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A Career as a Medical Copywriter

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 27 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Medical Career Healthcare Copywriter

If you are one of those special people who loves science but is also intrigued and fascinated by the advertising industry, then you can be excited to know that there is a career that is a strong match for your skills. Medical copywriting involves the use of words to communicate a compelling and engaging message on behalf of advertisers to a range of different audiences.

While obvious examples include television and print advertising of pharmaceuticals that are targeted at consumers, other types of medical copywriting are geared at physicians and other health professionals. A medical copywriter fits an interesting niche in the sense that scientists have typically gained the reputation of being extremely uncreative, drab and boring. In contrast, a medical copywriter combines his or her knowledge of the sciences with a creative, artistic flair around words to provide education or persuasive advertising to a specific audience.

Training for a Medical Copywriter Career

Training for a medical copywriting career can actually follow several paths, with the end result dependent on the hiring company. The vast majority of medical communication agencies want a medical copywriter to have an undergraduate degree in the life sciences. If the agency is focused on a certain medical specialty – such as oncology – the agency might want someone with a biomedical science degree. Some agencies want even more extensive training and might request a graduate degree in the sciences. However, the typical requirement is an undergraduate degree in the sciences. Preferred graduate work is typically in journalism – especially science journalism – and is considered a major bonus.

The reason that agencies prefer a science undergraduate degree to a journalism or English one is because a key skill in medical copywriting is the ability to take complex, scientific information and provide this in a clear, articulate and easy to understand format. Without the comprehensive science background, someone with that necessary creative flair will probably be left floundering.

A Day in the Life of a Medical Copywriter

Medical copywriters can work in many different areas. In fact, the role itself is still a relatively new one and has emerged in the last decade with great gusto, climbing at a rapid rate. Salaries vary, but the absolute top paid, award-winning medical copywriters can make into the six figures although a more common salary to start is approximately £25,000 to £35,000, but this figure easily climbs with experience. Medical copywriters may create visual, written and radio advertisements for drugs, most of which are targeted to consumers. They may also create subtly worded, persuasive advertisements targeting physicians and other health professionals; these types of advertisements combine medical education on new drugs, devices or techniques that would be distributed and represented by physicians. If you think about those patient education brochures you see in a doctor's office, these can be a form of medical copywriting as well.

Your Strengths and Medical Copywriting

Above all, a medical copywriter needs to be a creative thinker who isn't limited by simply what they see around them. In this way, a medical copywriter is one who thinks 'outside of the box,' by formulating exciting, interesting and above all, persuasive ways of presenting information to an audience that leaves them wanting more and planning to buy the product. Still, you also need to have a critical mind and a gentle ego because when working in a team along with graphic designers and a creative lead, you can expect to receive constructive criticism. Perhaps even more so, you can expect to have a client simply say: "I don't like the idea." You need to be able to rapidly let go of ideas, no matter how innovative you think they are, and quickly move on to come up with new ways of presenting the information, such that you please your client. Ultimately, your career involves using scientific knowledge and creativity to make your clients happy, which usually means effective advertising that brings money to your clients and less directly, money to you.

Also important is your ability to work comfortably with your team of professionals. Your words say little without the visual punch that will be supplied by a graphic artist. In that same light, a graphic artist will not be able to offer a successful message without your words. If you are skilled in design, however, you can sometimes take on the role of both the graphic designer and the medical copywriter. In fact, freelancers can excel in roles where they are able to satisfy the client's needs for both roles. Still, it's best if you do work well in a team because medical communication agencies tend to be the ones who have prominent, well-known clients in the industry, thereby allowing you to work on some of the big name brand accounts, reaching large numbers of people.

An Exciting Career as a Medical Copywriter

The boring, uncreative, dry and mundane image of science is not an accurate one – at least not in medical copywriting. If you have a persuasive nature combined with a curious, scientific mind and a knack for articulating words to represent something 'just right,' then you should seriously think about a career in medical copywriting. You will deal with the chaos and deadlines of the advertising world, but will have a lot of fun each day as you are presented with new, creative challenges that put your skills to the best use possible.

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