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Become A Science Writer

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Working As A Science Writer

  • Interacting With Computers
  • Getting Information
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Repetitive

  • Stressful

  • $74,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Science Writer Do

Technical writers, also called technical communicators, prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily. They also develop, gather, and disseminate technical information through an organization’s communications channels.

Duties

Technical writers typically do the following:

  • Determine the needs of users of technical documentation
  • Study product samples and talk with product designers and developers
  • Work with technical staff to make products easier to use and thus require fewer instructions
  • Organize and write supporting content for products
  • Use photographs, drawings, diagrams, animation, and charts that increase users’ understanding
  • Select appropriate medium for message or audience, such as manuals or online videos
  • Standardize content across platforms and media
  • Gather user feedback to update and improve content
  • Revise content as new issues arise

Technical writers create paper-based and digital operating instructions, how-to manuals, assembly instructions, and “frequently asked questions” pages to help technical support staff, consumers, and other users within a company or an industry. After a product is released, technical writers also may work with product liability specialists and customer-service managers to improve the end-user experience through product design changes.

Technical writers often work with computer hardware engineers, scientists, computer support specialists, and software developers to manage the flow of information among project workgroups during development and testing. Therefore, technical writers must be able to understand complex information and communicate the information to people with diverse professional backgrounds.

Applying their knowledge of the user of the product, technical writers may serve as part of a team conducting usability studies to help improve the design of a product that is in the prototype stage. Technical writers may conduct research on their topics through personal observation, library and Internet research, and discussions with technical specialists.

Technical writers are also responsible for managing the consistency of technical content and its use across business departments including product development, manufacturing, marketing, and customer relations.

Some technical writers help write grant proposals for research scientists and institutions.

Increasingly, technical information is being delivered online and through social media. Technical writers are using the interactive technologies of the Web and social media to blend text, graphics, multidimensional images, sound, and video.

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How To Become A Science Writer

A college degree is usually required for a position as a technical writer. In addition, experience with a technical subject, such as computer science, Web design, or engineering, is important.

Education

Employers generally prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, English, or communications. Many technical writing jobs require both a degree and knowledge in a specialized field, such as engineering, computer science, or medicine. Web design experience also is helpful because of the growing use of online technical documentation.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some technical writers begin their careers as specialists or research assistants in a technical field. They eventually develop technical communication skills and assume primary responsibilities for technical writing. In small firms, beginning technical writers may work on projects right away; in larger companies with more standard procedures, beginners may observe experienced technical writers and interact with specialists before being assigned projects.

Training

Many technical writers need short-term on-the-job training to adapt to a different style of writing.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some associations, including the Society for Technical Communication, offer certification for technical writers. In addition, the American Medical Writers Association offers extensive continuing education programs and certificates in medical writing. These certificates are available to professionals in the medical and allied scientific communication fields.

Although not mandatory, certification can demonstrate competence and professionalism, making candidates more attractive to employers. It can also increase a technical writer’s opportunities for advancement.

Advancement

Prospects for advancement generally include working on more complex projects and leading or training junior staff. Some technical writers become self-employed and produce work on a freelance basis.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Technical writers must be able to take complex, technical information and translate it for colleagues and consumers who have nontechnical backgrounds.

Detail oriented. Technical writers create detailed instructions for others to follow. As a result, they must be detailed and precise at every step so that the instructions can be useful.

Imagination. Technical writers must be able to think about a procedure or product in the way a person without technical experience would think about it.

Teamwork. Technical writers must be able to work well with others. They are almost always part of a team: with other writers; with designers, editors, and illustrators; and with the technical people whose information they are explaining.

Technical skills. Technical writers must be able to understand highly complex information. Many technical writers need a background in engineering or computer science in order to do this.

Writing skills. Technical communicators must have excellent writing skills to be able to explain technical information clearly.

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Average Yearly Salary
$74,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$41,000
Min 10%
$74,000
Median 50%
$74,000
Median 50%
$74,000
Median 50%
$74,000
Median 50%
$74,000
Median 50%
$74,000
Median 50%
$74,000
Median 50%
$132,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Brown University
Highest Paying City
Cambridge, MA
Highest Paying State
North Dakota
Avg Experience Level
2.6 years
How much does a Science Writer make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Science Writer in the United States is $74,240 per year or $36 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $41,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $132,000.

