How Can I Become a Medical Writer?

Research what it takes to become a medical writer. Learn about job duties, education requirements, and certification to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Medical Transcription degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Medical Writer?

Medical writers produce written documents that are about medical or health issues. These documents may be used by professionals in the industry, by patients or by the general public. Medical writers are employed by pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment companies or health service providers. Part of their job involves research, as they need to understand the specific subject they are writing about and have all pertinent information. As part of their preparation they may interview medical personnel. Once they have completed their research, they draft the document, using the appropriate language and terminology that's best suited for the intended audience.

Education Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Scientific professional writing, health communications, technical writing (with a concentration in medical writing), or related field
Certification Required Certification by the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) sometimes required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 10% (for all technical writers)*
Median Salary (May 2015) $70,240 (for all technical writers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Work Would I Do as a Medical Writer?

Medical writers write about health and medical topics for the general public and medical or scientific professionals. You will research topics, analyze data and write about complex subjects in a way that is understandable to your readers. This can include translating complicated medical jargon so that it is comprehensible to patients studying a brochure or to the general public reading a magazine article.

You may pen articles for medical journals read by healthcare workers or write regulatory documents for government bureaus. You might work on writing projects in collaboration with doctors or scientists. Your duties could include creating educational materials targeted at medical students or professionals with degrees.

You could choose self-employment and work as a freelance medical writer. According to the periodical Science, approximately one-third of medical writers work on a freelance basis. Or you could seek a salaried job writing or editing for a medical journal or publisher, writing public relations copy for hospitals or medical associations, creating grant proposals for medical researchers or developing marketing materials for drug firms.

What Formal Education Do I Need?

Medical writers have diverse educational backgrounds. Most started in another profession before switching careers to become medical writers. The American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) reported that many medical writers started in professions such as journalism, public relations, scientific research, healthcare or teaching before becoming medical writers. Some of these professionals who turned to medical writing possess advanced degrees in medicine or science. The AMWA estimated that around 54% of its members carry degrees in science or healthcare and approximately 20% have degrees in the liberal arts, including journalism and communications.

According to the AMWA and an article in 'Money', a trend toward medical writing becoming a first career choice is growing because more schools are now offering degree programs in medical writing. You should consider earning a bachelor's degree in scientific professional writing, health communications or technical writing with a concentration in medical writing. Alternately, you could seek a master's degree in medical writing, medical journalism, health communication, biomedical regulatory affairs or professional writing with a concentration in medical writing.

Can I Seek Continuing Education as a Professional?

The AMWA offers certificate programs to teach you more about the craft. Some employers require writers to have an AMWA certificate. You earn a certificate after completing eight workshops in that subject. You may choose from a certificate in Essential Skills or in specialty areas, including Regulatory and Research or Concepts in Science and Medicine.

The AMWA also awards a Professional Development Certificate (a form of professional certification, not itself an educational program) to writers wanting to show commitment to expanding their professional knowledge. You may receive this certificate every two years after engaging in certain professional development activities for which you garner points.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Editors and public relations specialists are professionals who perform some similar duties. Editors review documents for publication to ensure that they're factually accurate and grammatically correct. Like medical writers, they work with the written word and must ensure that the documents they publish are written for the intended audience. They need a bachelor's degree in a subject area such as journalism, English or communications. Public relations specialists produce speeches and documents that influence public opinion. Like medical writers, public relations specialists need to understand the intended audience and use a writing or verbal style that makes sense. Public relations specialists also need a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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