How to Become a Medical Writer without Experience

Updated on May 31st, 2022

Are you wondering how to become a medical writer? Then, this is a great article for you.

Becoming a writer in the healthcare industry is a flexible and rewarding job where you offer medical writing services to appropriate target audiences, such as patients, healthcare professionals, and the general public, to achieve certain objectives. Medical writers work for government agencies and companies in the pharmaceutical industry to write, edit, or communicate on topics related to medicine and health. Some of the core responsibilities of health writers include:

  • Preparing, editing, and finalizing regulatory documents, protocols, and related clinical documents, such as posters, abstracts, presentations, and manuscripts.
  • Scheduling and conducting document-related meetings, including the preparation of meeting agendas, main data points for discussion, and post-meeting minutes.
  • Understanding the role and responsibilities within the team and aligning with them in the delivery of documents to meet project-related objectives. 
  • Collaborating with clinicians, scientists, and biostatisticians to interpret clinical study reports and ensure clinical study reports and statistical interpretations are clear in relevant documents.
  • Suggesting or identifying changes and improvements to the document preparation processes and templates to improve efficiency, quality, and productivity.
  • Creating and maintaining SOPs and work instructions for preparation and maintenance of compliant medical writing deliverables.
  • Completing scientific documents according to agreed-upon timelines and following up with the study team as required to meet timeline commitments and ensure SOPs and regulatory compliance.

How to Become a Medical Writer?

Medical writing is a new yet growing field. If you are considering the medical writing profession, you must know that it takes a number of steps to become a medical field professional. In this post, we offer you a step-by-step guide to becoming a competent medical writer. If you want to become one in the future, this guide is a great choice for you.

Get Qualified

All aspiring medical writers must have at least a Bachelor’s degree. However, there is no single universal degree intended for medical writers in particular. People enter into this career field with a scientific background or some other background and academic qualifications. In addition, it is beneficial for a medical writer to hold a Master’s degree in life sciences or a related field since a lot of employers prefer them. Many companies also seek medical writers with a Ph.D. in life sciences, chemistry, or biology.

Another great approach is to earn certifications to supplement your resume and boost your health writing skills. Universities, hospital education programs, and professional organizations also offer relevant certification courses. Most medical writers take best-valued courses through the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA), Drug Information Association (DIA), and the Medical Writing Certification Commission (MWCC).

The European Medical Writers Association (EMWA) runs courses for established and potential medical writers and hosts regular medical conferences also. Besides these, world-renowned universities, such as the University of Chicago and the University of California, San Diego, offer medical writing training and certification courses.

Build the Right Skills

The medical writing profession is enjoyable for numerous reasons, the most important of which is stimulation. The work is thought-provoking and demands a range of skills. If you are wondering of becoming a medical writer, you must know the variety of skills and proficiencies required to produce excellent work. So, here is a look at the important skills that employers look for in a medical writer that makes them stand out among the crowd:

Domain Knowledge

Besides knowing medical terminology, extensive knowledge of different therapeutic areas is also important. Having a thorough knowledge of life sciences and medical subjects is a mandate for a medical writer. Many employers seek expert medical writers with impeccable domain knowledge.

The knowledge of fundamental medicinal subjects establishes a strong foundation for medical writers to discuss crucial medical information with healthcare professionals, medical device marketers, and patients. Medical writers must know which companies are experiencing strong headwinds in the regulatory medical writing department, which technologies are transformational, etc. This is helpful in making regulatory documents targeted and suited for the intended audiences.

Analytical Skills

Medical writers must have the ability to read through several documents and understand them in a clear manner, which translates into intelligent and crisp reads. As a variety of medical and non-medical audiences read their content, they should have expertise in frequent data analysis, documentation analysis, industry analysis, and product analysis. They need to have conviction in their analytical skills, which make their deliverables great reads. Sharp analytical skills are the talent that separates the most effective medical writers from the rest.

Writing Skills

Communicating scientific information and producing documentation are the main tasks of a medical writer. Besides having excellent verbal communication, medical writers must master written communication also. You must have the ability to present the information in a clear way and at a level of understanding suitable to the target audience. Using correct grammar, simple and crisp sentences, appropriate punctuation marks, and a logical flow of ideas are quite helpful in making the information understandable to the readers. Also, to make the writing lucid, you must avoid using complex technical jargon for non-medical audiences.

Interpersonal Skills

Medical writers communicate with fellow writers, clients, and other stakeholders throughout the document writing process. Having strong interpersonal skills is vital in medical writing. You may need to communicate complex medical information in a way that is approachable and easy to comprehend. Effective communication skills also help medical writers to communicate deadlines and other important technical information and share ideas and solutions to problems at meetings with colleagues or clients.

Literature/Reference Search

An extensive amount of medical information is available to the public. In addition to books, medical journals, and academic journals, many databases are in use to source medical information. Searching through all the databases and websites for relevant information is above one’s head.

You must keep in mind what you are looking for, know where to search and select the authentic sources, plan your search strategy, use the right keywords to search, and perform the search as per the defined plan to bring up useful information. It is important for medical writers to know the right way of reviewing the search results to see if the information is relevant and of classifying and filing useful information for further retrieval.

Understanding Statistical Analysis

Medical writers working with medical research must have a basic understanding of statistics. Your job will include interpreting data from clinical studies, which uses a number of statistical methods. Having a basic familiarity with statistical tests and techniques is a plus.

Attention to Detail

When writing high-quality medical documents, the content must have the exact information, in addition to the little details to have precision. As a medical writer, you must write and review scientific documents for accuracy, consistency, terminology, style, readability, grammar, etc. Having good attention to detail helps you conduct effective research and ensure that everything a document contains is accurate.

