Below are my answers to the questions I get asked most often via email, DMs, and in Twitter comments.
1. How did you become a medical writer?
I started my Ph.D. program not wanting to be a professor and I always wanted to get a non-ac job.
In my 5th year (out of my 6-year Ph.D.), I started exploring job options. I thought medical writing sounded right up my alley. I did an informational interview with 1 person who was an alumnus of my university who became a medical writer, and I did my own research on the topic.
I applied for jobs but I failed to get any before I defended my Ph.D., so I stayed in my lab as a postdoc continuing to apply for jobs. 5 months after I defended, I got my job.
I detail this process in my Ph.D. to Industry Job Search Timeline post:
It took me 2 weeks from applying to get the offer for my job. But before that, I struggled a lot with marketing myself, getting responses, and interviewing well. I was just bad at things related to the industry job…
2. What do you do in your day-to-day?
There’s no typical day, but my days and weeks consist of about 50% reading, 40% writing, and 10% meetings and other miscellaneous, work-related tasks.
This is not what every medical writer experiences, so keep in mind these are all my own experiences only. You should get insight from as many people as possible.
I discuss this in great detail in these two blog posts.
Have you ever wondered what a medical writer does every day? Or what a typical week looks like for a medical writer? I’ve been at my company for about 5 months now, so I thought it’d be a pretty good…
It’s been about a month since I started my job and my routine has pretty much settled down. I’ve been doing work that is actually required for the company now and it’s getting busier. So how does each day go,…
3. What helped you get your job as a medical writer?
This is a pretty good question. Keep in mind, the answer I give isn’t going to be the silver bullet for you and won’t necessarily help you get any medical writing job out there, because medical writing is a very diverse field with lots of different goals/product types.
I was specifically interested in medical writing jobs that focused on medical communications, sales training, and healthcare worker/patient education. Not the medical writing jobs involved in clinical trial and medical device documentation.
Many things helped me get my medical writing job.
One thing that really helped was my tutoring experience. My current managers (one of them actually retired!) LOVED the fact that I had extensive tutoring experience from my grad school days because it showed that I could communicate scientific information to a lay audience. That experience helped me do really well in the job interview assignment, which involved starting to make a product similar to what we make in our company. I mention this in multiple blog posts so I’ll link some of those below.
I have blog posts on this as well, so check them out to read about other things that helped. They include knowing about what’s out there in the medical writing space and talking to people in roles that interest me (even slightly).
If I could go back, I’d tell myself that getting a job as a medical writer isn’t just “applying for a bunch of “medical writer” positions until something sticks”. I don’t know about you, but I like going into things…
A few weeks ago, I published a blog post, 6 Things I Did Wrong in My Industry Job Search, and it was super popular. In that post, I promised I’d be back with a “Things I Did Right” version, and…
One thing I noticed during grad school was that a lot of academics and university programs treated non-ac, or industry jobs as an afterthought. So many faculty I knew in grad school seemed to have such an enthusiasm and energy…
4. Did you need any certifications or medical writing-specific training?
I didn’t need any certifications or medical writing-specific training. From what I’ve seen in job listings and what I see now (I still keep myself up to date on the job market!), I don’t think a medical writing certification or specific training is necessary to land a job.
5. How can I improve my resume?
Literally everything I could ever squeeze out of my brain in terms of resume tips are described in extreme, great detail in my most popular blog post on my blog, linked below. I included the cover letter one, too:
An industry resume is nothing like an academic CV. It’s not an exhaustive list of your achievements. It’s not about length. It’s not about prestige. It’s all about fit and being exactly what the recruiter is looking for. Other stuff…
I hated writing cover letters for job applications. It felt like such busywork. All my relevant skills and demonstrated outcomes are on my resume, you can see it in such wonderfully organized glory. Why does it need to put into…
6. Should I do a Ph.D./does having a Ph.D. help with the job search?
This is something I’m still struggling with myself. I don’t know if doing a Ph.D. was the best choice for me, knowing everything I know now.
Sure, I’m VERY happy with where I am today, and I think I’ve set myself up for a nice career.
