Is there a difference between a medical writer and a medical technical writer, you ask?
We use both terms for writing that communicates health and medical information to a particular audience.
Medical technical writing aims to share medical ideas and concepts in a more rigorously scientific way. However, the overarching goal is to develop, write and edit materials on medicine, science, and health.
To become a medical technical writer, you need to have a foundational understanding of life sciences, health care, and awareness of ethical standards.
The world of healthcare needs brilliant medical and health communicators. Let’s see how you can contribute to the field.
Technical Writing in the Medical Field
Medical technical writing is a broader concept, which implies documenting and writing healthcare and medicine-related documents.
This may include marketing copy, educational materials, and articles. The professionals who excel at and write such content can claim to be medical technical writers.
Is medical writing in demand?
The demand for medical technical writers is on the way up! There is a constant need to convey new or updated details and information to health care professionals and the public.
Most often, medical writers work in collaboration with doctors, subject experts, or even scientists to develop documents or content that explains research results, products usage, or other medical information.
What can you write about as a medical technical writer?
- User manuals for various equipment and software
- Continuing education materials for professionals in the health care industry
- Pharmaceutical products use related documents
- Scientific articles
- White papers
- Patient education materials that include news articles, website content, brochures, books for lay readers
- Health care policy documents
- Training, sales, and marketing content for healthcare and pharmaceutical products
- Regulatory documents for government agencies
Where can you get a job as a medical technical writer?
Several employers are ready to offer positions for medical writers. Some of them include:
- Marketing, communications, or advertising agencies
- Authors or investigators
- Professional health care societies or associations
- Contract research organizations (CROs)
- Government agencies
- Medical book publishers
- Trade journals for health care professionals
- Medical schools or universities
- Medical device companies
- Pharmaceutical companies
- News outlets for medical/health news
- Test preparation and review centers
- Health care organizations or providers
How to become a medical technical writer
The writing industry pays extremely well, and there are no two ways about it. No doubt medical writing is not a new field, but it’s still growing by leaps and bounds.
Did you know, as per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, technical writers earn an average salary of $69,850 annually (or $33 per hour)?
If you choose to become a medical technical writer and want to make it your profession, let me tell you how you can set off on this journey.
1. Get a college degree in a medicine-related field
a. Get your bachelor’s degree in a relevant scientific field
To write medical technical articles and other materials, you need to have a solid understanding and specialized skill set to enter the medical world.
Most employers are looking to hire writers who have a degree in life sciences or a related field, such as statistics. Getting a bachelor’s degree is a good beginning, but you can study for a higher qualification if you have the resources.
b. Complete a master’s degree
To increase your depth of knowledge, get a master’s degree in life sciences, if possible. And if you have the time and money, opt for a Ph.D. which will further broaden your horizons.
c. Look for specialized learning opportunities
Some schools offer focused post-doctoral degrees in medical writing. If you want to pursue further specializations, do your research, and look for such courses.
2. Build the required skills
a. Be a specialist in a medical field that is at the niche stage
Medical writers usually write for highly specialized areas. However, there will be employers who would want you to specialize in a particular area of knowledge.
There will be others like the academic journals, where you’re expected to possess general knowledge in life sciences and have specific skill sets. For example, you could write for physicians who specialize in pediatrics or psychiatry.
b. Be aware of the medical technologies and know your software
Become tech-savvy if you want to be a medical technical writer. Software that has to do with building graphs, charts, and other features is something you should be well-versed in.
Your research skills should be top-notch as you will have to hunt for articles and information across specialized online databases.
c. Be aware of the guidelines and protocols related to the medical field
If you plan to write for a pharmaceutical company, follow the guidelines given by the FDA or Federal Drug Administration.
Similarly, for developing any materials related to the medical field, you will need to be acquainted with varied guidelines and master terminologies specific to the medical world.
d. Pursue an AMWA certification
To become a medical technical writer, you will usually need a certification from the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA).
To be eligible for the certification, you will require a minimum of two years of experience in the medical communications field.
Not just that, you will also have to sit for the Medical Writing Certification Examination. You also have the option to enroll in the AMWA Essential Skills (E.S.) certificate program, which usually costs somewhere between $975 to $1,275.
The best part is the AMWA website has several resources that will help you prepare for the exam, for example, the Medical Writing Certification Examination Content Outline.
3. Get a medical writing job
a. Take membership of AMWA and network
The American Medical Writers Association has a detailed website that is filled with multiple career opportunities and job postings.
Become a member of this association to find a job easily. AMWA also conducts annual conferences and meetings that will provide you with the chance to network with various companies that require medical writers.
b. Have prior work experience
To become a skilled and professional medical writer, relevant work experience in the medical field is a must.
You could become a medical researcher or work as a lab assistant before transitioning to the writing job.
c. Develop a good resume and interesting cover letter focused on medical writing jobs
The prior experience I talked about above will only strengthen your CV. Also, write a powerful cover letter when you start to look for writing jobs.
This letter should highlight your skills, and you should be able to relate such skills to the role you apply for.
Medical technical writers play a vital role in passing across information and details that are crucial for our health and that focus on our overall well-being.
It’s an essential service that’s focused on disseminating crucial healthcare-related information that can potentially save lives and improve the well-being of thousands of people.
I applaud your commitment to becoming a medical technical writer. As you can see, it’s not an easy task. But with some persistence and determination, you can become the next superstar in the field. Good luck.