Do you need a medical degree to be a health & medical writer? It’s a question I get asked all the time. And, here’s a little confession: I’m a health & medical writer without a medical degree.
Should health & medical writers have a medical degree?
Medical writers who care about producing high-quality work and are happy to dedicate time to learning about the industry don’t necessarily need a medical degree. That’s because:
- We research thoroughly using high-quality, evidence-based resources.
- We speak to researchers and experts to gain a clinician’s perspective on relevant issues and topics.
- We try to communicate these perspectives in an interesting, practical and useful way for our readers, based on evidence-based writing strategies.
- We consider an issue from its clinical application.
- If we need to write clinical recommendations, we always consult a medical professional.
This means we’re not coming to our own conclusion about what a doctor should do in practice – rather, the end result is always a collaborative process. A process incorporating:
- outcomes based on clinical evidence – new and past, and
- what the experts advise.
Research is the essence of any good qualification. Isn’t that why medical professionals have continuing professional development programs endorsed by peak bodies like the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners?
I believe high-quality medical writing is about:
- gaining a deeper level of understanding about issues and research, and then
- communicating a meaningful idea to readers – regardless of whether you’re writing for the general public or medical professionals.
Writing experience vs medical degree
When I began a medical writing job several years ago, I spoke about this issue with my predecessor. She’s a very successful, well-respected science/medical writer and book author who also doesn’t have a medical degree.
She told me that, despite her lack of credentials, she felt as if she’d completed a medical degree.
Sometimes, I feel the same. But then, I’ll learn about a new health topic and realise just how little I know compared to the experts – and, that’s why they’re the experts, and I’m the bridge between them and the public.
The other side of the coin
Before I wrote this post, I asked my LinkedIn network whether they felt a degree was necessary to pursue a career in medical writing.
One member believed the passion for health and interest in the field was the underlying strength of the writer.
Another responded with the counter-argument: Do health professionals who write need a writing degree?
She felt like not having any formal communications qualifications was an obstacle in pursuing a career in this area.
Some medical professionals are blessed with excellent writing abilities. So, for them, qualifications aren’t necessary.
Medical qualifications and medical writing courses help those who have the desire to write, but not the natural flair. And, this is true for any profession.