Real Science Writer Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Science Writer, Sfari.org Simons Foundation New York, NY Jan 01, 2015 $90,000
Science Writer Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Cold Spring Harbor, NY Oct 01, 2011 $63,036
Science Writer/Instructor The University of Arizona Tucson, AZ Sep 12, 2015 $60,000
Science Writer The University of Arizona Tucson, AZ May 01, 2015 $52,061
Senior Science Writer & Press Officer University of Rochester Rochester, NY Aug 01, 2015 $50,331
Senior Science Writer & Press Officer University of Rochester Rochester, NY Jan 08, 2015 $50,331
UA Science Writer The University of Arizona Tucson, AZ May 01, 2012 $50,274
Science Writer National Academy of Sciences Washington, DC May 22, 2010 $49,608 -
$50,000
Senior Science Writer University of Rochester Rochester, NY Aug 01, 2012 $48,000
UA Science Writer The University of Arizona Tucson, AZ Jan 12, 2010 $48,000

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Top Skills for A Science Writer

  1. Environmental Science
  2. Press Releases
  3. Web Content
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Report, write, and edit news highlights and press releases for both the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation.
  • Research academic and scientific journals and popular science media.
  • Contacted medical researchers and patients to establish crowd source funding for further medical research
  • Developed scientific training materials in neurobiology, endocrinology, medical imaging, genetics and cell biology.
  • Highlighted research achievements in reports to Congress and responded to Congressional inquiries on NIH policy and research.

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Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Science Writers

  1. Washington
  2. Massachusetts
  3. California
  4. Virginia
  5. North Carolina
  6. District of Columbia
  7. New Jersey
  8. Maryland
  9. Connecticut
  10. Colorado
  • (116 jobs)
  • (153 jobs)
  • (667 jobs)
  • (201 jobs)
  • (113 jobs)
  • (82 jobs)
  • (87 jobs)
  • (139 jobs)
  • (29 jobs)
  • (79 jobs)

Science Writer Demographics

Gender

Female

56.6%

Male

32.5%

Unknown

10.8%
Ethnicity

White

61.4%

Black or African American

12.4%

Hispanic or Latino

12.0%

Asian

10.6%

Unknown

3.7%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

50.0%

French

7.9%

Russian

7.9%

German

5.3%

Hindi

5.3%

Irish

2.6%

Chinese

2.6%

Japanese

2.6%

Urdu

2.6%

Arabic

2.6%

Navajo

2.6%

Tamil

2.6%

Korean

2.6%

Armenian

2.6%
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Science Writer Education

Schools

Johns Hopkins University

11.8%

Columbia University

9.8%

New York University

4.9%

University of Tennessee - Knoxville

4.9%

Georgetown University

4.9%

University of Wisconsin Extension

4.9%

University of California - Berkeley

4.9%

University of Virginia

4.9%

University of Arizona

4.9%

University of Washington

4.9%

University of South Florida

3.9%

University of California - Santa Cruz

3.9%

Temple University

3.9%

Oregon State University

3.9%

Harvard University

3.9%

Drexel University

3.9%

University of Southern California

3.9%

University of Pittsburgh -

3.9%

George Washington University

3.9%

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

3.9%
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Majors

Biology

15.7%

Journalism

12.0%

English

8.6%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

8.2%

Writing

7.9%

Chemistry

4.1%

Neuroscience

4.1%

Environmental Science

3.7%

Communication

3.7%

Physics

3.7%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

3.4%

Geology

3.4%

Psychology

3.0%

General Education, Specific Areas

3.0%

Pharmacology

3.0%

Public Health

2.6%

Microbiology

2.6%

Business

2.6%

Biomedical Sciences

2.2%

Ecology, Population Biology, And Epidemiology

2.2%
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Degrees

Masters

34.3%

Bachelors

27.8%

Doctorate

24.0%

Other

9.6%

Certificate

2.7%

Associate

0.9%

Diploma

0.4%

License

0.2%
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