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Medical Writer Jobs: An Overview of What Medical Writing Entails and the Skills Required

Updated on February 8, 2010

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).

Scientific Writer

Technical Writer

Health Writer

Medical Communications Writer

Medical Copywriter

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 (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!


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    • profile image

      Yuwanda Black 6 years ago

      Thanks Jennifer for pointing out this resource. :-)

    • jennifer_brooke profile image

      jennifer_brooke 6 years ago

      Thanks for posting this - great information. I'm a member of the American Medical Writers Association, and when I first joined was recommended "The Accidental Medical Writer" as a good 'how to' for beginners!

    • profile image

      Jim Fisher 7 years ago

      I have a question regarding medical proofreading/ copyediting that I’m wondering if you could give me a little help with.

      There are a lot of schools that offer both off-line and on-line training in medical transcription. And I’ve also noticed that some of these training programs (for example, the one offered by CareerStep) are starting to add specialized training in how to edit the often error-filled printouts of the Voice Recognition Technology (VRT) programs that more and more hospitals and other medical centers are using in an attempt to jack up production and lower over-all costs.

      My question of the moment: Would successfully completing a recognized medical transcription training program be helpful in getting one’s editorial foot in the door with a view toward landing full-time or freelance medical proofreading and copyediting jobs?

      And even taking into account that the editing of medical texts and other publications would be in a different league from the editing of a VRT printout from a physician’s dictation, would a medical transcription program that also included training in VRT editing increase one’s chances of landing traditional medical proofreading/copyediting work?

      Let me know what you think. I’d be very interested in knowing your opinion on this.