can and create a portfolio of your work to show potential employers.
Read science and medical journals such as ScienceWriters (https://www.nasw.org/publications/sciencewriters) and the AMWA Journal (https://www.amwa.org) to learn more about the field.
Join professional associations such as the American Medical Writers Association and the National Association of Science Writers to access training and networking resources, job listings, industry publications, and employment opportunities.
If you are an expert regarding science or medicine, start a blog or Twitter account to raise your profile and attract the interest of potential employers.