The fastlane to becoming a medical writer

If you've ever considered becoming a medical writer (or editor), now is the time to thoroughly explore that option.

To become a physician, you had to develop the knowledge and skills required to practice medicine. Similarly, to become a medical communicator, there are skills you’ll need to learn. While a clinical background and a flair for writing are a great start, they are unlikely to get you your first job.

The American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) is the leading professional organization for medical writers and editors, and their sole mission is to promote excellence in medical communication. One way they do this is by offering workshops and self-study modules that allow you to earn a certificate in this field. Those who earn the AMWA Essential Skills certificate develop a strong foundation in medical communications and demonstrate to potential employers a certain level of competency and seriousness about the career.

The quickest way to a medical writing certificate

The certificate process is not trivial, and can take up to 3 years to complete. However, you can work full-time – either as a writer or a clinician – while earning the certificate if you choose.

Each certificate requires seven 3-hour writing/editing credit workshops, plus a 3-hour ethics workshop. Many, but not all of the workshops can be taken via self-study. Workshops are also offered at the AMWA Annual Conference, which will be held this year in Milwaukee, November 11-13. So if you want to earn an AMWA certificate in a hurry, now is the time to begin. The most stream-lined schedule would be as follows:

  • Enroll in an AMWA certificate program. Enrollment and program details are available here.
  • In June, July, and August purchase and complete the self-study workshops that are available. You can currently earn 5 credits via self-study modules toward the 8 total credits needed to earn an Essential Skills certificate. Two more self-study modules will soon be available, including the required ethics workshop, which will mean 7 of the 8 credits required for the Essential Skills certificate can be done from home, if that is your preference.
  • If you prefer in-person workshops, register for the AMWA Annual Conference, taking place this year in Milwaukee, WI. You can register for up to 3 workshops to apply toward your Essential Skills certificate. Here's a description of the workshops available at the meeting and an explanation of which workshops you need to earn a certificate (see the section titled "I'm enrolled in a certificate program; how do I decide what to register for?”) This is a very popular conference, a great place to network, and much less expensive than most medical conferences! Registration opens July 26th and workshops fill quickly.
  • In September and October complete the pre-workshop homework assignments for the workshops that you will be attending in November. The key to completing the certificate process quickly is having everything ready for the November workshops.
  • Attend the workshops in November. With completion of 3 workshops at the conference and 5 self-study modules, you could potentially earn an Essential Skills certificate in less than a year.

Getting advice

A representative of AMWA, Tami Ball, MD, will be available to answer questions about medical writing and AMWA. She will be contributing from time to time to the MomMD physician career blog and will be available to answer questions in the doctor's forum.

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