Medical Writer Jobs: An Overview of What Medical Writing Entails and the Skills Required
Medical writer jobs are plentiful and they pay well. This is because not everyone has the skill set required to do this type of work, and those that do tend not to know how to break into this lucrative freelance writing niche. Here we will discuss what medical writers do and the skills required.
What Is a Medical Writer?
These professionals write information related to healthcare, the medical profession and medical science in general for industry professionals, as well as general audiences. Medical writing jobs are available in every media medium, eg, online, print, television, radio, video, etc.
What Type of Assignments Do Medical Writers Handle
One of the reasons medical writing can be such an exciting career, which surprises many who are new to the profession, is that the types of assignments medical writers handle are wide and varied. For example, they may work for a pharmaceutical advertising agency writing copy for an ad campaign for a major drug manufacturer. Or they may work for a medical trade publisher interviewing experts about new drugs coming to market.
Just like many other writers, medical writers often work in teams in conjunction with other professionals to deliver projects to clients. Because of the specialized nature of the work, when working on a project, medical writers are often in direct contact with the client, in addition to other professionals (eg, research assistants and other medical experts). This ensures that the information dispensed is accurate.
Depending on who they work for and the type of accounts they work on, medical writers may also be required to attend trade conferences and meetings to obtain specialized knowledge and stay abreast of what’s going in a particular niche.
Searching for Medical Writing Jobs: Various Job Titles You’ll Find
If you’re searching major job boards for medical writing jobs, following are some of the titles you’ll run across that describe this profession. Note: Some of these titles are used by various professions (eg, computers), so read the job description to find out if a particular job is in the medical niche).
Medical Communications Writer
Medical Information Association
Drug Information Specialist
Clinical Research Associate
Where to Find Medical Writing Jobs
As the above information alludes to, medical writing jobs can be employers from various niches, eg, trade publishers, advertising agencies, pharmaceutical companies, medical research facilities, non-profit companies, hospitals, universities, etc.
Medical writers can come by work in a variety of ways. For example:
(i) They can be employed by a company directly; or
(ii) They can be like any other freelance writer and find their own gigs; or
(iii) They can be employed via a recruiting firm. There are staffing agencies that specialize in recruiting medical editorial professions (eg, writers, editors, proofreaders, copy editors). In fact, many of the larger staffing agencies often have niche divisions that recruit medical writers.
Qualifications Needed to Become a Medical Writer
Medical writers tend to be highly trained professionals. Many have a medical or scientific background. And, it’s not uncommon to find professionals with PhDs in scientific disciplines and/or post-doctoral research.
Other skills possessed by many in the profession include those who’ve written and researched manuscripts, and/or have presented at national and international conferences.
What recruiters look for are those with at least a four-year degree in some type of life science, or training in a medical discipline, knowledge of AMA (American Medical Association style of writing), and excellent writing skills.
The Soft Skills Needed to be a Medical Writer
In addition to the above, employers look for those who work well as part of a team. Hence, good communication skills are necessary.
You must also know how to meet deadlines, hence you need to be organized.
Rounding out the soft skill set, you need to be confident in your abilities, be adaptable (as the types of projects you will work on will vary) and be a self starter.
How Much Do Medical Writers Make
Just like I did for SEO Specialist salaries, I used Indeed.com (a major job aggregating board) to check salaries for randomly selected cities across the country. Here’s what I found. As you can see, medical writing jobs tend to pay quite well across the board.
Atlanta, GA: $84,000 (Average medical writer salaries for job postings in Atlanta, GA are 5% higher than average medical writer salaries for job postings nationwide).
San Diego: $70,000 (Average medical writer salaries for job postings in San Diego, CA are 12% lower than average medical writer salaries for job postings nationwide.)
Toledo, OH: $73,000 (Average medical writer salaries for job postings in Toledo, OH are 8% lower than average medical writer salaries for job postings nationwide.)
Ogden, UT: $60,000 (Average medical writer salaries for job postings in Ogden, UT are 24% lower than average medical writer salaries for job postings nationwide.)
New York, NY: $99,000 (Average medical writer salaries for job postings in New York, NY are 23% higher than average medical writer salaries for job postings nationwide.)
Chicago, IL: $79,000 (Average medical writer salaries for job postings in Chicago, IL are 1% lower than average medical writer salaries for job postings nationwide.)
Where to Get Training for Medical Writing Jobs
Quite frankly, medical writing training is not easy to come by. Very few organizations offer it. One place to start your search is the American Medical Writer’s Association. It offers a variety of courses for new and experienced medical writers alike.
How to Break into Medical Editing/Copyediting
If you’ve ever wondered:
How do I break into medical editing/copyediting?;
How much can I expect to make?;
What skills do I need?;
What is a typical day like?
Get info on how to become a medical editor or medical copy editor straight from those who work in this profession.
Good luck in your hunt for jobs in the medical writing arena!