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Medical Writer - Overview of Medical Writing Careers

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Overview of Medical Writing:

Working as a medical writer is another option for professionals who are seeking a non-clinical job in the healthcare industry. Medical writers cover a variety of topics and often write about medical research, regulatory affairs, or general medical knowledge. Medical writing is used for a variety of media such as medical textbooks, marketing brochures or advertising, product packaging, white papers, healthcare websites, or even writing for on-hold messaging scripts.

Work Setting for Medical Writers:

Medical writers work for a variety of healthcare industry employers including pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, publishing companies of medical textbooks, government healthcare institutions, and more. Some medical writers work as freelancers or contractors as opposed to being a full-time employee of any one medical company. Freelancing is common for writing jobs, because many healthcare corporations and facilities have needs for content or copy that is project based, to roll out a new product, market an event, or some other type of project. Writers may work in an office setting or home office.

Compensation and Demand for Medical Writers:

Sue Hudson, immediate past president of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) states "The need for qualified medical writers continues to grow as scientific innovation continues and people become increasingly interested in learning more about their own health."

Because healthcare is a relatively recession-resistant industry, demand for medical writers remains strong. Therefore, compensation is competitive. In 2007 (the most recent data available) salaries for medical writers averaged at $82,232, according to AMWA. Experienced writers, or highly educated ones (PhD, MD, etc) can earn over $100,000 annually.

Educational Requirements for Medical Writers:

Medical writers should have at least a bachelor’s degree, while most have a master’s degree or higher level of education. It’s helpful to have a degree in a life science or communications/journalism field, but not necessarily required.

Skill Requirements for Medical Writers:

Obviously, writing skills are a must for this job. A medical writer must be able to write scientifically accurate, grammatically correct copy, and do so on a deadline. Therefore, time management skills are also important so that the writer can manage numerous projects in a timely manner.

Also, understanding the audience and requirements of each writing assignment and adapting the writing style, tone, and “voice” of the work are important as well.

Therefore, writers should also have excellent communication skills in all areas, in addition to writing, such as speaking, listening, negotiating, and comprehension.

In addition to writing skills and communication skills, medical writers may have to be able to create story ideas, depending upon the type of writing job you have.

Editing and proofreading are also important skills. Medical knowledge, especially medical terminology, is also very helpful, and required for most medical writing jobs.

Where to Look for Medical Writing Jobs:

Medical job boards, or freelancing job boards may offer medical writing jobs. Also, if you go directly to company websites of companies in the medical industry, you may find medical writing jobs posted there. Medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and biotech firms often need medical writers. Additionally, professional writing associations, networks, and groups, including online networks, may post jobs for medical writers. There are several groups on LinkedIn, and on Facebook, for example, for writers.

Employers of Medical Writers:

Melanie Ross, a medical writer and spokesperson for the American Medical Writers' Association (AMWA), states "Medical communicators work in many types of organizations. Some people specialize in technical, medical and scientific writing and/or editing for medical professionals. Others work in medical marketing, advertising, or public relations, or in journalism, writing for a lay audience and/or medical professionals."

She shared that some common employers and clients of medical writers include professional associations, research organizations, media (magazines, TV/radio stations, newspapers, internet companies), medical journals, and universities, among others. Medical facilities, managed care companies, pharmaceutical companies, and medical communication companies also need medical writers.
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