Is Medical Writing for you?

So you want to be a Medical Writer?

There are a few different types of medical writing, but here we are focusing on agency medical education and marketing writing.

It can take over 10 years and cost over £2 Billion to get a drug to market. The journey to market can be very stop-start with the requirement for varying levels of support throughout the process. This is why many pharmaceutical and life science organisations outsource their medical writing needs to specialised medical communications agencies, as it provides them with a flexible and cost-effective resource option for the creation and development of medical education and marketing collateral.

If you want to use your scientific or medical background in a position where you can make a direct difference to patient outcomes and have plenty of opportunities for professional and personal development, medical writing could be the right choice for you.

What is medical writing?

In general, it is the use of scientific knowledge and language to educate healthcare professionals, patients and other stakeholders about new medicines and therapies. Medical Writers are required to present often complex scientific information aimed at a specific target audience. The materials they produce are as diverse as their audience, and can include writing manuscripts for biomedical journals, preparing slide kits and posters for scientific conferences, or designing leaflets and brochures. The use of technology is becoming more prevalent in healthcare, which has opened up more opportunities for creative work such as application and website content development. For a more comprehensive list of the variety of materials that a Medical Writer may produce, see Appendix 1.

However, it should be noted that the role of a Medical Writer is not limited to writing; they have a diverse role that includes building relationships with clients and key opinion leaders, managing the delivery of assigned projects, supervising less experienced colleagues and reviewing and editing other writers’ work. In addition, there are likely to be opportunities to travel, either providing onsite support to clients at meetings and conferences or attending client meetings or pitches. Joining a medical communications agency will give you a very diverse and dynamic work experience!

The demand for experienced medical marketing writers is at an all-time high, so once you have established yourself as an agency experienced writer there are plenty of opportunities for professional progression and personal development. There are several different career paths to follow; you can choose to concentrate on writing, move into editorial management, or take on client facing responsibilities. Progression and promotion can be rapid and is usually dependent on your contribution rather than the time you have worked at the agency.

What do I need to become a Medical Writer?

Generally you will require a very good life science degree, but an MSc or PhD is preferred. This scientific background offers the agency candidates with an understanding of scientific concepts, terminology and data analysis. Those with higher degrees will have usually already written scientific papers, posters and other materials and so have a good foundation to build on. Your writing experience to date may be mostly in an academic setting, but if you have any additional writing experience, such as writing a blog or contributing to a publication, agencies would look upon it favourably.

To succeed as a medical writer you will need to have the skill to write in a clear and concise manner whilst keeping your audience in mind. Agencies are looking for people with exceptional attention to detail, the ability to interpret complex data and the flair to present their findings in flowing text and narrative.

So if you enjoyed writing your thesis, manuscript or poster presentation as a student, have excellent research skills and are keen to learn new things, medical writing could be the right career for you. It will be a steep learning curve, but will offer you a career where you can use your scientific knowledge and skills, and where no day is ever the same!

If you would like to explore entry level medical writing opportunities further call one of our experienced consultants on 01932 797999.

Appendix 1

Manuscripts,  reviews, abstracts, monographs, posters, slide decks, speaker notes, training materials, patient information leaflets, disease awareness campaigns, newsletters, web/app content, conference reporting, internal communications, scripts, brochures, detail aids