An Aptitude for Technology

Similar to other modern careers, technology is crucial for the day-to-day operations of the medical writing team. In fact, professionals with technology experience are in demand. In particular, pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, and research organizations prefer those with document writing and management software experience. All these available solutions boost efficiency in the writing process, and the top medical writing teams use them.

The best word processing programs centralizes the entire process. They enable data collection and document creation and management. So, it is good to have significant experience in using Microsoft Office and/or Google Docs. Having some skills in different writing and editing solutions can help medical writers create scientific documents.

Project Management Skills

Good project management skills are vital to having the ability to plan and organize many steps needed to produce the final piece and manage the budget. Medical writers must have great project management skills as they have to jump among different content platforms.

They are also important to know the goals of all stakeholders in the project, keep track of due dates, organize your research and drafts, delegate tasks as needed, and juggle several projects at one time. Meeting these challenges involves effective project management techniques of planning, communicating, and managing at each phase of the project.

Time Management Skills

A successful medical writer is an expert at project prioritization and management. On many occasions, medical writers may have to work on multiple projects at one and the same time with tight deadlines. The ability to follow a strict timeline and avoid delays give great results as a result. The ever-changing work is advantageous, and those with motivation tend to thrive. So, it is important for medical writers to have time management skills as it helps them prioritize their work and keep the focus on the current task.

Get Relevant Work Experience

If you are at the beginning of your scientific writing career or transitioning into health writing from another field, it can get difficult to gain industry experience at once. However, there are opportunities to volunteer and build your skills to gain experience. You can reach out to the university faculty carrying out research in an area that you find interesting and volunteer to help with their research papers. In addition, familiarize yourself with FDA documentation standards by writing user guides.

You can also reach out to state health departments and offer to volunteer your time as a medical writer. It helps you gain experience navigating the infrastructure of public health entities and introduce you to writing in a regulated environment. You can also begin in freelance medical writing positions to build your skills and portfolio before getting a full-time job. In addition, offer your services to established medical brands or newspapers. This experience will add to your client base, earning you additional opportunities for work and professional growth.

Create a Portfolio to Showcase Your Work

If you want to apply for a health writing job, you must have the ability to convince the recruiter that you have skills and relevant experience. And you can do this by building a professional portfolio. A portfolio is your primary tool for showing off your talents to potential recruiters. They help you build a professional reputation and showcase your skills when seeking advanced jobs. Use your portfolio to put focus on your strengths as a health writer rather than trying to include everything. This involves focusing on the projects you are most proud of and using those projects to highlight your strongest attributes.

Also, make sure your portfolio presents your content in a coherent way - how does it communicate what contributions you made, what difficulties you had, and the solutions you presented to overcome them? Consider different ways of framing your strengths as a narrative, walking recruiters through your process to showcase how you approach your work. You can offer volunteer services to pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies as a way to create your portfolio and build the required experience. Also, you can include any written piece that you did during your internships.

Write Your Resume and Cover Letter

After creating a strong portfolio, the next task is to start looking for a job. For this, the major tool you need is your resume. Build your resume geared towards medical writing jobs. Your resume should include information about yourself, your educational background, your skills overview, and samples of completed proposals.

List any experience you have in providing medical education (presentations at medical conferences, giving clinical sessions, anatomy demonstrating), scientific publications or research you did, and any interests you have which demonstrate a creative flair. Also, you should write a strong cover letter when applying for a job. Since employers spend considerable time writing job advertisements, you should also do the same by highlighting your skills and relating them to the specific job posting for which you are applying.

Use Networking

Though there are many opportunities in medical communication, you must know that it is a difficult field to break into. Networking is an important part of gaining success as a medical writer. Build relationships with medical professionals and other healthcare professionals in the medical devices, medical communications, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and continuing medical education businesses.

Reach out to other medical writers, healthcare professionals, and special recruitment agencies to find out if you would like to work for a particular company, demonstrate your actual interests, and put yourself on their radar to get a job. As a result, you will find job opportunities coming from your network that you would have no access to otherwise. According to some research, around 80% of people found their current position through networking.

Consider joining professional medical writing organizations and introducing yourself to your fellow members. Become a member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). AMWA has a professional forum for medical writers to share and learn from one another. If you become an AMWA member, you can also earn a Medical Writer-Certified credential. You can also meet intelligent people by attending their meetings, workshops, and medical conferences.

The European Medical Writers Association (EMWA) is also great if you want to connect with others in the medical industry. Also, it is worth setting up a LinkedIn profile to join discussion groups and facilitate connections with others. You can also utilize your Alumni Network or reach out to universities in your local area to connect with other medical writers.

Look for Medical Writer Jobs

After proving that you have the relevant knowledge and skills, getting a scientific writing job becomes easier. You can build medical writing portfolio to find freelance jobs. Many freelance platforms are available on which you can rely to start looking for medical writing jobs. You will find a number of listings of scientific writers on freelance platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, LinkedIn, Craigslist, etc. If you are planning to work as a permanent employee for a company, build a strong resume and hunt for medical writer jobs.

Final Words

Medical writing is becoming a popular career option and quite competitive for new graduates, academics, and senior medical professionals. It is essential for medical writers to have the ability to communicate the information in a way that is simple to understand. Recruiters seek medical writers with great communication skills and the ability to work under pressure to meet tight deadlines. If you want to become a medical communicator without experience, you need to have relevant qualifications and a wide variety of skills to excel in this interesting and ever-changing field.