It’s honestly really hard for me to say any generalized statement about the utility of a Ph.D. because it depends on so many things like what the specific company is looking for, what career path you want to get into, your financial health, your interest in basic, exploratory research, if you wanted to be a professor or not (I didn’t), and so much more.
I did summarize my thoughts on the matter in this blog post:
Less than a year ago, I was scrambling to set a defense date. Less than 3 months ago, I started at my new industry job as a medical writer. One thing that I’ve been thinking about recently and really mulling over is the simple question: Did I need to get a Ph.D.?…
7. What can I do with my degree? What jobs are out there?
This blog post below has a list of over 50+ jobs that you can get after leaving academia, and all my resources are linked in it as well. Below that are two posts where I went into detail about a total of 12 cool non-labwork jobs that I wish I knew about during grad school!
This post contains all of the resources I’ve shared in my past blog posts. It’ll be for you to peruse and get what you need. If you want explanations, use the links in this post to read the original blog…
When I was in grad school, I didn’t know any of these jobs existed. I pretty much had no idea where to even start looking when I was considering jobs outside the university. I knew I didn’t want to stick…
It’s been about a month since my last post where I introduced 7 non-labwork industry jobs I wish I knew about during grad school. In that one, I talked about medical writer, field application scientist, medical science liaison, sales scientist,…
8. Do I make money from this?
Did I start this blog wanting to become some big blogger influencer that makes a ton of money off of being a content creator or coach? Absolutely not.
I don’t make money from any of this and I never plan to.
I haven’t put AdSense on my blog, worried about SEO, converted readers to subscribers, sold a service, asked for coffee donations, or anything like that.
My goal has always been to simply connect with others going through something similar. And hopefully in the process, help them, and myself, feel less alone.
Getting a job isn’t a walk in the park for most people. Leaving academia isn’t something a lot of people plan on doing, either, even if it was my plan all along. So I naturally found a pretty extensive audience and I’ve had fun sharing my experience purely for the sake of helping others.
Just know that even though this is my main hobby, and I try to be regular with blog posts, I might have other “life” things pop up, and a full-time job!
But hey, I guess then you know my content is always super honest and shared because I want to.
9. What’s up with the anonymity?
I chose to be anonymous for a few reasons.
Firstly, I wanted to speak my mind as openly as possible, especially as I processed a lot of toxicity related to my previous workplace.
I also didn’t want to be using my real name and picture on my very honest Twitter account while I was applying for jobs in real life. There isn’t anything innately wrong or risky about that. But if I was going to be sharing some pretty honest thoughts and my personal journey transitioning from one workplace to another, I thought being anonymous would be good for the overall goal of honesty and transparency I had for my blog.
Another thing is, I’ve always used social media anonymously. I don’t have an Instagram anymore, but when I did, I totally hid my identity. I never posted pictures of myself, people I knew, or shared my location. It was more like a photo diary. Same goes for Reddit. And now, my blog and Twitter!
Unfortunately, another big reason is safety. I just feel more secure doing this sort of public communication with a layer of anonymity. Plus, I think it helps people have fewer biases and see me for my content.
Do I think I’ll get more followers and readers if I share photos of myself regularly? Most likely.
But clearly from how I’ve used social media in the past, that sort of validation has never interested me. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, but it’s just not for me.
10. What information should I provide when I DM you?
If you DM me any question related to career, provide:
- Your country
- What you’re currently doing (grad student, degree, postdoc, job, internship)
- What career(s) you’re interested in pursuing
- Any other contextual information you think is relevant
- If you’re interested in medical writing: the kind of medical writing you’re interested in
If you provide all of the information above, it will make it a lot easier for me to respond.
Simply messaging me:
- “What can I do to become a medical writer?”
- “How can I become a medical writer?”
- “What can I do to get a job?”
- “Help me get a job please!”, etc.
Is not productive for either of us, because I have no idea what experiences you have and if my U.S.-based insights will even help you.
- I’m just 1 person, who experienced 1 journey, and has 1 medical writing job.
- I only know what I’ve seen in my U.S.-based job search.
- I have written close to 50 blog posts containing all of the advice and insights I have from my job search, so take a good look at those, too.
- I’m not an expert, and I only do this to encourage you, not to provide any professional career advice.