Individuals who hold bachelor's degrees and have a background in professional writing can enroll in master's degree or certificate programs that train them to work in medical writing. While medical or science training is helpful, it is not required. Students are taught to use medical terminology and biostatistics; they study style for medical writers, how to compose clinical study reports and medical editing. Master's degree programs in this field take about a year to complete. Certificate programs call for 4-6 courses. Some programs are available through online study.
Master of Science in Biomedical Writing
Master's degree programs in biomedical writing typically provide graduate students with a background in professional writing as well as an understanding of medical terminology and regulations. Students enrolled in such a program learn concepts and skills like stylistics, editing, and professional writing standards in addition to gaining an intellectual foundation in medical ethics, biostatistics, and regulations. These programs usually include a final project or thesis in the field.
Baccalaureate degrees in biology, pre-med, writing or journalism are effective prerequisites for a graduate degree in medical writing. Students also need a strong command of the English language before enrolling in medical writing programs at U.S. universities. Master's degree programs in medical writing cover advanced elements of writing style as well as some topics in medicine. Some examples of typical class topics are:
- Professional science writing
- Regulatory documentation
- Biostatistics for medical writers
- Biomedical communication
- Regulatory writing
- Grant writing
Medical Writing Certificate
Aspiring medical writers can earn a graduate certificate from a 4-year university or from an organization such as the American Medical Writers Association. Such certificate programs can provide medical professionals with the editing and writing skills necessary to publish professional papers or articles. They can also provide professional writers with the background in medicine necessary to work in the freelance medical writing field. It is common for these programs to not have a specific target student. The goal is generally to provide instruction in both medical science and writing fundamentals. A student who is deficient in one area and proficient in the other will likely get the education needed to fill in that deficiency.
Graduate certificate programs in medical writing often require incoming students to hold a bachelor's degree. Some do require students to have professional experience, either in the field of medicine or the field of journalism. Because these programs emphasize both writing and medical science, scientists and writers alike can usually take the same program. Core courses included in a graduate certificate program in medical writing are often very similar to those included in a master's degree program in the same subject. Additional elective courses might include:
- The logic of medical articles
- Advanced medical editing
- Medical research and fact-finding
- Reporting biostatistics
- Developing the clinical study report
- Investigative reporting
- Grant writing
Popular Career Options
The basic employment information and salary information relevant to graduates of a master's degree program in medical writing also applies to graduates of a certificate program in the field. According to Sciencecareers.org, medical writers can be employed by a variety of companies and organizations, including the following:
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Medical journals and publications
- Continuing medical education programs
- Clinical research groups
- Medical equipment sales companies
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of employed technical writers was expected to increase 10% from 2014-2024, which is faster than average. Writers and authors in all industries earned a median of $70,240 per year as of 2015, reports the BLS.
Students in master's programs in biomedical writing focus on professional writing standards in the context of medicine. Medical writing certificate programs provide training to writers who aspire to publish professional articles and papers.