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Career Definition for Medical Writers
Companies and institutions that hire medical writers need professionals who offer a dynamic union between scientific medical knowledge and written communication skills. Hospitals, academic medical centers, pharmaceutical companies and science publications and websites are potential employers. Medical writing careers usually follow one of two paths, according to the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA): scientific medical writing and non-scientific or marketing medical writing.
Scientific medical writers translate drug trial results, medical study findings and clinical data into presentations, regulatory documents and medical journal abstracts for a professional audience, while marketing medical writers more often focus on writing advertising copy, news releases and educational materials for a general audience (www.amwa.org).
|Education||Bachelor's or master's degree in journalism or English|
|Job Skills||Writing and editorial skills; knowledge about the medical field, regulation and approval processes; attention to detail; ability to conduct research|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$59,797 (for medical writers)|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)**||10% (for technical writers)|
Sources: *Salary.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
According to the AMWA and Science (www.sciencemag.org), most medical writers begin with a bachelor's or master's degree in journalism or English and build experience in the medical writing field by contributing to science publications and association newsletters; others take medical writing courses offered by their universities. Scientific medical writers, including regulatory medical writers (those who write proposals and applications for new FDA drug and medical device approvals), often have advanced training in the medical field; many are PhDs or MDs who put their specialized knowledge to work in writing. Some medical writers, especially those in the scientific arena, earn continuing education certificates from the AMWA.
First and foremost, medical writers should have solid writing and editorial skills, as well as familiarity with medical terminology. Scientific medical writers should be especially knowledgeable about the medical field and its terms and processes, and regulatory medical writers must thoroughly understand regulation requirements and approval processes. Successful medical writers are persistent and detail-oriented professionals who know how to research and can successfully translate a large quantity of technical information into succinct, engaging writing.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that although writing jobs in general will remain stable, demand for specialized writing skills, such as medical writing, will increase because of the explosion of technical and scientific data and the need to clearly communicate that information. The BLS expects technical writing jobs to increase 10% from 2014 to 2024. While medical writers can find full-time employment in a variety of settings, many work as freelance writers. Salary.com found the median salary for medical writers to be approximately $59,797 as of May 2016.
Alternate Career Options
Similar careers to medical writers include:
Bachelor's degrees in communications, English or journalism are normally required to enter this field, along with experience in technical subjects, such as engineering or computer science. Also called technical communicators, these professionals write instruction manuals for customers and manufacturers. In 2014, the BLS predicted 10% employment growth through 2024, which was faster than the average for all occupations. In 2015, these writers earned a median annual salary of $70,240, according to the BLS.
Editors are usually required to have bachelor's degrees in journalism, English or communications and should have strong writing and computer skills. Editors ready content writing for publication by reviewing and revising. The BLS anticipated a 5% decline in job openings for this occupation from 2014-2024. Editors earned a median annual salary of $56,010, the BLS reported in 2015.