Science writers prepare articles, summaries, or other text that bring scientific findings to the general public in an understandable way. Some work with researchers to prepare written interpretations of information, while others work in public relations positions for universities, biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies, and research organizations. With new advances in genomics and genetics made frequently, the demand for writers who can interpret this information for the general public is very high.
Science writers serve as an important link between the scientific community and the general public, helping to communicate research findings in a manner that helps inform the average person's understanding of modern science. From medical advances, to government policy, to the experiences of afflicted individuals, writers put everything into a context that makes sense and is relevant to their readers.
The size of projects can range from small articles to book-length works and can address very specific topics or a broad overview of a particular field. Some may involve working with filmmakers or radio producers to gather all the information necessary for a motion picture documentary or radio broadcast. Communication is key, as is an eager, curious attitude toward science.
Given the expansion of the internet and the public's growing dependence on it for information, the demand for writers and editors of scientific content is expected to grow. Still, competition for these jobs will be difficult.
The best way to ensure a successful career is to maintain a broad understanding of most scientific fields, while choosing a relevant, highly specialized area of technical understanding. Genomics and genetics are high-demand fields, as the focus of modern medicine shifts more and more to them.
Working Conditions & Context
A science writer generally works in an office or home setting. The position typically requires frequent communication, via phone or email, with leading scientists, both to clarify the facts of a story and to obtain quotes and perhaps images that can used with the article. The position frequently requires interactions with editors who work with the writer to target the content to the needs of a particular audience. In addition, the work often requires interactions with graphic artists to develop images that are appropriate to further explaining the scientific story. Often a story must be told in a limited number of words, so discipline and the ability to focus on main points are frequently crucial.
A typical Salary Range for this career is $61,659 - $84,041 annually.
The Median Income for this career is about $73,000 annually.
Science writers are generally expected to hold college degrees. Many pursue degrees in journalism or communication and supplement them with considerable study in the sciences. Others may choose to do the opposite. An advanced degree in journalism or in a specialized area of science is highly desirable. There are universities that offer specific advanced programs in science writing (e.g., University of California-Santa Cruz).
Science writers must be able to understand scientific issues and translate them into a readable, easily understood nature for the general public. They must also be willing to continue learning throughout their careers, which includes reading scientific journals, attending scientific meetings, and engaging career scientists in conversation on a regular basis.
Certification & Licensing:
The Society of Technical Communication
The National Association of Science Writers
American Medical Writers Association
Science Communications Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz
American Association for the Advancement of Science Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellows
** More than a minimum degree may be required for some careers.