As one year ends and another begins, many of us spend time thinking about what the next 12 months might hold for us, and whilst many of our resolutions fall to the wayside by February, in January 2022 I was determined it would be the year I finally made the transition out of academia and into the world of medical writing.

For the blog this month, I wanted to share my experience of becoming a medical writer and I hope this may give those who were thinking about a career change some advice and guidance. For me, it felt like I would be making a leap into the unknown, but I was surprised by how well skills developed in academia can be utilised for a career in medical writing.

A little background about me

After my degree in Immunology at the University of Glasgow, I moved back to my home city of Liverpool and enrolled into a Master of Research degree programme, specialising in Infection Immunology at the University of Liverpool. After this, I was fortunate enough to stay to undertake a PhD. Fast forward several years and I found myself with a PhD and four years’ experience as a postdoctoral researcher.

In 2021, as my contract was coming to an end, the next steps in academia for me would have included fellowship applications in the hopes of branching out as an independent scientist and setting up a research group of my own. However, with fewer than 10% of postdoctoral researchers in the UK securing permanent positions pursuing research in universities [1], the next step of the career ladder in academia would have been a highly unstable one, fraught with immense pressure to prove my potential as an independent researcher. So, with that appealing prospect, coupled with becoming a parent and already facing a difficult juggle between work and home life, I concluded that my time in academia had come to an end. I needed to find a career with more stability, flexibility, and progression. In May 2022, I was lucky enough to start working as a medical writer for Alchemy Medical Writing Ltd and haven’t looked back since.

How could I walk away from a research career?

I consider my years of research for my PhD project and postdoctoral contract as privileged. Yes, academia does have a lot of negative press with reports of poor mental wellbeing, and researchers often feeling underpaid and undervalued [2], but if you are lucky enough to work within a group with a leader who is supportive, then at times it can feel like the most exciting job in the world. Having the freedom and flexibility to pursue your own research interests is the best part of academia and I remember describing my research to friends and family with great pride and enthusiasm. However, the long hours and constant feeling of treading water in a deep sea of data analysis, student supervision and pressure to publish results was just not sustainable for me or my family. You might be reading this and experiencing similar feelings, and that’s okay.

How can we make the most of the knowledge and skill set we’ve obtained from being researchers?

Well, the world of science is changing as the importance of communicating findings to the public is paramount for the future of scientific research. Public involvement panels, a move towards fully open access journals and scientific podcasts, to name a few, are important steps towards making science accessible for all. The medical writing profession have a key role to play in this movement and so the transition for academics into medical writing is a highly beneficial one for the future of scientific communication.

When it comes to applying for medical writing positions, it is important to emphasise the broad skill set developed in academia and how many of these skills can be utilised in the world of medical writing. Take a look at the table below to see just how many overlapping skills there can be between academia and medical writing.



What is it really like to work as a Medical Writer?

For me, the best part of being a medical writer is that I get to work on a broad range of subject areas from cancer studies, infectious diseases, to vaccine design and clinical trials, whereas in academia, I was so focused on the role of one cell type in a particular disease. Since starting as a medical writer at Alchemy, I have mainly been working with a pharmaceutical client to assist them with writing manuscripts for both preclinical and clinical trial results, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. Having prior experience of writing manuscripts and using software to produce publication quality figures, I was able to hit the ground running with these projects.

I have also been fortunate enough to participate in a medical writing course which covered all aspects of medical writing, giving a fantastic overview of all the briefs you would be expected to work on, including helpful feedback for how to improve areas of our writing or design skills.

The transition from a commute into a city centre every day to spend long, hectic hours in a laboratory, to working in my office at home has been a welcome one! Now any overtime worked is paid or can be taken back as holiday, although we have a culture that strongly supports a good work/life balance and overtime isn’t usually encouraged. Other benefits include flexibility of working hours, fast promotion, emphasis on looking after your mental health, personal wellbeing, private healthcare, team fitness challenges, opportunity to attend career development courses and team away days.

Whilst I have not been a medical writer for long, I can say that the career change has been very rewarding so far. I have enjoyed learning about the stages of vaccine development, analysing data from exciting clinical trials and finally finding a true work/life balance!

Tips for applying for your first medical writing position:

  • Make LinkedIn your new best friend! Clean up your profile and start to network with recruiters and other medical writers. Your next opportunity might be just around the corner.
  • Most jobs aren’t advertised – if you find a company you want to work for, try emailing them with your cover letter and CV. It’s what I did, so I promise it can work sometimes!  Remember that your email needs to be well written too, as it will also form a first impression of you.
  • When writing your CV, companies will not care about your long (albeit impressive) list of lab skills – list only the skills and experience relevant to working as a medical writer.
  • Every company will ask you to do a writing test. Take your time with these and have someone proof-read them for you. Once you’re ready to send it back, re-read the brief to ensure you’ve done everything they asked for – including sending it in the right document file type!
  • Make sure you research the company well so you know whether it would be a good fit for you – ask about training, wellbeing, team activities etc. Remember that good companies want to nurture their employees.
  • Think about the different areas of medical writing you might be most interested in, such as medical communications and regulatory writing – which would you prefer to do? Would the company you are applying to allow you to gain experience or training in both?

So, my overall advice to anyone thinking of taking the leap – do your research of the medical writing role and the different agencies, and if you like what you hear then go for it. You’ll be surprised at how adaptable to new challenges your time in academia has made you.

Good luck!



  1. van der Weijden, I., Teelken, C., de Boer, M. et al. Career satisfaction of postdoctoral researchers in relation to their expectations for the future. High Educ 72, 25–40 (2016). doi:10.1007/s10734-015-9936-0
  2. Nicholls H, Nicholls M, Tekin S, Lamb D, Billings J. The impact of working in academia on researchers’ mental health and well-being: A systematic review and qualitative meta-synthesis. PLoS One. 2022;17(5):e0268890. Published 2022 May 25. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0268890

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