A career in scientific writing provides an opportunity to combine literary and creative skills with the technical knowledge to communicate with your scientific peers. Here, Warwick alumni Nalini Adele Pinto (2016 MSc Graduate in Biotechnology, Bioprocessing and Business Management) describes her career trajectory in this sector
A Master’s degree can create a lot of opportunities and if you are from a background in life sciences for example, you may decide to further your skills in a lab or switch to an entirely new track like that of a management role. Whichever way you wish to go, it is important to assess whether you have what it takes for an employer to see your potential to add to their company. It’s got to be a win-win!
When I graduated with an MSc I had just completed a four-month temporary contract with a leading laboratory. I was about to pursue a career in a similar environment but my career took an unexpected turn on my graduation day. My personal tutor approached me saying there was a scientific writing job waiting for me back in India at a leading global scientific organisation. I had a few weeks to learn what the job entailed and decided to take the leap in a completely different direction.
Over a span of two years I’ve progressed from being a Scientific Communications Associate to a Scientific Communications Specialist with Pfizer India. It has indeed been a steep learning curve with huge pressure to perform to stringent timelines. Although it was a bit of luck that favored me getting the job (a BBBM alumni working in the company was starting up this team and knew exactly what she wanted), I realized that some skills were crucial during my pre-assessment stage and I wouldn’t have made the cut had I not known these.
What skills do you need to have for a Scientific Writing profile?
An allied degree in the sciences is required to be considered for this profile. In addition, you will need to demonstrate excellent organisational skills, including time management, and acute attention to detail. Strong communication skills are a must-have. Effective scientific communication requires the ability to tailor complex scientific topics across different specialisms to diverse audiences. Suitable candidates must also display strong interpersonal skills, since a large part of the role requires that we work closely with external specialists, as well as collaborate with colleagues across various functions within the organisation. Creativity and an innovative mind-set are both needed to develop interesting formats to deliver your messages to the right audience at the right time.
How can you prepare yourself for a career in this field?
To prepare yourself for a role in scientific writing, it is important that you get some experience and build a portfolio. You can do this by getting involved in a student publication at university or creating a blog. Attending relevant workshops offered by Warwick Careers & Skills helped during my postgraduate studies. Likewise, there is a lot of freely available training that you can attend online. Advanced knowledge of the Microsoft Office suite, especially Word and PowerPoint, is a big advantage. A good working knowledge of reference managers like EndNote and anti-plagiarism software is also useful. Similarly, the use of statistical and data visualization tools can help.
What does a typical day look like?
It’s not easy to generalize what a typical day will entail because every day you learn something new or begin thinking ahead for your next task. Since my work involves generating content that spans across different therapy areas for different audiences, some days I work on intense technical articles and others I use my creative powers to summarize scientific documents into an infographic. Nevertheless, some of the tasks you can envision include:
- Researching a given topic thoroughly
- Developing high quality content according to a set timeline
- Completing new skills training online
- Brainstorming with your team to discuss an ongoing piece of work, or
- Engaging in discussions with your manager to improve team efficiencies!
The varied day-to-day activities are what make this job exciting and rewarding not only for the team, but for your personal growth as well. If you are considering a career in scientific writing building your skills profile suitable for a position is essential at an early stage. There will always be something new to learn or a skill to master on the job in scientific writing, with ever-changing tools to help you. If you manage your time wisely you can also enjoy a good work-life balance in a comfortable job.
So what are you waiting for? Start networking with Scientific and Medical writers because this niche community is growing at a rapid pace and is always looking for fresh talent!