Medical / Scientific Writer Resume

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Medical / Scientific Writer Resume

Postby MP » Wed May 03, 2006 10:13 am

I will be completing my PhD in Biomedical Engineering soon and I am interested in pursuing a career in medical writing. When submitted a resume for an opening, should I include detailed information regarding my research project and technical skills. Or should I just focus on my writing skills which includes, experimental protocols, one publication, a few posters, my thesis and slide kits for various class projects.
So my to the point question would be, what exactly are people looking for on a resume when it comes to hiring a medical writer with a PhD?
Thanks a lot for your time.
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Medical / Scientific Writer Resume

Postby Emil Chuck » Wed May 03, 2006 11:58 am

Hi Minal, and congratulations.

Hopefully you have already read the many articles about medical writing careers to get an idea of what specific niche you want to engage in.

The answer to your questions is that there is no set pattern of things all medical writing firms want except for competence in writing. That competence, however, is measured many different ways because each writing position is different regarding the documents the writer is expected to produce.

But do you know medical terminology and concepts? Are you willing to expand beyond your niche in biomedical research to other disciplines (cardiology, oncology, pediatrics, geriatrics, etc.)?

Look at each job description carefully. That will tell you what evidence they value when looking for the new hire.
Emil Chuck
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Medical / Scientific Writer Resume

Postby MPB » Wed May 03, 2006 12:23 pm

Emil is right: "medical writer" encompasses everything from preparing regulatory documents at a pharma company to working on advertising and PR campaigns on Madison avenue.

The one thing that is consistent to all of these jobs is the need for someone with top-notch communication and interpersonal skills: working as a medical writer usually requires the ability to write a wide variety of different kinds of pieces, in many different therapeutic areas, under very tight deadlines, and to collaborate with people from a broad range of specialties, including bench researchers, academic and corporate physicians, marketing, sales, and graphic design people. So for most jobs, I would not go into a lot of detail about the specifics of your research.

There are several errors of grammar and punctuation in your post. You will need to ensure that your application materials are flawless when applying for these kinds of jobs. Most writing jobs require English language fluency that is better than that of the typical native speaker of English.

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Medical / Scientific Writer Resume

Postby Elizabeth » Wed May 03, 2006 6:41 pm

Hi Minal,
I'm not a medical writer myself, but I moonlighted in writing a little bit. My general impression is you need writing experience in the area you are applying for if you want to be considered for the job seriously. Start building your portofolio immediately. You don't have to be employed as a medical writer before you can start writing. Look for local opportunities and network, network, network!
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Medical / Scientific Writer Resume

Postby MP » Wed May 03, 2006 9:38 pm

Thank you very much for all of your follow up messages.
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Medical / Scientific Writer Resume

Postby NC » Thu May 04, 2006 8:35 am

This topic has also been an interest of mine for a while now (as mbp knows). One thing I've been wondering about is how one builds his/her writing portfolio while working primarily as a bench scientist. Do grants and manuscripts count? What kinds of other outlets are available (and acceptable) for a bench scientist that would be useful for one's medical writing job search?
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Medical / Scientific Writer Resume

Postby MPB » Thu May 04, 2006 9:48 am


In general, for the more technical sorts of medical writing jobs (ie, not journalism) you could probably use any sort of science manuscript. The problem with grant proposals and papers is that they are usually collaborative efforts, and they are also usually heavily edited during development. So it's best if you can provide initial drafts of portions that you can clearly claim credit for having written yourself.

It's hard to say what other outlets could be helpful -- there is so much variability in medical writing jobs that things that might help for one would be worthless for another. A couple of things to consider: one is joining the American Association of Medical Writers []. This is really only useful IMO if you live on the east coast. They do offer some training courses at the annual meeting, in things like editing and medical terminology. I've never been a member, but some people say it's helpful for people just starting out.

Another thing to consider is to try to pick up some type of freelance or consulting work before you actually start looking for a medical writing job. This is what I did. I did some research on the companies that do this kind of work and sent out some writing samples with a letter that said something like "I'm not interested in a full-time position at the moment, but I hope that you will consider me for freelance or consulting work." I did get some work this way and built up a portfolio before I made the transition to doing this full time; and in fact, my first job was at one of the places that I had done freelance work for. So it's helpful in lots of ways to try to do this.

You do need to be clear with your prospective client that you don't have a lot of writing experience -- never try to misrepresent or over-represent your experience [something that PhDs who want to transition to medical writing seem especially prone to doing]. It took awhile before I found someone who was willing to take a chance on an untested writer, but I did find a couple of places eventually. Some places may want you to take a writing or editing test. It may also be helpful to get your hands on the AMA manual of style and study it.

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Medical / Scientific Writer Resume

Postby Carlysle Tancha » Thu May 04, 2006 11:30 am

I would suggest trying your best to contact firms that are seeking writers. It would help if your research maps onto a particular disease model. I actually had a couple of cold calls lately and passed the phone interview and writing assessment stages. I don't have any experience on the clinical side, but read some articles online from JAMA and the like. Also, other companies e-mailed some other assessments and I was able to pick up on some of the language. Still, AMA style is not my background, but I think that we are all able to adapt our styles. So far so good. MPB has also been an excellent resource offline.
Carlysle Tancha
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Medical / Scientific Writer Resume

Postby Jim Gardner » Fri May 05, 2006 3:06 pm


Once upon a time (ending a little over 4 years ago) I was a medical writer at a large pharma company. My department was primarily engaged in clinical/regulatory writing (like clinical study reports, summaries for NDAs, investigators' brochures, etc.) I was quite successful in my job and was often called upon to interview and evaluate job applicants.

The first thing I would look for on a resume would not be the content at all. I would look at how well you summarized things. I would look carefully at how you organized the resume. I would look for typos and grammatical errors. If the resume and/or cover letter was disorganized and littered with errors, I would suggest to my boss that we not bother interviewing the candidate. If the resume was in good order, I would then look for writing experience (a few papers, abstracts, grant proposals and such were sufficient for an entry-level position) and make sure that the candidate had a solid scientific background.

The reason why I would scrutinize resumes, cover letters, and e-mails so carefully is that I considered them to be "pure" examples of the candidates writing ability that were less likely to have been co-authored or heavily edited by others. The major journals employ editors that can substantially "enhance" the texts that they receive. As mpb rightly pointed out--errors like the ones you made in your original post would definitely count against you.

I also liked to look for project management and leadership skills in potential new writers. You can have a fine career as a writer without exceptional skills in these areas--but if you really want to excel and get the best assignments and promotions and such--these skills really help. Writers often have to act as project managers to get their documents completed. They need to keep a diverse team (that will often include physicians, statisticians, programmers, Reg Affairs associates, managers, etc.) on the same page and timeline despite conflicting priorities for team members. For example, it may not be among the official goals and objectives of your project physician to finish study report XYZ-001 on time, but it will be among your goals and objectives. Without true managerial authority how do you influence this physician, who may already be working overtime, to give you her/his input and reviews in a timely fashion? From a large pharma company standpoint, the ability to successfully deal with such team dynamics separates the adequate writers from the very good writers.

OK, I've blathered on long enough. I hope this helps.

Good luck!

Jim Gardner
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