How do you become a medical writer?
While academic institutions like UCSD and the University of Chicago offer courses and certifications in medical writing, the details on how to become a medical writer can sometimes feel like a mystery.
At least, that is how I felt when I was trying to start my medical writing career.
With a few years of experience under my belt now, I have learned that applying the advice I share in this post can take you from crickets on your medical writer applications, to at the very least, landing an interview with a company interested in hiring you as a medical writer.
Ready to hear it? Let’s get right into it.
Think about the kind of medical writing you want to do.
Yes, there are different types of medical writing roles and while some aspects of these different roles may overlap, what you’re required to know for each type of medical writing is different. The types of documents and content assets you would b
Thus, it’s crucial that you know exactly which type of medical writing role you want to get into.
The video below provides an overview of 4 general types of medical writing.
Another type of writing that in my opinion not mentioned in the video is health journalism.
Study the different kinds of documents.
As I mentioned above, there are different types of medical writer roles which also means that in these different writer roles, you will need to know how to write different documents.
Regulatory writers will have to know how to prepare and write documents that will be submitted to regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or other agencies internationally.
Writers who work in marketing may need to be conversant with search engine optimization (SEO), analyzing buyer’s journeys, performing SWOT analyses for competitor products as well as writing various types of marketing assets including blog content, case studies, and social media content.
Medical writers working in education or publishing may prepare educational slides and write textbook content or testing material.
These are all different document types that depend on different skill sets. Thus, as you apply for jobs, be aware of the types of documents you may be required to write in a role. If you’re unfamiliar with a particular type of document, research it. Study how it is written, the tone of language used, how the document is laid out, and the purpose of the document.
Knowing this will prepare you immensely when you have to interview.
Practice writing a document (or two).
Now that you’ve studied these documents, how about you try writing one or two of them?
If you’re interested in becoming a medical writer in marketing, write a case study or blog post.
Not only will you build up your confidence by practicing how to write the types of documents you will tackle in medical writing, but you can actually add this to your very own portfolio that you can showcase to potential employers as you begin to apply for roles.
Tailor your resume for specific roles.
Now that you laid the groundwork, it is time for you to tailor your resume to specific jobs.
If you listened to career advice this last decade, then you have probably heard this often! While it sounds like a cliche, I want to emphasize that it is not. One job opening can receive hundreds, if not thousands of applications.
And often, (I know this for a fact), people simply throw generic resumes and applications at these job openings hoping something will stick. Doing this will only lead to frustration.
Writing is serious work. Medical writing is serious work. If you want to break into this career path – regardless of the type of medical writing you want to do – it’s important to be intentional about your resume as well.
If the job application is advertising for a regulatory medical writer, highlight the facets of your experience that make you best suited for that role. Same for any other type of medical writing.
Now, usually, it is at this point that somebody asks me, “But I wrote publications during my Ph.D./PharmD/MD? Don’t those count?”
While publications in peer-reviewed journals are important, if your job doesn’t primarily revolve around writing journal manuscripts, I’m sorry to say that this will not cut it.
- Those are not the types of documents they need a writer for.
- You have several publications. So do many other applicants. What makes YOU different?
So you can highlight this but speak to what the job description is asking you for. Demonstrate that you can write the specific types of documents they need, know the industry lingo, and can be the writer they need.