New Medical Writers Toolkit

If you are interested in starting a career in medical communication or learning more about this growing and demanding field, you've come to the right place. Join AMWA Now 


AMWA's Toolkit for New Medical Writers is designed to help you: 

 


Looking for a more interactive way to learn about the field of medical writing? Why not try a learning activity: A Career in Medical Communication: Steps to Success 

Understand the Role of a Medical Communicator  

Before embarking into a career as a medical writer, it is important to understand the breadth of the field of medical communication. AMWA defines medical communicators as those who write, edit, or develop materials about medicine and health. They communicate scientific and clinical data in a variety of formats to a range of audiences.

Medical communicators may be writers, editors, proofreaders, health care journalists, supervisors, project managers, media relations specialists, educators, and more! At their core, medical communicators know how to gather, organize, interpret, evaluate, and present information in a manner appropriate for a particular audience.
 
Medical writing is a diverse profession. The specific tasks that medical writers perform and the projects on which they work can differ greatly depending on the work setting and the audience. 

 
Who Hires Medical Communicators?
Medical communicators work in a variety of settings depending on their backgrounds and interests. Some employers or freelance clients include:
 
  • Associations or professional societies for health care professionals

  • Biotechnology companies

  • Clinical or Contract research organizations (CRO)

  • Communication firm/marketing or advertising agencies

  • Government agencies

  • Health care organizations or providers

  • Individual authors or investigators

  • Medical book publishers

  • Medical device companies

  • Medical education companies

  • Medical schools or universities   

  • News outlets for health/medical news

  • Peer-reviewed medical journals

  • Pharmaceutical companies

  • Trade journals for health care professionals
     

What Do Medical Communicators Write and Edit?
Depending on your niche and expertise, in addition to doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals, you may be writing for a public audience, hospital purchasers, manufacturers and users of medical devices, pharmaceutical sales representatives, members of the insurance industry, and individuals who create and enforce public policy. That's a very broad range, and each of those groups will bring with it a distinct set of terms as well as work documents to be produced. Here are some of the work documents medical communicators create:
 
  • Abstracts for journals and medical conferences

    • Advertising copy for pharmaceuticals, devices, and other health care products

    • Advisory board summaries

    • Books

  • Continuing medical education materials (including gap analyses, courses, and self-assessment programs)

    • Grant proposals

    • Health care policy documents

    • Magazine and newspaper articles

    • Manuscripts for medical and scientific journals

    • Marketing materials

    • Medical meeting materials: abstracts, posters, slides, and meeting summaries

    • Monographs

  • Patient education materials

    • Regulatory documents (including clinical trial reports, integrated summaries of efficacy and safety, investigator brochures, Investigational New Drug documents, New Drug Application submissions, protocols)

    • Sales training materials

    • White papers
       

What type of formats do medical communicators produce?
Medical communicators prepare content for a variety of media formats, from traditional print publications to electronic publications, multimedia presentations, videos, podcasts, website content, and various social media sites. Medical communicators also help develop applications for mobile devices that are used in different ways, such as disease management, continuing education and training, medical reference and information gathering, and practice management and monitoring.



Take Advantage of Educational Opportunities

Until recently, few people started out to be medical communicators; most fell into it. Some have scientific or medical degrees (eg, MD, PharmD, or PhD in a scientific field) and worked in academic settings or as, bench scientists, physicians, or pharmacists before they became medical communicators. Others have Journalism or English degrees, work in communications, and end up writing about health and medicine.
 
Today, you can choose from a range of educational opportunities in the field of medical communication including
undergraduate, graduate, certificate programs, and professional development activities. 

AMWA provides a variety of education opportunities to support the new medical communicator as well as a wealth of professional development resources to advance the careers of those already in the field.

