New Medical Writer 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 to gain access to resources and benefits that will help you succeed.
AMWA's New Medical Writer Toolkit is designed to help you:
Understand the Role of a Medical Communicator
Before beginning a career as a medical writer, it is important to understand the breadth of the medical communication field. 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
- 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
- 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 began their careers as medical communicators; most fell into it. Many 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 certificate programs and professional development activities.
AMWA provides a variety of educational 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.
You can view and purchase recommended books, style guides, and more here.
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 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.
AMA Manual of Style
Associated Press Stylebook
Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association Style
Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers
General Medical Reference
The Mayo Clinic
The Merck Manual
Code of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines for Journal Editors (Committee on Publication Ethics)
White Paper on Publication Ethics (Council of Science Editors)
Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors)
Good Publication Practice Guidelines - GPP3 (International Society for Medical Publication Professionals)
Associations and Societies
Board of Editors in the Life Sciences
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 offer a wealth of information; for example, the American Heart Association.
Other Web Resources
Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals (ICMJE)
National Library of Medicine: PubMed and NLM Training Materials
Medical Communication Programs
Programs offering formal training in medical communication are available in many forms. Some are listed below, along with more traditional programs in health journalism and communication.
Certificate Programs in Medical Communication
American Medical Writers Association: Essential Skills Certificate
Drug Information Association: Certificate Program
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
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
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
Missouri State University
Bachelor of Arts or Science/Professional Writing
North Dakota State University
Bachelor of Arts or Science/Heath Communication
University of Minnesota
Bachelor of Arts/Technical Writing and Communication
Tracks or Minors in Medical Communication
Carnegie Mellon University
Bachelor of Science/Technical Writing and Communication
Ferris State University
Bachelor of Science/Journalism and Technical Communication
University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Science Communication Program
Degree Programs in Regulatory Affairs
George Washington University
Dual Degree: BSHS/MSHS in Clinical Management & Leadership
Master of Science in Health Sciences (MSHS) in Clinical Research Administration
University of Washington School of Pharmacy
Master of Science in Biomedical Regulatory Affairs