Medical writers are technical writers who focus on preparing diverse types of documentation and materials within the medical field. Their actual roles are so varied that medical writers may write proposals to submit to the FDA, instruction manuals explaining how to use medical devices or equipment, or informative texts meant for patients and other laypeople.
How well does the job of medical writer pay, on average? How does the salary compare to similar professions, and what are the top paying states for medical writers? How do you even become a medical writer? If you are curious, keep on reading for an in-depth exploration of these topics.
Average Salary for Medical Writers
The most accurate data regarding salary ranges comes from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which discloses that the median annual wage for all writers and authors currently lies at $67,120. The BLS supplies salary data for technical writers, which includes medical writers, separately as well. These skilled and educated writers have a median yearly salary of $74,650.
- At the lowest end of the salary spectrum, the bottom 10 percent, technical writers earn $45,510 per year or less.
- The highest-earning 10 percent of technical writers make more than $119,040 on an annual basis.
- Technical writers who work in professional, scientific, and technical services — a broader category that includes, but is not limited to, medical writers — earn a median yearly salary of $76,310.
For a closer look at the kind of salary a medical writer makes per year, on average, we can examine what privately-owned salary-tracking platforms report.
Data provided by Glassdoor shows that medical writers in the United States earn an average yearly salary of $85,125. The salaries in this field, the platform says, typically range from $60,000 per year to $121,000 a year.
ZipRecruiter suggests that medical writers have an average annual salary of $102,603, reporting that ranges between $43,000 and $164,000 per year are typical. Salaries outside of this range exist, but they are outliers.
Indeed says that the average annual salary for medical writers is $72,074, while PayScale lists $74,117 as the annual average.
Each of these platforms relies on slightly different data sets, with some overlap likely existing. Therefore, looking at these figures in combination offers people who want to know what medical writers tend to earn the most complete picture.
When negotiating your salary with a prospective employer, it is of course good to be mindful of the fact that few people, in fact, make an “average” salary. Some will earn significantly more, while others’ income is well below the average. Your potential salary will inevitably depend on factors like your years of experience in the field, your educational background, and your location.
We can further note that medical writing jobs are often categorized as medical writer I, medical writer II, or medical writer III. These categories indicate the level of expertise required in a job, and this also influences your earning potential.
What Do Medical Writers Make Per Hour?
ZipRecruiter estimates that medical writers make an average of $49 per hour, while PayScale reports that the average hourly rate in this profession is $41.52. Both of these figures demonstrate that the field of medical writing is relatively lucrative, both when compared to all professions and to other positions within the field of writing.
Based on Experience
According to data supplied by PayScale:
- Entry-level medical writers — those who have recently completed their education and do not yet have experience in the field, or who have switched careers from an entirely different profession — make an average of $70,590 per year.
- In the first few years of their career, medical writers earn an average of $72,743 a year.
- Mid-career medical writers, who likely have between five and 10 years of experience, have an average annual salary of $77,543.
- Seasoned medical writers, who will have been on the field for longer than a decade, earn an average of $99,044 per year.
Salary Based on Education
Medical writers who have earned an Associate’s degree earn, Salary.com estimates, an average of $87,741 per year. With a Bachelor’s degree, the average rises to $88,082. Those who have earned a Master’s degree earn an average of $88,876, while medical writers who hold a PhD do not earn more than that, on average.
Note that these estimates do not take experience into account; regardless of your education, this too will influence the salary you can expect to earn.
Top Paying States
New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Ohio are the top paying states for medical writers, Indeed suggests. This differs from the data supplied by ZipRecruiter, which says that most of the highest paying jobs for medical writers are based in California.
Medical writers are in demand across the nation, however, and your salary potential highly depends not only on your state, but also on the hiring company or institution.
The outlook is excellent for medical writers. The field of technical writing is, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, expected to grow by as much as 12 percent in the coming decade. Skilled medical writers will find plenty of job opportunities, and as we have seen, they can expect steady salary increases as they gain experience, as well.
What Exactly Does a Medical Writer Do?
Medical writing is a broad category; not all medical writers have the same daily tasks. Some medical writers craft summaries explaining clinical trial results, while others create manuals for medical devices or instructions on how to use medications. Yet others produce reports for medical professionals or for the general public, or even write press releases or brochures on behalf of pharmaceutical companies, hospital groups, or other medical companies.
All medical writers can, however, expect to engage in:
- Conducting background research.
- Writing medical texts as requested by their employer or client.
- Standardize their writing to meet regulators’ requirements, such as when creating proposals that are due to be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration.
- Communicating with other members of the team and with direct managers.
All medical writers will rely on an extensive knowledge of medical jargon. Those performing public-facing work, such as writing press releases or creating fact sheets aimed at patients, will also need to be skilled at “translating” that jargon into plain English.
How to Become a Medical Writer?
Most technical writers pursue a Bachelor’s degree in a writing-related field, such as English, journalism, or communications. This path can open up a career in medical writing, too, but many medical writers also hold degrees in medicine, pharmaceutical sciences, or another related field, such as psychology or psychiatry.
Those with a research experience are highly valued. Strong writing skills are a must, but whether those skills are anchored in academic writing or tend more toward creative writing will determine whether an aspiring medical writer is better suited to highly technical work or to producing informative texts aimed at the general public.
After gaining work experience as a junior member of the team or within a small business or institution, more prestigious vacancies will gradually begin to open up to you.
Qualifications to Be a Medical Writer
Required qualifications vary. The most reliable path, however, would be to complete a Bachelor’s degree. Here, aspiring medical writers could opt either to study a writing-related field, or a medical field.
- Degrees in writing-related fields like English, journalism, marketing, and communications would fall into the first category. Here, it would help to declare a specialty in technical writing.
- Studying medicine, pharmaceutical sciences, medical and health services, or psychology likewise enables you to become a medical writer.
- Finally, some medical writers may have studied business administration.
Skills to Be a Medical Writer
The desired skill set of a medical writer does vary depending on their precise role, but all medical writers will benefit from:
- Research skills and a deep understanding of the scientific process.
- Excellent writing skills, including the ability to engage in academic writing as well as informative writing intended for a lay audience. Strong editing skills are also a must.
- Understanding regulations in the relevant field, and being able to standardize documents to meet requirements.
- Familiarity with the field and its jargon.
- The ability to work well under pressure, as medical writers can expect to come face to face with tight deadlines.
Can You Be a Medical Writer Without a Degree?
Most medical writers will possess a Bachelor’s degree. Those public-oriented medical writers who prepare brochures and fact sheets for patients and the public at large may, occasionally, not have completed a degree. This is not the norm in this industry, however, and aspiring medical writers are strongly advised to pursue a degree in a writing-related field or a medical science.