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Medical Writer: Job Info & Career Requirements

Learn about what a medical writer does. Find out the skills and education necessary, in addition to the salary and employment outlook, to see if this career is for you.

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
Average Salary (2019)* $63,100 (for medical writers)
Job Growth (2016-2026)** 11% (for technical writers)

Sources: *Salary.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

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.

Skills Required

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.

Career Outlook

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 11% from 2016 to 2026. While medical writers can find full-time employment in a variety of settings, many work as freelance writers. Salary.com found the average salary for medical writers to be approximately $63,100 as of February 2019.

Alternate Career Options

Similar careers to medical writers include:

Technical Writer

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 2017, the BLS predicted 11% employment growth through 2026, which was faster than the average for all occupations. In 2017, these writers earned a median annual salary of $70,930, according to the BLS.

Editor

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 1% decline in job openings for this occupation from 2016-2026. Editors earned a median annual salary of $58,770, the BLS reported in 2017.


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