I Want to Work in .... Science Writing and Medical Communications
INCLUDING TECHNICAL AUTHOR AND SCIENCE PUBLISHING CAREERS
PROFILE: Technical Author/Science Writer
INVOLVES: Producing manuals & literature in paper or electronic form, for products from cars to computer software. Writing documents in a lucid style so that users can easily understand them. Arranging for translation into other languages. Liaising with printers. Indexing & cataloguing.
- Written communication
- Attention to detail
- Ability to meet tight deadlines
- Good computing skills
- Language skills are useful
These have to write protocols, clinical trials reports, and patient information for the pharmaceutical industry regulatory authorities. They also have to write, design and develop marketing literature for medical sales representatives, posters and presentations for conferences. They are involved in the design of training and learning resources and articles for journals. You may get the chance to attend conferences in the UK and abroad. Salaries can be very good.
What skills will they be looking for?
They are currently in demand. Many writers have a PhD. It is an excellent career move for a postdoctoral research assistant who is not able to obtain a permanent contract. You can get in with just a BSc in the life sciences, but would need to have good evidence of relevant skills, for example writing regularly for the student newspaper and other publications (even writing a blog), organising events for student societies or fluency in a second European language.
Jobs are available with pharmaceutical companies, contract research organisations and medical communications agencies (see below). There are often jobs in Europe for experienced technical writers whose native language is English.
Medical Communications Agencies
These are the main employers of medical writers, they are also called medical education or MedComms agencies. Their main role is to produce materials for medical professionals about healthcare innovations such as the benefits of a new treatment. Writers may get involved in the documentation of clinical trials, public relations, conference presentations, materials for exhibition stands, regulatory affairs, and advertising. There are also jobs for events managers who would not necessarily need a science background, just evidence of excellent organising abilities and an ability to stay calm under pressure. A science PhD is often needed for entering these jobs.
- Adelphi Communications www.adelphigroup.com medical communications company with a graduate scheme
- ID Search & Selection www.id-ss.com recruitment agency specialising in medical communications placements. Have opportunities for new graduates and are happy to provide careers advice and information.
- Ash Healthcare www.ashcommunications.com offer internships for a minimum of 3 months.
- Choice Pharma www.choicepharma.com medical consultancy, regulatory affairs and medical communications
- Complete Medical Group www.complete-grp.com/cmg/workforus.aspx medical communications agency
- Fresh Connect www.fresh-connect.co.uk place science graduates in their first roles on a regular basis. Recruit for a broad range of roles which are suitable for science grads, including medical communications positions, medical writing roles, editing, healthcare & PR opportunities
- KnowledgePoint360 www.kp360group.com healthcare communications
- Oxford Pharmagenesis www.pharmagenesis.com medical communications consultancy
- Scope Medical www.scopemedical.com healthcare communications in Sevenoaks, Kent
- Succinct Healthcare www.succinctcomms.com medical education
- UBC Envision Group www.envisionpharma.com/information/careers
- Watermeadow Medical www.watermeadowmedical.com/careers medical communications agency
- inScience Communications www.insciencecommunications.com (Springer Healthcare) medical communications
- NonStop Pharma Recruitment www.nonstop-pharma.com medical communications recruitment consultancy
- Paramount Recruitment www.paramountrecruitment.co.uk medical communications recruitment consultancy
- Zenopa Recruitment www.zenopa.com medical writing recruitment consultancy
2011 Report: New skills and ways of working in healthcare comms
Scientific Writing and Publishing
A number of organisations , such as Harcourt and the Royal Society of Chemistry (see below) recruit graduates for this. You need to be an excellent communicator and team workers comfortable with making decisions, organised and able to work under pressure. Other essential qualities include excellent English and a keen eye for detail. Increasingly much of the work is on-line and publications in electronic format rather than on paper.
First you need to produce a good CV. This would be a hybrid of the science CV and the creative/media CVs in our CV examples
Grammar and spelling are extremely important in this work, so check your CV thoroughly! A good style and layout would also help.
Your covering letter would need to show evidence of a lively and fluent writing style.
Many of the web sites on this page will regularly advertise vacancies or you can send a speculative CV and letter direct to the companies, asking to be considered for vacancies that arise.
You may be given a subbing or writing test to test your writing and editing skills.
See our science interview page for help with interview skills.
Organisations such as Network Pharma run scientific careers events where you can meet agencies recruiting medical writers.
- The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) www.rsc.org is a major publisher of books and journals such as ChemComm, The Analyst, PCCP, Chem Soc Reviews and J Materials Chem.
Graduate vacancies in Publishing: a graduate development scheme within the Publishing Division. This provides foundation training in the Publishing field, working as either a technical or assistant editor and an insight into the different areas of publishing, including marketing and sales, editorial and production. You work in a team with editors with day to day challenges and responsibilities. You need a good honours or masters degree or PhD in a Chemical or related science such as biochemistry or forensic science. Further information is at
As well as on the job training you will join our graduate development programme. Our graduate development programme incorporates core training around areas such as understanding the RSC and our expectations of you, professionalism, managing performance and business skills We also offer a number of electives that have been designed to support individual development e.g. networking, project management, assertiveness. Additionally you will be offered a mentor in your first year here. If you have a good honours, masters or PhD degree then we want to hear from you. (A degree in a chemical or related science is essential for some positions). Benefits include a starting salary of £22,914, pension scheme, free life assurance and private health insurance. Roles are based in Cambridge (relocation support may be provided). We are usually looking for people to be available to work within the next 6 months. We do not have one intake for graduates and will look to start anyone sucessful through our application process as soon as possible. To apply you need to email the graduate application form to HR. If you are sucessful at this stage you will be invited to an assessment centre where you will get the opportunity to find out more about the RSC.
