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What About Medical Writing for Non-Regulatory Writers?

September 29, 2016 | Jacquie Powell, PhD, Clinical Research Scientist II | Medical Writing Services

As a whole, medical writers (including those outside of the regulatory field) are a diverse group of professionals with a wide variety of different job descriptions, job titles, and responsibilities.

The unifying theme among medical writers is that they spend most of their time creating medical or health-related documents. But, given the enormous breadth of the medical field, medical writers often find themselves doing very different jobs depending on how they fit into the grand scheme of things.

While IMPACT predominantly focuses on regulatory writing, the purpose of this post is to highlight other potential medical writing career paths. It’s by no means a fully comprehensive list of medical writing opportunities, but we hope it provides some background and a couple of targeted terms that may be useful in your job search.

Regulatory Writing

Regulatory medical writers produce regulatory documents that are necessary for new drugs to obtain market approval. For more information on what regulatory medical writers do, what makes a good regulatory medical writer, and who employs regulatory medical writers check out some of our previous blog posts.

Okay, but not all medical writers are “regulatory” medical writers, so what do other types of medical writers do?

Educational Writing

Educational medical writers produce learning materials for a variety of target audiences, including medical science liaisons, patients, and healthcare professionals.

Similar to regulatory writers, educational medical writers may be employed by pharmaceutical companies, contract research organizations (CROs), or small companies that specialize in producing educational content.

cell Educational medical writers are typically expected to generate book- or computer-based learning modules, along with testing materials that gauge mastery of the material presented.

Educational medical writing (particularly in a CRO-type setting) allows medical writers to learn a lot about a variety of new drugs and medical conditions, which can be very engaging for the “science nerds” among us.

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To bring projects to completion, educational medical writers may find themselves interacting with a wide range of professionals including graphic artists, computer programmers, and printers. They may also be required to validate the accuracy of their educational materials by undergoing an extensive legal-medical review process.

A creative person who enjoys digging through scientific literature to produce a polished final product may find enjoyment in this type of work. However, diplomacy is often required when interacting with clients who may not be subject-matter experts.

Many educational medical writers focus on generating materials, on behalf of pharmaceutical companies, that provide information about new drugs and their indications.

However, there is also a subset of educational medical writers who specialize in creating continuing medical education (CME) courses, seminars, and lectures for healthcare professionals. These materials are often required for healthcare professionals to stay current in their field and maintain their licensure.

Although CME material is primarily targeted to physicians and other healthcare professionals, PhD‑trained scientists are often the ones hired to write this type of content.


Once a drug is approved for use, pharmaceutical companies generate a wide variety of materials to market new drugs to physicians and patients. For more information about advertising prescription drugs to patients, check out our previous blog post on direct-to-consumer advertising.

Some resources are intended to help medical science liaisons be more effective, while others are created to convey a drug’s value directly to physicians or patients.

Similar to other types of medical writers, those who produce marketing materials may be employed by pharmaceutical companies, CROs, or even small communications agencies that specialize in biomedical marketing.

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Some marketing agencies also conduct and summarize marketplace research to help pharmaceutical clients shape their advertising strategy. They may help identify misperceptions, barriers to market entry, and unmet needs. Medical writing in this area can be appealing to those interested in sales, psychology, and marketplace dynamics.

Almost all medical marketing material is produced on behalf of pharmaceutical companies, but there’s also a subset of writers that produce marketing materials for fundraising purposes.

Many research-based organizations rely on private contributions and need medical communicators to convey the importance of their research to prospective donors. This is often done through pamphlets, newsletters, or websites.

Publication and Grant Writing

Given the “publish or perish” culture surrounding academic research, there is a huge demand for writing professionals who can assist in both the planning and writing of peer-reviewed research articles.

While some companies are specifically geared towards providing editorial assistance to non-native English speakers, others are more focused on providing constructive feedback to facilitate the peer‑review process. Medical writers who assist with publication writing tend to work for CROs or small specialized companies.

Non-profit organizations, universities, and small businesses may require the services of an experienced grant writer to help secure financial resources.

Grant writers are often expected to assist in the organizational aspects of a grant submission, in addition to the writing, and may work directly for non-profits, university departments, or small biotechnology companies.

Science Journalism

Academic institutions, government agencies, and patient advocacy groups employ science journalists to write about their health-related scientific discoveries.

Generally, science journalists write articles to inform the general public about recently-published research that is related to improving human health. Because scientific research is both time intensive and costly, many organizations recognize the importance of communicating its value to the public.

These articles can be a source of hope to patients and can rally public support for scientific research. Of course, major media outlets also employ science journalists to write articles that garner broad levels of interest. Many of these articles focus on research related to common medical conditions.

Take a Chance!

One of the biggest barriers to any career transition is uncertainty.

How do I know if I’ll be any good at it? Will I enjoy it? How satisfying will it be?

There’s really no way of knowing until you try, so it’s better not to overthink it.

That said, informational interviews and social networking can be wonderful opportunities to explore different areas of medical writing and to get a feel for what suits your personal interests best. (Stay tuned for our upcoming series about how to network your way into a medical writing position.)

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If you have any questions or would like to share your experience in the field of medical writing, please contact us. We’d be happy to hear from you!

Category: Medical Writing Services,
Keywords: medical writing, regulatory medical writing, medical writer, regulatory medical writer, grant writing, publication writing, science journalism, educational medical writing, continuing medical education, pharmaceutical marketing

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