Science Writing: Who, What, Where and How Much Charles A. Goldthwaite, Ph.D. Centenary College October 1, 2004

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Transcript Science Writing: Who, What, Where and How Much Charles A. Goldthwaite, Ph.D. Centenary College October 1, 2004

Science Writing:
Who, What, Where and How Much
Charles A. Goldthwaite, Ph.D.
Centenary College
October 1, 2004
What Exactly Do You Do,
Science writers create a variety of documents,
such as:
Journal articles
Grants and funding announcements
New drug applications
Advertising materials
Continuing medical education guidelines
Conference summaries
Feature stories/ journalism
Science Writing:
At a Bookstore Near You
Science Writing is:
Focused on clarity
Data-driven and
Generated as a support
for a greater cause
Often anonymous
Science Writing is not:
• Creative writing, in
the classical sense
• Opinion-oriented
• A solo effort
Home on the Range:
Where Science Writers Write
• Pharmaceutical / Biotech Industry
• Government Agencies (e.g., NIH, NSF,
• Academic Institutions/ Medical Centers
• Medical Education Companies
• Magazines/Newspapers
• Freelance Consulting (all of the above can
be clients)
Getting There: The Big Picture
• There is no one required degree to be a
science writer.
• Science writers have any of the following
degrees: BA/BS, MA/MS, PhD, MD, MPH,
JD, etc.
• In general, a degree in science + decent
writing ability is preferable to a background
in English/journalism + the potential to
understand the science
Getting There: More
• In general, professional options increase
with higher terminal degree
(PhD, MD, PharmD > MA/MS > BA/BS)
• Advanced degrees in English can be a gray
area for some employers
• Several US institutions offer 1-year Masters
programs in Science Writing (MIT, Johns
Hopkins, UC Santa Cruz)
Getting There: Masters
Programs in Science Writing
• Generally, these programs train writers in
“science journalism,” mostly for jobs with
mass media and science journals
• Advantages: great networking, required
internships, programs are respected in
• Considerations: Competitive, expensive (no
scholarships), experience is a plus
Geographic Considerations
• As a science writer (excepting freelancing),
you usually work onsite
• Most jobs with industry, medical education
companies, etc., are in MA, PA, NJ, CT, IL,
and CA; a limited number in the South and
• Government jobs are in DC
• Mass media jobs often in NYC (Yay!)
Show Me the Money
General Rules:
• The more personal prestige associated with
the assignment, the less lucrative it usually
• Higher pay usually correlates with higher
pressure assignments.
• The academy pays less than the govt and
private industry, for the same level of
Numbers, Please
• Pay varies with experience, degree level,
geography, etc.
• Many jobs listed on give
salary ranges
• For candidates with doctorates:
Industry: $50-90K
Government: $50-75K
Academic institutions: $40-60K
Freelancing: $50/hr and up
Getting Started
• Writing samples are a form of currency: You can’t
have too many!
• Start small; offer to write for free in a lowpressure situation (e.g., short blurbs in a local
medical newsletter, etc.)
• Build networks: Summer internships (often
unpaid) get your foot in the door
• Interview local science legends (e.g., Drs. Brame,
Chirhart, Blakeney, Leucks) for feature stories in
The Conglomerate
Info, Forums, Job Leads, Networking:
• National Association of Science Writers
• American Medical Writers Association
• Science’s Next Wave
Survey of Jobs Available:
• (keyword “medical writer” or
“science writer”)