Working in medical communications is a career option to consider for anyone who wants to keep up their interest in science but would prefer to work neither in academia nor in a laboratory environment.
Medical communications (also known as MedComms) focuses on helping companies in the pharmaceutical industry to raise awareness of their drugs and products through education and promotion. MedComms work also focuses on educating and informing healthcare professionals on the benefits and risks of new therapies, supported by clinical and economic data.
The majority of medical communications professionals work for medical communications agencies: private companies that provide services to help pharmaceutical companies educate physicians, patients and other stakeholders about new therapies and the conditions they treat. This might involve preparing documents such as journal papers, conference presentations, training materials for pharmaceutical company staff and information resources for patients.
It is easy to conflate 'medical communications' with 'medical writing,' when in fact there are a range of other roles available in the sector including:
- Medical Writing: production of a range of medical communications including abstracts and manuscripts for medical journal publications, informative material for doctors, nurses or patients, and promotional sales and marketing materials
- Regulatory Writing: focuses on producing documentation required by national regulatory agencies which must grant approval on the safety and efficacy of drugs
- Medical Editing: checking accuracy of medical writing, proofreading and editing
- Account Management: liaising with clients, tracking projects and making sure projects are delivered on-time and in-budget
- Other functions including business development (i.e. winning new business), logistics, strategy and finance
It is worth researching the sector further and speaking to people working in MedComms to find out which kind of role might suit you best. A very comprehensive guide ('From Academic to Medical Writer') for PhDs and postdocs on getting started in medical communications can be found in the ‘find out more’ links below. For more information, consult this guide.
The profession is not to be confused with scientific writing or scientific journalism.
Important skills include:
- A higher degree (many medical writers have a PhD due to the skills and scientific knowledge required)
- Excellent written communication and an enjoyment of writing
- Ability to work under pressure and juggle multiple projects
- Ability to work in a team
- Good listening skills
- Strong research skills
- Ability to learn new things quickly
- Confidence with handling statistics
Find out more