Yes, there are different types of medical writers.
When people tell me they want to become a medical writer, I usually respond with, “Which kind?”
And then, of course, the blank stares ensue.
Each type of medical writer needs to know how to write different types of documents and will pull on different skill sets to become successful at their jobs. And since this is a rapidly growing field, I suspect that as the years go by, medical writer roles will become even more diverse. In the meantime, however, you will generally find medical writer roles divided into the five broad categories I discuss in this post.
Let’s talk about the five different types of medical writers.
5 Types of Medical Writers
Regulatory Medical Writer
Regulatory medical writers primarily work in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry. Medications and medical devices that may be used in human health care need to be approved by governmental regulatory bodies in a country or region.
In the United States, that body is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
For medications and medical devices to be approved, crucial documents need to be submitted to these regulatory bodies for review. Throughout the clinical trial process where drugs and medical device companies test the safety and efficacy of their producs. There are various documents and study reports that need to be written and submitted.
This is where regulatory medical writers come in.
Their specific scope of responsibility may differ depending on the company, but in general, this is what regulatory medical writers do.
Marketing Medical Writer
Medical writers who work in a marketing role are responsible for writing marketing material that allows companies to sell their products. They may write documents like application notes, white papers, email marketing content, social media content, eBooks, and case studies.
Some medical writers in marketing may also be responsible for writing press releases and public relations (PR) material for their companies.
They may be involved in writing and designing PowerPoint presentations for other members of their team present.
As their career advances, a marketing medical writer may also be responsible for designing and coming up with content marketing strategies for their companies.
Medical Writer in Educational Publishing
If you enjoy teaching and education, then becoming a writer in the medical education publishing space might appeal to you.
Medical writers in educational publishing may work on:
- Continuing medical education material that allows professionals in health professions to become and/or stay certified. This might include test material, PowerPoint presentations, eBooks, and physical books.
- Textbook material for students in medical/health-related professions
- Editing material that has already been written for scientific accuracy
Technical Medical Writers
Technical medical writers may work on documents like manuals, protocols, and technical eBooks that focus on how a technology is used in specific applications.
This type of medical writer can work in a range of industry settings.
Side note: Let me say this before I continue: if you don’t have a journalist friend, get a journalist friend! My first gig as a medical writer was within an agency. My boss and one of the team members had degrees in journalism and their critiques made me a better writer.
While you may not need a degree in journalism to work as a health or medical journalist, knowing what it takes to interview sources, cite said sources, and write accurate, unbiased reports will be crucial.
An example of a website that does health journalism well is STATNews.
Why This Matters
It matters to know the different types of medical writer roles out there. It will help you be prepared for potential interviews.
Medical writing is not a profession you “throw your resume” at. It also doesn’t necessarily place a premium on the type of degree you have. I have had highly qualified people ask me why they are not getting medical writer roles.
If you’ve been applying for medical writer roles and hearing crickets, I want to take a minute to breathe. It’s not that you’re not qualified. It’s that you may not be clearly communicating that you understand the needs of the company. Now, I want you to decide which type of medical writing you’re interested in based on the list above.
Next, I want you to go find some job descriptions for the term “medical writer” and read them.
You will find that the requirements for a regulatory writer differ from those for a health journalist role. Yes, they are all writing roles but they require different skill sets because you’ll be writing different types of documents.
And in this job, you must communicate to your potential employer that you have the exact skill set they are looking for.