It seems every day a new, life-altering scientific breakthrough makes headlines. But behind every breakthrough is the need to communicate that discovery with a wide variety of audiences from funders of scientific grants to peer-reviewed publications to regulatory agencies.
Turning science into sentences – meaningful, factual and compelling sentences – is the art and the craft of medical writing. It is also a skill that is increasingly in demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for technical writers in the health care field are projected to grow nearly 27 percent from 2012 to 2022.
“There is not a paucity of need,” said Donna Simcoe, who heads Simcoe Consultants, Inc., a medical publication writing firm, and who serves as president of the Pacific Southwest Chapter of the American Medical Writers Association (www.amwa-pacsw.org). “I’m hearing from more and more companies who need medical writers.”
That is especially true in life science-centric Southern California. San Diego alone has the world’s third largest biotech cluster that accounts for more than 100,000 jobs and receives more than $1 billion in National Institutes of Health funding.
While there’s no shortage of opportunities in the medical writing field, the barrier to entry can be high. According to a survey by the American Medical Writers Association almost 50 percent of medical writers had a degree in science or medicine and more than 70 percent had a master’s degree or higher.
But not all scientists are up to the task of translating discoveries into readable, actionable prose. To help address this skills gap, UC San Diego Extension is introducing a new medical writing certificate to help train people for these in-demand jobs. Leslie Bruce, director of healthcare leadership and community outreach for Extension, said the program is not about scientific writing for a lay audience. Instead, the class will help prepare participants in such areas as regulatory writing, peer-reviewed journals, scientific grants and medical education for practicing physicians – all of which provide lucrative salaries.
“These are six-figure jobs,” Bruce said.
A 2011 survey by the American Medical Writers Association found that medical writers’ salaries increased at more than double the rate of inflation and the average annual salary for medical writers along the West Coast was around $106,000.
Bruce said the 22-unit certificate is designed to take about 18 months. To find out more about the medical writing and the new Extension certificate, please visit extension.ucsd.edu/medicalwriting.