- Informa www.informa.com provider of specialist information to the global academic & scientific and professional communities via publishing, events and performance improvement.
- BioMed Central www.biomedcentral.com London based science open-access publishing house. Covers biology, medicine, chemistry and physics and will soon enter maths and computer science publishing. Have opportunities for summer jobs and sandwich year placements plus permanent roles in science publishing, but also marketing and web development. See www.biomedcentral.com/info/about/bmcjobs for vacancies.
- Thomson Reuters Scientific http://science.thomsonreuters.com scientific and patent information.
- Future Science Group www.future-science-group.com group of independent science publishing companies that recruit assistant editors in life sciences and chemistry. Also offer work experience placements to undergraduates
- Quintiles Innovex www.quintiles.com/careers pharmaceutical information and services company.
- Source Healthcare Analytics www.sourceha.com
- Wells Healthcare www.wellshealthcare.com recruits medical writers. Based in Kent.
- Write Authors www.writeauthors.co.uk recruitment agency specialising in the supply of permanent and contract technical authors, technical writers, copywriters and copy editors.
- Elsevier Science and Health www.elsevier.com academic publishers
- European Medical Writers Association www.emwa.org advertises jobs on the web site.
- Jobs in the Academic Community www.jobs.ac.uk occasional vacancies for science writers.
- New Scientist www.newscientistjobs.com quite often has vacancies for science writers.
- Scientific Recruitment Agencies www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sitephar.htm#ScientificRecAgencies
- Comprehensive list of UK organisations employing science writers
Nina ‐ Science Writer (Microbiology degree). Graduate Career Story from HECSU
How did you become a science writer?
‘When I finished university I temped for a couple of months before travelling to Brazil to work as an intern in a microbiology laboratory (a family contact found the post for me). I spent seven months in Brazil working on a research project investigating tuberculosis and then returned to the UK. I then applied to be a bio safety microbiologist for a public body, where I did some research into the transmission of disease, coughs and sneezes. After I had been doing the job for a while I was invited to get involved in writing some literature reviews. I hadn’t really done any writing before, but I really enjoyed it so when the opportunity to go on secondment as a science writer came up my boss put me forward for the role. After six months the organisation decided to make the position permanent and I become a full‐time science writer. In my current role I coordinate funding proposals, write concept papers and help scientists to write editorial for publications. I’ve been doing this job for about ten months now and am really enjoying it, although in the future I’d like to combine my writing with some project management as well.’
How have you drawn on the experience you gained at university in your subsequent work?
‘Obviously having a background in microbiology is very important. I don’t really use any of my lab skills, but having a basic knowledge of the techniques is very useful. Participating in seminars, giving presentations and writing essays stood me in good stead when it came to writing for publications and presenting at conferences.’
Do you have any careers advice for the students who graduated this year?
‘Don’t rest on your laurels in your holidays – it’s the perfect time to get experience. Consider volunteer work if you can’t get paid work (I wasn’t paid in Brazil). Do something to broaden your CV – whether that’s learning a language or undertaking further training. It’ll all help when you’re applying for jobs and you never know who you might meet or who can help you. Unfortunately when you’re applying for jobs a good degree isn’t usually enough – you need to have something interesting to say. When I first graduated I really didn’t have much to say about myself until I went travelling. Taking myself out of my comfort zone gave me the confidence I needed to apply for jobs and answer interview questions. My key tip is to look at online application forms or interview questions for the roles you might be interested in, and if you can’t think of a good example to demonstrate your ability to meet the criteria make sure you go and do something that will enable you to!’
Graduate Career Story from HECSU
- Healthcare Communications Association (HCA) www.hca-uk.org
- From academic to medical writer www.medcommsnetworking.co.uk/startingout superb guide to becoming a medical writer
- Article by Heather Harrison "A career in medical writing" www.bobgammon.com/articles/articles_item.asp?id=22
- Brilliant article from the Guardian on how NOT to do science journalism
- European Medical Writers Association www.emwa.org
- International Society for Medical Publication Professionals www.ismpp.org
- MedComms Networking www.medcommsnetworking.co.uk
- European Association of Science Editors www.ease.org.uk
- Association of British Science Writers www.absw.org.uk Has a downloadable guide "So you want to be a science writer?" which has info on routes in, postgraduate courses etc. 8 Welcome Trust-ABSW Bursaries worth £10,000 are normally available each year for science graduates to train as journalists or in science communication.
- Science Careers http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org
- Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) www.abpi.org.uk trade association for more than 70 companies in the UK producing prescription medicines.
- MSc in Science, Communication and Society University of Kent www.kent.ac.uk/bio/communication/sc for graduates intending to pursue a career in media, education, policy or other communicational area of science.
- See also our Publishing and Journalism pages.
Also see our Journalism and Writing page and our Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs page
Last fully updated 2012