Scientific Writer Salary and Job Outlook

Scientific writers convey complex scientific information, typically aimed at other scientists. They work within both the private and public sectors. What is the average salary for these skilled technical writers, and how do you become a scientific writer?

Average Salary for Scientific Writers

Writers and authors in the United States earn a median salary of $67,120 per year, data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows. Scientific writers, however, fall under the category of scientific writers. These skilled and qualified professionals have a higher median annual wage of $74,650 (as of May 2020).

While the lowest-earning scientific writers make less than $45,510 a year (around $10,000 more than the median seen across writers in all fields), those in the highest-paying jobs can earn in excess of $119,040 per year.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics further specifies that technical writers who work in “professional, scientific, and technical services” have the second-highest median annual wage among all technical writers. At a median of $76,310 per year, these technical writers are surpassed only by technical writers working in the traditional print publishing industry.

Do privately-owned salary-tracking platforms, who may have less complete data that is nonetheless updated constantly, agree? Let’s take a look:

  • According to the popular salary-tracking platform PayScale, scientific writers in the United States make an average annual base salary of $75,000. They further point out that most scientific writers earn a salary between $51,000 and $116,000 on an annual basis.
  • ZipRecruiter estimates that the average annual wage among scientific writers currently stands at $83,368. This platform holds that scientific writers typically enjoy salary ranges that fall between $29,500 and $216,500 per year. The very upper end of the pay scale represents outliers, however.
  • Glassdoor estimates that scientific writers an an average of $70,947 per year.
  • Zippia has an even higher estimate; their data indicates that the median wage for scientific writers in the US is $127,000.

The data provided by Glassdoor and Payscale largely coincides with the information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and is most likely to be accurate. As these figures are largely based on a combination of job postings and up-to-date salary information provided by professionals currently working in the field, however, it is clear that some scientific writers earn very impressive annual salaries.

What Do Scientific Writers Make Per Hour?

Each platform offers its own estimates that pertain to average hourly rates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that technical writers as a whole have a median hourly wage of $32.27 per hour. While PayScale’s data suggests that scientific writers earn less than that on average, at $22.07 per hour, ZipRecruiter holds that the average is closer to $40 per hour.

Based on Experience

No clear data is available to pinpoint how a scientific writer’s number of years of experience in the field influences the salary they will typically earn. However, general trends across all occupations show that recent graduates who have only just began their careers typically earn the least.

With each year of experience on the job, a professional’s salary tends to rise. In highly-skilled fields such as scientific writing, that increase can be as much as $1,000 per year. This salary increase reflects the worker’s increased skill and insider knowledge.

After eight to 10 years in the field, however, annual wages tend to level off. After this point, higher annual earnings frequently reflect inflation.

Based on Education

Scientific writers will typically need, at the very least, a Bachelor’s degree in a highly relevant field to effectively carry out their jobs.

  • Zippia estimates that scientific writers with a Bachelor’s degree earn an average of $128,919 per year.
  • With a Master’s degree, they suggest that scientific writers make $155,995 annually, on average.
  • Scientific writers who hold a Doctorate are estimated to earn an average of $133,018 per year.

Given the fact that Zippia’s estimates run higher than those of other platforms, as well as when compared to government data that looks at salaries for technical writers in general, scientific writers should not base any negotiations they hold with their employers on these figures.

This data does, on the other hand, show a general trend. More highly-educated scientific writers can reasonably expect to earn higher salaries, something that reflects a measurably more extensive skill set.

Top Paying States for Scientific Writers

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program, which tracks a broad variety of information related to career prospects and salaries, shows that the top-paying jobs for technical writers as a general category are currently found in the states of California, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia, as well as in Washington, DC.

Privately-owned salary-tracking platforms, on the other hand, tend to break this data down not by state but by city. ZipRecruiter’s data, which is based on information provided by currently-active scientific writers, shows that nearly all of the highest-paid jobs for scientific writers are based in California. The cities that stand out include San Jose, Oakland, Concord, and Santa Cruz.

Job Outlook for Scientific Writers

The outlook is very positive for technical writers. Job growth across all professions is currently projected to amount to eight percent over the coming decade, for instance, while jobs for writers and authors are only rising very slightly faster at nine percent. The growth rate for technical writing jobs is 12 percent, on the other hand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics especially highlights the scientific sector as one in which jobs for technical writers are set to be in high demand.

The salary a scientific writer earns will depend on the sector in which they are employed, however. Those who work in academia are likely to have slightly lower wages than those scientific writers who are employed in the private sector. Scientific writers who want to maximize their earning potential can examine whether they would benefit from exploring work in the private sector.

Once employed in the scientific field, skilled and experience technical writers are likely to continue to enjoy a broad range of employment opportunities until retirement.

What Exactly Does a Scientific Writer Do?

Scientific writers convey highly-specialized and highly-technical information that pertains to scientific research and processes in writing. They may work in the public or private sector, including in academia and cutting-edge technology firms.

This type of writing differs greatly from other types of writing, and scientific writers will:

  • Communicate relevant scientific facts clearly, precisely, and in a standardized manner.
  • Engage in fact-checking.
  • Spend much of their time performing data analysis.
  • Work with other team members, such as researchers and graphic designers.
  • Revise and edit both their own work as well as the work of their colleagues.

How to Become a Scientific Writer?

Aspiring scientific writers will generally initially complete a degree in a science-related field of their choice. After finishing an undergraduate degree, they may wish to continue and complete a graduate or post-graduate degree.

Internships are the best way to gain the experience and recommendations, as well as to start building a professional network that may lead to job opportunities. With the prerequisite education and skills, however, it is fully possible for aspiring scientific writers to simply keep an eye on job vacancies, apply, and go through the interview process.

Qualifications to Be a Scientific Writer

To be considered for a position as a scientific writer, you will need expertise and skills that are relevant to the particular branch in which you are hoping to work. This will inevitably mean completing at least a Bachelor’s degree, although each employer will have their own requirements for applicants.

Relevant scientific fields are extremely diverse and can include, among numerous other options:

  • Applied biological sciences
  • Astronomical and planetary sciences
  • Biochemistry
  • Biological sciences
  • Chemistry
  • Forensic science
  • Physics

Medical doctors and psychiatrists can also be successful scientific writers within their respective fields of expertise.

Skills to Be a Scientific Writer

In addition to the prerequisite expertise in the relevant area, which are nurtured over the course of a future scientific writer’s college education, scientific writers will also need to possess the following skills and aptitudes:

  • Outstanding writing and editing skills. Although all students completing a science-related degree will be taught academic writing skills, scientific writers will, to some degree, depend on innate talent as well. If you have the gift of being extremely clear, concise, and precise, you may make an excellent scientific writer.
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Scientific writers will, over the course of their work, face numerous challenges. Solving them depends on being able to think on your feet.
  • Solid interpersonal communication. Scientific writers work not in isolation, but as members of larger teams. You will need to be able to work well with other scientific personnel as well as with staff outside of the sciences.

Can You Be a Scientific Writer Without a Degree?

Because scientific writers depend on advanced scientific skills and knowledge, they will need to have completed a Bachelor’s degree as a minimum requirement.



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