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What does a Medical Writer do- and how can you become one?

Posted on: 19 Nov

Do you have a way with words? Do you enjoy expressing yourself through writing- and do you also have a deep-seated interest in the medical industry?

Then a career as a Medical Writer might be right for you. Responsible for working closely with doctors, scientists, and other people in the Medical and Pharmaceutical profession, a Medical Writer curates a vast array of content that can cover patient information sheets, medical reports, clinical study reports and even regulatory submissions. The sector is incredibly diverse, demand for skilled writers is high, and the pay is generous; for those who want to get involved in marketing, coding or law, there are spaces for you. 

With the UK Pharmaceutical market estimated to grow to $43bn in size by 2020, there’s never been a better time for you to make that career change and become a Medical Writer within the industry. But what do you need to know about starting off and finding your first job?

Here are some steps for doing just that.

Decide what to aim for

There are several career paths you can pursue as a Medical Writer: the question is finding the one that suits you best.

There are three main avenues you can go down: 

- Regulatory Medical Writing, where you’ll be writing documents that are part of the development process for medical drugs or devices. This could take the form of clinical trial study reports, marketing applications or regulatory documents regarding the release of the drug. It’s fast-paced and you’ll be working at the cutting edge of the latest pharmaceutical developments; however, you’ll need a good knowledge of the law, and of medical regulations, before you start.

- Medical Communications Writing, which is normally conducted by an agency that hires out its services to Pharmaceutical companies. Here, you’ll be doing everything from writing about legal and regulatory documentation to tackling marketing and advertisements for the latest drugs. A large part of it will be information dissemination, writing documents that inform doctors and patients about the latest drug or device and how to use it.

- A smaller industry, but no less important, is that of Translation. Put your language skills to use as a highly sought-after Medical Writer translating clinical and scientific documents into different languages.

Get qualified

To become a Medical Writer, you need to have a fairly comprehensive knowledge of your chosen field, especially given that you’re going to be writing important documents about it. For some roles, you’ll most likely be expected to achieve a PhD or Master’s in Life Sciences, Biology or Chemistry, though some people have progressed to Medical Writing after a Master’s in Technical Writing. However, you will able to get editorial roles with less industry experience, and fewer credentials, such as a degree in English Literature.

However, you won’t get anywhere without the right experience, so focus on that, too: build up a portfolio of writing jobs, or offer to take on Medical Writing jobs for free, so you can prove yourself as a writer or an editor to the people that matter. Whether that’s writing a column about the health industry, or copy-writing for different companies, having experience will get you noticed, and ultimately get you clients.

Network

There are plenty of communities within Medical Writing that will help you forge new connections and learn more about the industry. For instance, the Council of Science Editors comprises a group of Medical Writers whose website holds information on everything from training courses to relevant publications. The European Medical Writers Association does much the same, supporting and training medical communications professionals in Europe. They’re both great sources of information, and a good way to connect with others- as is Health Writer Hub. You should also make the effort to go to events and reach out to people in the same network as you: there are plenty of Medical Writing groups on LinkedIn, too, if you want to swap ideas with others within the industry. 

Immerse yourself 

Do your research. Find out everything you can about the field, so you can prepare yourself for a career within the sector. Get to grips with PubMed, which is a key source of information for Medical Writers, and research the medical and Pharmaceutical industry to get a better idea of the state of the industry and the new products that are coming onto the market. Read high-level medical publications and magazine ones; start familiarising yourself with the style and the language used in different articles and documents. The more you know, the better you’ll be prepared to pursue a career in Medical Writing- or editing- and hit the ground running. 

Go further with IQVIA CSMS

Looking to take your first steps into the world of Medical Writing? We can help. Our years of expertise in medical recruitment means that we’re perfectly placed to connect you with your first job. Browse our opportunities for Medical Writers here.