Help Me Break Into Medical Writing

Dear Jodee,

I have been a nurse for many years and have been looking to transition into writing, (either full-time or freelance). I do have a few clips under my belt (I write for, and I have a book due to be published in January).

I have been applying for many, many positions (both freelance and full-time work) all in a medical writing capacity, to try to leverage my nursing experience. However, because almost all of my professional experience has been clinical, I’ve been finding it very difficult to find anything.

Is it worth going back to school to get a degree in English or Journalism? If not, can you recommend any training programs that might give me a little more credibility as a writer?


Dear Nicole,

The fact that you have been hired by and are the author of a book tells me that you are a skilled writer. I’ve lost count of the ads I’ve responded to where I didn’t get the gig, and it can be a very frustrating process. Your first gig is the most difficult to get, and I would suggest that you expand your job search by contacting prospective clients directly instead of focusing solely on responding to ads.

Here are some examples of the kinds of companies that may hire medical writers:

  • Clinical research organizations
  • Continuing education medical companies
  • Medical device companies
  • Medical journals
  • Pharmaceutical companies

I would also suggest that you look to your network of contacts to help you find a medical writing gig. Set up a profile on LinkedIn, go on Twitter, tell everyone you know about your goal of finding medical writing gigs. Ask your contacts who they know that you should be talking to.

I would never discourage someone from continuing their education to upgrade their skills, but before you make the choice to work toward a degree in English, Journalism, Creative writing, etc., make sure that it is the right program to help you reach your goal. You may want to check out the certificate program and workshops offered by the American Medical Writers Association. The site also has a  freelance directory for job postings (free with membership; non-members must pay a subscription fee).

Do you have anything you would like to add to help Nicole get a medical writing gig? Share it in the comments section or ask your own question about freelance writing.


6 responses
  1. J. Michael Rivera Avatar

    Hi Jodee,
    My advice for Nicole is to take a writing class when possible, but writing is one of those strange trades in which the training is in the doing.
    The good news is that these are good times for freelancers online and offline.

  2. J. Michael Rivera Avatar

    My apologies — my comment was cut off due to my overzealous typing. 😉
    As I was saying, these are good times for freelancers who want to solicit their services to newspapers. As a newspaper veteran-turned-freelancer, I’ve learned that it’s harder than ever to get a full-time reporter position, but the demand for news hasn’t diminished. Since many newspaper editors can’t afford to hire beat reporters like they did in the salad days of the industry, they are hiring freelancers to write the occasional news feature. Freelance journalists will be the industry standard, and if you have any interest in news writing, it’s best to make the transition now.

    OK, I’m going to press “submit” for real now. 😉

  3. Susan Gunelius Avatar

    My recommendation is to make sure you make that gig sound really good, which is easy to do because is owned by the New York Times company. Draw attention to the fact that you write for (a New York Times company) in your cover letter, resume, and so on. Quantify your online presence by including how many page views your content (particularly at where you can get your site stats). Mention how many people subscribe to your newsletter and that you manage an online forum.

    Is your book being published through a well-known publisher? If so, then you must have a good enough platform, so you shouldn’t be too modest. Start participating in LinkedIn groups for medical writers, join into the conversation in the forum (I think there is a medical writers folder), and reach out to popular medical bloggers asking if you can submit guest posts to build your portfolio of clips and further establish your expertise and online presence.

    It sounds like you have the platform, you just need to really sell yourself, create your online brand reputation, and keep trying!

  4. Kathy Avatar

    I get a ton of jobs through The Writers’ Bridge (, and many of them are looking for experienced medical writers. Good luck.

  5. Sutanah Avatar

    I was hired as a full-time medical writer approximately 4 years ago, and after 2 years of that made the leap to freelance medical writing.

    Nicole, you have a great background, just be persistant; you have the clinical skills, which many medical writers lack (I have the science training, but am not nor will I ever be a clinician). I would highly recommend that you try to find a job full-time in medical education, and in particular, CME.

    I am going to to nth the join AMWA, but not for the classes (if you wrote the other stuff, you can learn it on the job), but join it to go meetings and meet other people and tell them that you are looking for a job. Also, where do you live? If you are near a big city, send a letter of introduction to every CME/meded company in the area. In your letter, highlight your background as both a writer and a nurse. In fact, there is CME for nurses, I would think that those companies would want to pick you up.

    Also, put a detailed profile on linkedin and mention that you are looking for a job in medical education. List your clinical experience (you may have familiarity with drugs, etc, another reason that you may be picked up for a job). Anyway, recruiters peruse linkedin quite a bit — with the right recruiter, they may find a job for you. Although, I would send out lots of letters on your own — I bet you can find something on your own. It takes patience in the beginning but I have no doubt a company will hire you. Good luck.

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