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Careers in Science Writing: Job Options and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to have a career in science writing. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and prospects to find out if this is the career for you.

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A bachelor's degree in science is usually required to be a science writer, but many positions call for graduate study. Those interested in writing about the scientific field can consider a minor in journalism to prepare for a science writing career. Job options include science journalist, university instructor or public information officer for a facility that conducts scientific research.

Essential Information

Some science writers work as journalists for magazines, newspapers and online publications. Others write books or serve as information officers for scientific research institutions. Faculty members in university science departments also have the opportunity to write about their fields. Aspiring science journalists and information officers should earn 4-year degrees with coursework in both science and journalism.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in science
Other Requirements Degree with focus additionally in journalism
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5% decrease for editors
Mean Salary (2015)* $64,910 annually for editors

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Job Options in Science Writing

According to the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW), there are two main career paths available in this profession. One path is to become a science journalist. The second path is to become a public information officer for an organization that conducts scientific research. Science researchers in academia may also integrate science writing into their work.

Science Journalism

Some science journalists cover the latest scientific discoveries for general interest newspapers and magazines, the CASW explains. Science journalists may also produce books for publishing companies, and they increasingly produce online content as well. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that regardless of their areas of specialization, journalists and writers may become editors after they have proven themselves in entry-level positions (www.bls.gov). In 2014, the BLS predicted slow employment growth of 2%, through 2024, for writers and authors, and jobs for editors were expected to decrease by 5% during that same time. In 2015, the BLS reported an average yearly salary of $69,130 for writers and authors, while editors averaged $64,910.

Science Communication

According to the CASW, science public information officers write articles, press releases and other promotional materials to inform the public and the scientific community about their organizations' research initiatives and findings. In some cases, the press releases compiled by public information officers are aimed at science journalists, who may use them to research and compose news stories about scientific breakthroughs. The BLS anticipated an 8% decline in jobs for reporters and correspondents, during the 2014-2024 decade. These professionals earned $46,560 per year, on average, the BLS states in 2015.

Scientific Research

Scientists employed as college or university faculty members spend much of their time teaching and conducting research, but they also write up and publish their research findings in academic journals and books. According to the BLS, scientists who become tenured professors typically spend more time conducting research and writing up their results than do lower-ranking faculty members. According to the BLS, postsecondary biological science teachers earned an average yearly salary of $86,830, in 2015, and those teaching atmospheric, earth, marine and space sciences made $92,540, on average. Jobs for postsecondary educators in general were predicted to grow by 13%, from 2014-2024, per the BLS.

Education Requirements for Science Writing Careers

The CASW reports that a 4-year degree in either science or journalism is necessary for aspiring science writers. Journalism majors should take a broad range of science courses or minor in the sciences, and science majors should supplement their core courses with journalism electives. It is also helpful to gain practical science writing experience by working for a college newspaper or interning with a local periodical, the CASW adds. The BLS notes that while not all science faculty positions at colleges and universities require doctoral degrees, tenure-track positions that lead to full professorships generally do.

Graduate Education for Science Writing

According to the journal Science, graduate programs in science writing can be helpful, but they are not essential for a successful career in this field. Course topics in science writing degree programs may include documentary filmmaking as well as news reporting and writing techniques for various publication formats.

Science writers may opt to become a science journalist or a public information officer for an organization that conducts scientific research. It is also possible for those who teach science at the postsecondary level or conduct scientific research to incorporate writing into their career by publishing their research findings. A bachelor's degree may be all that's required for journalism or public relations work, but those who aspire to go into research will usually need a doctoral degree.

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