I admit it. This year I needed a pep talk. More and more, it seems, job ads for medical writers -- even ads seeking freelance help -- state that a science degree is required. Some even specify an MD or PharmD or PhD. I almost always have as much freelance work as I want, but still, I worry. Is this the way the medical writing world is going? I am only 49; even if I retire as scheduled, I have 21 years to go. Is the day coming when excellent writing skills won't be enough?
In his free open session on how nonscientists can succeed in medical writing, Scott Kober helped allay my fears. The session was geared toward people wanting to break into our field, but it reminded me of why we liberal arts majors are special. Scott discussed the advantages of a humanities background and explained what skills nonscientists can highlight to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. I especially enjoyed the "case studies" that showed how real people --journalists, technical writers, even a Russian studies major -- fell into medical writing. Scott also candidly described the limitations of a liberal arts background and the self-education that's needed to augment it.
Most useful to me was this quote from one of the women featured in a case study: "I don't bother responding to ads that say 'MD or PhD required.' That tells me that the hiring party doesn't really understand the skills that are necessary for medical writing." Oh, bless you, anonymous colleague! My attitude has been adjusted and I'm good for another year.