Medical writers are technical writers who specialize in the field of medicine. They excel at taking complex technical information and turning it into easily understandable text. A medical writer can work in a number of industries and fill a wide range of roles. With growth in the health sector outpacing nearly all other sectors, health care becoming ever more complex and new technology constantly being introduced, the demand for proficient medical writers is also expanding.
Medical writers may write for a general audience or for medical professionals. They must be able to distill complex technical information and ideas into clear, jargon-free, easy to understand prose for professionals and non-professionals alike. Accuracy and clarity are paramount.
What Does a Medical Writer Do?
Medical writers commonly work for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. They can also find employment with hospitals and other health care providers. As journalists, medical writers can write for newspapers, general interest periodicals and trade publications. In the education field, they may work for medical and health care book publishers, medical education companies and academic institutions.
According to the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA), the largest employers of medical writers are pharmaceutical and biotech companies, contract research organizations (CROs) and the communication and advertising industries.
Medical writers are indispensable to the pharmaceutical industry, where their skills are often applied to regulatory and educational writing. Regulatory medical writing involves producing write-ups for clinical trials and other highly technical documentation for submission to agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which oversees the approval of new drugs. Educational medical writing includes materials directed at consumers as well as literature for introducing new products to doctors and nurses.
Medical writers can also work as journalists, covering the rapid and dramatic changes in health care policy, technology and economics for national and local news outlets.
What Does a Medical Writer Write?
Spanning both digital and analog media, medical writers may work in a variety of formats including traditional print media, online publications, multimedia presentations, videos, podcasts, websites and social media platforms.
Some of the documents and texts that may be produced include ad copy for pharmaceuticals, devices and other products; continuing medical education materials; grant proposals; policy documents; health education materials; magazine and newspaper articles; medical books; medical and scientific journal articles; regulatory documents and white papers.
How Can a Medical Writer Support Quality Improvement?
A medical writer can also play a key role in furthering a health care provider’s quality improvement efforts. This can be accomplished by making sure every step is clearly documented and communicated. They can synthesize multiple documents, data and research, and reframe it into a clear, visual presentation. They can also create the handbook that is used for implementation. Having a medical writer articulate the process and mission can help keep quality improvements on track and win buy-in from stakeholders.
The Salary of a Medical Writer
What can a medical writer expect to be paid? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2018 the median annual salary for technical writers in the professional, scientific and technical services industries was $72,900. The BLS also notes that the increasing demand for complex medical and scientific information will continue to create job opportunities for such writers. Employment in the field is projected to grow 8% from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.
The 2019 salary survey from the American Medical Writers Association found the median medical writer salary to be substantially higher, at $107,000 for full-time employees and $151,000 for freelance professionals.
Factors That Affect a Medical Writer’s Salary
Factors that affect the salary of a medical writer include company size, with large companies generally paying better than small ones; type of employer, with government agencies paying the lowest and biotech companies the highest; and location, with higher salaries being paid by cities with a high cost of living. Entry-level employees, on average, earn about $40,000 less per year than those with seniority and management duties.
The Fundamental Skills of Medical Writing
In addition to advanced written and verbal communication skills, medical writers must have a solid grounding in science as well as excellent research and analytical skills. They should be logical, organized and detail-oriented. They should be intellectually curious and have high ethical standards. A background in a medical field can be helpful, but is not necessary, as long as the writer is willing to research and learn. A medical writer should be able to read and interpret data and statistics. Those writing regulatory documents must have a fundamental knowledge of the relevant guidelines and regulations.
The Rider University online Master of Arts in Health Communication program is designed to equip graduates with the skills to excel in health communication roles like medical writing as well as to pursue relevant opportunities in public relations, advertising, marketing and advocacy. Among other key competencies, the program teaches students to create and execute health communication campaigns and promote health literacy and education.
Discover the Exciting Field of Medical Writing
There is a growing need for medical writers in both the public and private sectors. Researchers, doctors, pharmaceutical and biotech companies and industry policymakers need communication professionals who understand their field and can articulate and disseminate their work in clear and engaging prose.
Find out how the Rider University Master of Arts in Health Communication can help set you on the path to a rewarding career as a medical writer.