Skills v Personality
Medical writing is as much an art as it is a science. If you are looking to hire new medical writers, then whether you are looking for regulatory or medical communications writers, you will almost certainly be looking for a successful academic science background, an analytical mind, a keen eye for detail, the ability to learn and process information quickly, and excellent written and oral English. If you are from the medical communications side, then a flamboyant outgoing personality can almost certainly help when creating various marketing and communications material.
Hiring Medical Writers
But what are the requirements if you are hiring for new medical writers or indeed thinking of going into the industry? Various agencies still ask for PhDs, and although it is advantageous to have one, it isn’t necessary. Some of the best medical writers I know hold only a BSc, and I myself an MSc, and this hasn’t stopped us from progressing with our careers. Of course, some writing experience helps, but the characteristics mentioned above, in tandem with a desire to grow into and succeed in one’s role, are key ingredients in the hiring process.
Experience v Talent
Depending on what level of medical writer you are hiring for – entry (0 years), associate (0-1 year), intermediate (1-3 years), senior (3-5 years), or principle (5-7+ years), you will be expecting a certain level of competence and knowledge of therapeutic areas. Personally, the least important is knowledge of therapeutic areas and indications, because they can be learned quickly. Becoming a quality medical writer takes time (a master takes 7 years) through intensive training via in-house training programmes, self-learning and of course on-the-job learning. Every new medical writer has received their document back with many red lines! But that is all part of the upward learning curve in our profession. But if one has a sound scientific background, a penchant for writing, and some medical writing experience, then knowledge of new therapeutic areas and indications can easily be learned. In short, if you can write, then you can write about anything, and sound like you know what you are talking about!
New Medical Writers
If you are a graduate or looking to switch to medical writing, then understanding your motivations beyond a wage is a must. What we do isn’t easy, but it isn’t rocket science. Like any vocation in life, it is your own personal journey. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses from the outset will help direct your career path. If after reading this blog you feel you have the necessary skills and attributes to make a career out of it, then my advice would be to begin applying to medical communications agencies and contract research organisations. Due to the diversity of projects undertaken by these companies, they will have excellent in-house training programmes which can set you up to work in Big Pharma if you so wish.
If you would like to learn more about how we help medical writers get started and progress in our industry using our intensive medical writing training programme, or simply how we advise on hiring the right medical writers, please do get in touch!