How to Become a Medical Writer: Career Path Guide
If you want to become a medical writer, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a medical writer:
Those who become medical writers have a keen interest, and an education in science, as well as an ability to disseminate a large amount of information in a clear and concise manner. Successful medical writers typically enjoy working with scientists to learn new things, and feel rewarded knowing they make a difference by sharing their information in a manner that can be understood by the intended audience.
If you’ve determined that you’re interested in becoming a medical writer, you’ll need to know the necessary steps. Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a medical writer. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!
Medical Writer Job Description
Medical writers are responsible for creating medical documents that provide accurate details about medical information and products. Medical writers must combine their knowledge of science with their understanding of research and writing to present information at the right level for their target audience. They may write for a variety of audiences for a variety of purposes, ranging from preparing documents for submission to regulatory bodies on behalf of pharmaceutical companies, to writing articles for biomedical journals read by professionals in the field of healthcare.
Medical Writer Job Duties
• Compose documents that are accurate and easy for others to understand
• Confer with doctors, researchers and other professionals in order to obtain or provide information
• Provide research articles, press releases, fact sheets and other materials in newspapers, medical journals and on websites
• Produce regulatory documents related to the approval of pharmaceutical and medical products in liaison with government regulation agencies
• Compose documents that are suited for the intended audience of the publication, using accepted and standardized writing styles
• Review medical documents and data
Educational Requirements for Becoming a Medical Writer
The educational requirements to become a medical writer vary based on the specifications of the employer; as such there is no formal universal educational requirement to become a medical writer.
There are however universal informal educational requirements, as many employers require their medical writing candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree, and many require candidates to have a master’s degree or professional degree in one of the following areas (or similar areas):
• Nutrition & Dietetics
• Journalism or Communications (with coursework in scientific fields)
Employers prefer candidates with education in these areas, and typically an advanced education, as it demonstrates their familiarity with medical concepts and terminology. In addition to satisfying candidacy requirements for some employers, pursuing an education in these areas will make the prospective medical writer familiar with the scientific concepts in these areas, which will allow them to be knowledgeable and competent in their medical writing jobs.
Licensing and Certification Needed to Become a Medical Writer
Currently, to become a medical writer you do not need to be licensed or certified. There is however, voluntary certification available from the American Medical Writers Association (which also applies to Medical Writers in AMWA affiliate countries, such as Canada).
Although it is not mandatory, becoming certified as a medical writer is a great way to demonstrate that you care about professional standards, and have a certain level of skill, knowledge and experience in the field of medical writing.
Medical Writer Salary: How Much Do They Earn?
The earnings of medical writers can vary greatly based on a multitude of factors, including their level of education, their level of skill, where they work, whether they are freelance or permanent employees, and many others. Typically, medical writers whose work is supported by the pharmaceutical industry earn the most within this field.
Medical Writer Salary United States: According to a 2011 survey conducted by The American Medical Writers Association, the average annual salary for medical writers employed on a full-time basis is $92,867 per year. The survey also reports the salary level of full-time medical writers who work as freelancers is $116,000 per year.
Skills Needed to Become a Successful Medical Writer
The following skills and competencies help separate successful medical writers from those that are mediocre:
• Ability to understand the purpose and requirements of a project
• Write with scientific accuracy
• Excellent attention to detail
• Ability to work within team, as well as independently
• Ability to effectively communicate with various people involved in the research, writing and publishing processes
• Good time management skills, and able to meet deadlines
• Able to use language and grammar that is appropriate to the audience
• Knowing where to search for authentic sources, and perform thorough research
• Able to interpret and present data in a logical manner
• Able to follow copyright laws and not plagiarize the work of others
Who Hires Medical Writers? Where Do They Work?
There are many different employers and clients that are able to utilize the specialized skills, knowledge and competencies of medical writers. These organizations hire medical writers for a variety of purposes, and they can be found within different sectors of private industry, government and media.
• Pharmaceutical companies, medical device and product companies, and clinical research organizations hire medical writers to prepare regulatory documents that are used to seek the approval of governmental regulatory bodies, such as the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for various products, devices and drugs.
• Pharmaceutical companies and other organizations in private industry also hire medical writers to prepare sales materials and press releases.
• Medical doctors utilize medical writers to write research articles, monographs, as well as reviews on medical topics.
• Continuing medical education companies hire medical writers to help produce various educational materials that healthcare professionals use to prepare for license renewal exams.
• Government agencies and private organizations utilize the services of medical writers to prepare fact sheets and content for their websites.
• Websites, newsletters, newspapers, magazines, medical journals and other media that publishes content related to medical topics hire medical writers to write about research discoveries and breakthroughs in the field.
Medical Writer Job Opportunities
Medical Writer Jobs - Canada
Medical Writer Jobs - United States
Careers Similar to Medical Writer
Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Medical Writer, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.
References: How to Become a Medical Writer
Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a medical writer.
American Medical Writers’ Association website: www.amwa.org
National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine website: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Science Careers website: sciencecareers.sciencemag.org
Scholarships for Becoming a Medical Writer
Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a Medical Writer can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page.
Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!
Becoming a Medical Writer: Applicable Majors
Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a medical writer, as they will provide you with many relevant knowledge and skills. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!