Become a Medical Editor: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Mar 11, 2020

Learn how to become a medical editor. Research the job duties and the training and education requirements, and find out how to start a career as a medical editor.

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Should I Become a Medical Editor?

Medical editors review medical information, such as journals, marketing materials and reports, for grammar and content cohesiveness. Editors tend to have busy schedules that are dictated by deadlines, and many work long hours. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more and more editors, including medical editors, are working remotely or from home. Competition in this job field is strong.

According to the BLS, many medical editors start out as medical writers. Medical writers either begin with a background in science and acquire writing skills or begin with a writing or an English degree and learn medical terminology. Medical writers then hone their editing skills to take on the job responsibilities as an editor.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; graduate degree preferred
Degree Field English, medicine, science, journalism
Experience Writing experience preferred; medical experience preferred
Key Skills Strong verbal and written communication skills; knowledge of medical terminology; attention to detail; computer skills in electronic publishing software, graphics, and web design software
Median Salary (2018) $59,480 (for all editors)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Medical Writers Association

Steps to Become a Medical Editor

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Medical writers can start out earning a bachelor's degree in journalism or English. Some journalism programs include coursework or concentrations in science or medical writing. According to the American Medical Writers Association, individuals with journalism backgrounds tend to write for lay audiences, particularly in the marketing field. Alternatively, medical writers may begin with an undergraduate degree in science, such as biology or chemistry. Individuals with a science background often write articles targeted toward scientists such as peer-reviewed journals or regulatory reports.

Medical writers can get a start writing for school publications or acquiring an internship. Science students can choose electives that give them an opportunity to hone their writing skills. Some schools may offer writing programs for scientists.

Step 2: Get Experience

Editors usually start out as writers. Medical writers can pursue entry-level positions in areas of science that interest them. They will learn the process of publishing and have the opportunity to hone their craft. As their skills progress, they may be charged with editing materials as well as writing.

It's important to learn to write for the Web. Many publications are being produced online. In addition, editors can improve their marketability by learning how to use technological tools to layout scientific articles in print or on the Web.

Step 3: Earn a Graduate Degree

Some employers prefer medical editors with advanced degrees. Scientists can polish their writing skills as they work on a thesis or dissertation. At the master's degree level, it is possible to find degree programs that focus on science writing. These programs are generally available to individuals with a science background as well as individuals with a journalism background. Graduate degrees can increase employment prospects and create additional career advancement opportunities for medical editors.

Aspiring medical editors typically begin as medical writers and have at least a bachelor's degree in a science or in a writing field, such as English or journalism.

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