Educational Opportunities at AMWA include: 

Explore more about the career
 


Make the Most of Networking

Networking is an important part of building a career. Professional colleagues can offer a wealth of knowledge and give you advice to help you break into the field. Networking events also provide informal learning opportunities. Networking opportunities at AMWA include: 
 
In addition to joining AMWA, learn more about other Professional Associations that have networking opportunities that may be of interest to medical communicators
 


Discover Related Resources

The following resources have been collected to support ongoing exploration into the field of medical communication. This is only a small sampling of the many resources available. These resources provide a wealth of information to support your career exploration and development goals.

 
Books About Medical Writing
 
  • The Accidental Medical Writer. Brian G. Bass and Cynthia L. Kryder. Booklocker.com, Inc, 2008.
     
  • Essentials of Writing Biomedical Research Papers. 2nd ed. Mimi Zeiger. McGraw-Hill, 2000.
     
  • Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message. Helen Osborne. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2005.
     
  • How to Report Statistics in Medicine: Annotated Guidelines for Authors, Editors, and Reviewers, 2nd ed. Tom Lang and Michelle Secic. American College of Physicians, 2006.
     
  • How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, 7th ed. Robert A Day and Barbara Gastel. Cambridge University Press, 2012.
     
  • The Mighty Marketer. Lori De Milto. Booklocker.com, Inc, 2014.
 
Style Guides
AMA Manual of Style, 10th ed. Oxford University Press, 2007.

Associated Press Stylebook 2013. The Associated Press, 2013.
Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. The University of Chicago Press, 2010.
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. The American Psychological Association, 2009.
Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 8th ed. University of Chicago Press, 2014.

 
General Medical Reference

The Merck Manual
 

Publication Ethics

Council of Science EditorsWhite Paper on Publication Ethics
International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals 
International Society for Medical Publication ProfessionalsGood Publication Practice Guidelines GPP3 
 

Associations and Societies

Council of Science Editors
Drug Information Association
Society for Technical Communication
International Society for Medical Publication Professionals
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

Disease-specific associations (a wealth of information), for example, American Heart Association

 

Other Web Resources

Directory of Science Communication Programs

 

Medical Communication Programs
Programs offering formal training in medical communication are emerging. Some of these are listed below, along with more traditional programs in health journalism and communication.
 
Certificate Programs in Medical Communication

Drug Information Association
University of California San Diego Extension. Medical Writing Certificate
University of Chicago Graham School of General Studies Medical Writing and Editing Certificate

 
Graduate Programs in Medical/Health Communication/Writing/Journalism
Online Master of Science in Health Communication
Master of Science/Science & Medical Journalism
 

Carnegie Mellon University
Master of Arts/ Professional Writing

Emerson College
Master of Arts in Health Communication
 
Johns Hopkins University
Master of Arts/Science-Medical Writing
 
New York University
Master of Arts/Science, Health and Environmental Reporting
 
Texas A&M University
Master of Science/Science and Technology Journalism
 
Towson University
Master of Science/Professional Writing
 
Tufts University School of Medicine
Master of Science in Health Communication
 
University of Houston-Downtown
Master of Science/Technical Communication
 
University of Illinois
Master of Science in Health Communication
 
University of Minnesota
Professional Master of Arts/Health Communication
 
University of North Carolina
Master's degree/Medical Science & Journalism
 
University of the Sciences in Philadelphia
Master of Science/Biomedical Writing
 
Undergraduate Programs in Medical/Health Communication/Writing/Journalism
Degree in Health Communication 
Bachelor of Arts or Science/Professional Writing
 

North Dakota State University
Bachelor of Arts or Science/Heath Communication
 
Bachelor of Arts/Technical Writing and Communication

 

Tracks or Minors in Medical Communication
Bachelor of Science/Technical Writing and Communication

Bachelor of Science/Journalism and Technical Communication
 
Degree in Professional Writing, Science Writing Track
 
College of Journalism and Communications, Master's Track in Science/Health Communication
 
Science Communication Program

Widener University
Minor in Professional Writing
 

Degree Programs in Regulatory Affairs

George Washington University
University of Washington School of Pharmacy