Blog 3: So that medical writing sounds interesting. I think I might give it a try.

You totally should. Here are some things to think about before you do.

How do you become a medical writer?

There aren’t any specific courses or qualifications you need to do to become a medical writer. You just need to be able to write, have a medical or scientific background and a desire to spend hours staring at a screen, rather than down a microscope.

However, I would definitely recommend doing some kind of professional writing course. I did a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing at TAFE. I thought I could write pretty well before I started it, but what the course first taught me was that actually, no, I couldn’t. Professional, technical writing is a skill like any other that can be practised and developed. Believe me when I tell you that you have to be taught it. You might also find it helpful to learn or refresh your grammar and punctuation skills.

You also can’t be precious about your writing. Sometimes I write words and I’m shaking my head as I do so, but they’re the best words I can come up with before the deadline so they have to do. Other times, a client will want a phrase or wording changed for political or legal reasons, and I just have to do it (unless, of course, the change is inaccurate). I have a philosophical approach to my medical writing, which is to write the best material I can within the limits of time and client whims. I save my perfectionism for my creative writing.

Where do you find work as a medical writer?

The Australian Science Communicators

The Australian Science Communicators

Hmm, good question. Many medical writers work for themselves as freelancers. Very few companies I think have an ongoing need for writers – the work tends to be project-based and therefore one-off. The companies that do employ a lot of medical writers are pharmaceutical companies. They need writers to write their clinical manuals for the huge trials they conduct, and to write all the papers they’re required to publish when the trials are over. Other possibilities are agencies whose specialty is health promotion, or the government.

If you want more information, a good place to start is the Australian Medical Writers Association. There’s also the Australian Science Communicators.

 

If you have any other questions on medical writing as a career, you can contact Sarah via members connect in the members area of the FW website.

Happy writing!

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