Starving Medical Writer
May 25, 2011 6:33 PM   Subscribe

Posting for a friend. Job-change-filter: currently I'm a Biology Research Associate working in a lab in a medium sized bio-tech company. This job has been fun while it lasted but I need to move on. Ideally I'd like to get into medical/science writing, but I have no experience in the field.

Some things I've done so far in furtherance of this goal are:
1. Taken a bunch of medical writing courses (online)
2. Started a Health & Science blog (though I need to devote more time to it)
3. Wrote up my resume & cover letter.

So with that being said, here are a couple of questions:
1. Anyone that has experience in the field want to give any advice/tips?
2. Given my situation/experience, how well does my cover letter / resume(Scribd links) stack up?
3. Bonus Question: salary range I can expect?

Thanks all
posted by pyro979 to Work & Money (4 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm a freelance medical writer and I got my start working fulltime at 2 different med communication companies.

Salary range: I don't know where your friend lives. In NYC (at least a few years ago), a person entirely new to the field with a graduate degree could get between 60 to 75 K/year (and the $60 is on the extreme low end, so walk and negotiate but a lot of us were newbies and idiots -okay, I'm an idiot).

Resume/CV I actually had a recruiter and a med writer give me feedback when I was trying to enter the field. Listing your grad degree, lab experience, and AMA stuff is perfect/great.

Some other things you may want to consider, although I don't know your friend's background, but this is what a recruiter told me to add, so if you have it:
--Did your friend present posters, too? Add that stuff (sometimes they want you to interact with the client and want to see that in your background).
--Did your friend teach a course or courses at the uni level? I was told to add classes that I taught at the university level because you may write material to teach physicians.

Other advice/tips (this is all over the map, apologies):

This would be overkill, but if in the states, your friend could look into getting BEL (I think that is the right term) certification, showing you know editing really, really well (I never did so, but if I really, really wanted to get in).

Also, I'm positive that this work because i got a lot of freelance projects this way and at the start many called up and said, "Will you work here?," --he or she should email his or her CV and cover letter to every company in his area. I do have a list of companies in the US (not all,but some, see below), if he can't find it, drop me a line and I will point to it. But the companies get so busy they can't reach out to people.

Where does your friend live? A recruiter can also help you find a job,although if your friend sends his package to all the companies, one may not need to do that..../I do know a recruiter taht was helpful for finding a similar job in the East coast area and got in at one company doing that. I can point to one or two if your friend needs help finding a recruiter, although it only applies to this area, not the entire US.

I can point your friend to a company that sometimes asks for editing type work in med writing -- they don't pay well (~$30 to~$50 an hour) and I don't work with them anymore because of the pay, but they were great to start out with. I can let you know the name of the company and your friend can see if they will give him/her any projects, and the experience can be listed, too.

Oh yeah, most companies give you a writing test. Brush up on CME and slide decks if you haven't seen that before (I had not, but it is easy to find all over the internet)

I'm not being self-promotional, but I recently started a blog addressing these topics because I needed the same answers a few years ago. Link in profile. Some of it is silly and fluff, but I do have a real link to companies, for example. I'd like to see your friend's blog, too, if he or she is willing to share because I'm curious and new to trying to provide info.

Also, do feel free to memail me and ask me more questions if you want to ... I had a few pple help me when I started, and I'd like to "pay if forward" so to speak.

posted by Wolfster at 7:03 PM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

One more tidbit, after rereading your question.

If your friend wants to do science writing and lives in a large city, look into finding universities and a science PR or communication department. When I wanted to look into science writing, I contacted a few of those people at universities to learn more about it as a career. They told me that at some universities, they really wanted to hire people with a science background (MA/PHD) to talk to the researchers, but write it for the public. They did not pay as much so I eliminated it as a career, but part of me still finds in interesting (it's about the science....), but your friend could look into finding the local universities and seeing if they also have a PR or communication contact for the sciences.

Again, if it is the NYC area, I can point to the specific university and department that wanted to hire people with a background in biology. If not in this area, start googling googling googling.
posted by Wolfster at 7:09 PM on May 25, 2011

Response by poster: @Wolfster Awesome info, can't wait to show this to her. (I've already showed her your previous question =c) I'll have her memail you when i get a chance =c)

Some clarifications: She's in NJ right now, but NYC is definitely an option and so is CT (possibly).
posted by pyro979 at 7:13 PM on May 25, 2011

Here's what I had to say about a similar question that Wolfster also chimed in on.

The certification that Wolfster is referring to (I think) is the ELS, or Board Certified Editor in the Life Sciences. I have this certification, but it seems like the jury is still out on whether this is beneficial for writers. Otherwise the advice is spot on.
posted by photovox at 5:12 AM on May 26, 2011

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