Job Title: Medical Writing Manager
Job description: As a medical writer at a pharmaceutical company, my main job is to take the results of a clinical trial and assist medical doctors conducting the study in publishing their data. This means assisting with the development of peer-reviewed manuscripts, posters, oral presentations, and abstracts for scientific congresses. This job does not require long hours or travel.
Medical writers are experts in the process of publication - how to scientifically put together a manuscript, keep it on a timeline, and make sure it is highly accurate and science-based. This work is purely scientific and does not involve product promotion; rather, the purpose is to communicate clinical trial results scientifically and objectively for physicians and the public to see.
What were your graduate studies in? What aspects of your graduate training do you feel have made you more successful in your position? I have a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Medical writers in the pharmaceutical industry have extremely varied backgrounds. Some are MDs, some are PharmDs, and many are PhDs in fields as disparate as psychology, biology, and chemistry. All of them share a passion for written communication, and strong soft skills (interpersonal skills), which are required for success in this field.
The main aspects of my graduate training that made me more successful in my career were 1) having a PI who was committed to working with me to publish my work and 2) developing a critical eye for data analysis/evaluation. The former is critical as a graduate student if you desire to enter medical writing as a profession. In this field, extensive experience publishing and reviewing manuscripts will help you find a job.
What was your career path after leaving graduate school? After graduate school I took a post-doc, but then realized that I wanted to change career paths to medical writing. I started by freelancing online. Once I had free-lanced for a short period of time, I used that experience to transition into an industry position. A post doc is not required in order to be a medical writer but is encouraged. Freelance writing/editing is a great way to break into this field.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job? What are your favorite aspects of your job? The most rewarding aspect of my job is the positive working relationships I've developed with researchers all over the world. I also love that I learn something new with each manuscript I work on; I find my work very rewarding and stimulating.
Do you have any other useful advice for graduate students interested in your field that hasn't been covered yet? The American Medical Writers Association website link is provided below; their site contains a number of good resources for those interested in medical writing. If you decide to pursue a career in this field, affiliation with AMWA is strongly encouraged to demonstrate your commitment to the career path.