Medical writers are typically those who have a good background knowledge in English and/or journalism and a specific topic, in this case, medicine. PhD programs can be very research-intensive, since the majority of your study will be focused on researching and writing your dissertation. Often, PhD holders continue into the field of research or academia, both excellent backgrounds for medical writers.
PhD Programs for Medical Writers
Typically, medical writers do not need to seek a PhD to find work. Many technical writers, of which medical writing is a subcategory, earn a bachelor's degree in English or journalism and/or a specific field. Having a clear understanding of writing styles and grammar is important, but you must be comfortable with the field you will write about. Medical writers often work with scientists and medical doctors to write their reports. Having a research-intensive degree, such as the PhD, will allow you to research, communicate with professionals, and write better.
The biological sciences typically include biology and some of the other life sciences that will be beneficial as a medical writer. These programs may look more specifically in one area, such as marine biology or physiology, but overall, you should get a large wealth of knowledge in these programs. Some of the course topics you'll come across cover biology, gene expression, thermodynamics, cancer biology, epigenetics, chemistry, cell signaling, and research ethics. It'll be important for you to understand the details of research methodologies. You'll also spend time in teaching practicums and researching a dissertation.
Many universities offer biomedical sciences PhD programs. As an advanced medical program, you'll find that there are often many concentrations to choose from within these programs. You may choose to focus your studies on immunology, infectious diseases, or genetics. In fact, many programs promote that the purpose is to give you a rigorous and varied education that will prepare you for research and writing in the medical field. You'll also likely look at public policy for medicine and spend time in clinical rotations with laboratories or teaching for hands-on experience. You'll also complete an original dissertation on a topic to improve the medical field.
Biomedical engineering focuses on improving the medical field and solving issues throughout it. Though biomedical engineering typically involves innovating changes, a PhD holder will work in research, writing, and academia. You may also use your program to get involved in public policy, but the basics of a biomedical engineering PhD will give you guidance in research with courses and a mentor. Some course topics you may study include writing proposals, ethics, biomaterials, control systems, neuroengineering, medical imaging, and fluid dynamics. You'll select an area in biomedical engineering that you will research and become an expert in. Along with courses, you'll take research clinicals in labs and with mentors.
Statistics may seem like an odd choice for medical writing, but you'll work with a lot of numbers and statistics when writing about medicine and the medical sciences. Statistics can educate you in complex analysis, probability, randomness, and information theory. Along with these ideas, you'll find some colleges provide concentrations in specific areas, such as engineering or genomic biology. This is where you can gain some helpful knowledge in the medical field. You will typically complete a dissertation and a teaching residency or internship.
Most PhD programs ask that you have some background in the field you are entering. You'll want to have a background in science, medical, math, and engineering courses that can prepare you for advanced study. Some programs ask you to have your master's degree, while some only require a bachelor's. You'll typically need to supply GRE and TOEFL (if needed) scores, as well letters of recommendation, and transcripts with your application.
Though most colleges do not offer a PhD program in medical writing, you can consider studying statistics, biomedical engineering, medical sciences, or biological sciences to improve your medical knowledge. Gaining admission to these programs is similar to most PhD program, in that you will need to supply an application along with exam scores, transcripts, and other forms of recommendation for the program.