Qualifications and Skills

No specific qualifications are required for medical writing but the majority of writers in this field have a biomedical science degree and often a higher degree. Many medical writers have previous experience in drug discovery or clinical research but there are also opportunities for new graduates. Some medical writers have a background in languages or journalism rather than the sciences.

In addition to these qualifications, certain personal abilities are needed. Good language skills are essential. Medical writers must be able to convey complex information to the reader in a clear and concise way. Attention to detail is critical, as clarity, accuracy and completeness are required in every document.

Medical writers also need to be able to work independently, absorb and summarise large amounts of data, and communicate their messages effectively to a range of very different readers.Good interpersonal skills are also important. Medical writers work as part of inter-disciplinary teams and, in some cases, with people outside of their company, so they need to be comfortable working with with people from a range of backgrounds. This is even more so for freelance writers who may work on a varied range of projects, with many different editorial teams.

Medical writers are often expected to 'ghost write' documents, which means that their name will not appear in print. One example is the preparation of clinical expert reports, where the writer works closely with the expert who will sign-off the document and whose name the report will carry. In practice, many of the documents produced by medical writers will not carry their name. Larger documents, in particular, are usually produced by a team of writers, editors, researchers, and clinicians.

Medical writers may need to produce documents for a varied range of readers, and require the ability to pitch each piece of writing at just the right level. A clinical research report is a comprehensive exploration of the methods and results of the research. It may be over 100 pages in length and may need to be submitted to the regulatory authorities. This is very different from a short article on the same study, which is for a wider scientific and medical audience, yet must still put across the same key data and messages.