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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

  • $82,350

    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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Science Writer jobs

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Science Writer Demographics

Gender

Female

61.5%

Male

36.8%

Unknown

1.7%
Ethnicity

White

80.1%

Asian

11.4%

Hispanic or Latino

6.6%

Unknown

1.6%

Black or African American

0.4%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

41.9%

French

9.7%

Hindi

9.7%

Russian

9.7%

Irish

3.2%

Chinese

3.2%

German

3.2%

Japanese

3.2%

Urdu

3.2%

Arabic

3.2%

Navajo

3.2%

Tamil

3.2%

Korean

3.2%
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Science Writer Education

Schools

Johns Hopkins University

12.8%

Columbia University

9.0%

University of Arizona

6.4%

Drexel University

5.1%

Georgetown University

5.1%

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

5.1%

University of Washington

5.1%

University of Georgia

5.1%

University of Florida

3.8%

Arizona State University

3.8%

Temple University

3.8%

Boston University

3.8%

Pennsylvania State University

3.8%

Stanford University

3.8%

University of Pittsburgh -

3.8%

University of Maryland - Baltimore

3.8%

West Virginia University

3.8%

University of Wisconsin - Madison

3.8%

University of Utah

3.8%

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

3.8%
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Majors

Biology

17.1%

Journalism

13.8%

English

7.7%

Writing

7.2%

Environmental Science

5.0%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

5.0%

Microbiology

4.4%

General Education, Specific Areas

3.9%

Neuroscience

3.9%

Pharmacology

3.3%

Physics

3.3%

Biomedical Sciences

3.3%

Law

3.3%

Genetics

2.8%

Geology

2.8%

Curriculum And Instruction

2.8%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

2.8%

Chemistry

2.8%

Business

2.8%

Psychology

2.2%
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Degrees

Masters

35.1%

Doctorate

26.3%

Bachelors

25.6%

Other

9.5%

Certificate

2.1%

Associate

1.1%

Diploma

0.4%
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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 Jan 08, 2015 $50,331
Senior Science Writer & Press Officer University of Rochester Rochester, NY Aug 01, 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

WebsiteContentPressReleasesMedicineNIHLaboratoryScienceArticlesInfectiousDiseasesPolicyGeneralAudienceScientificResearchNewsReleasesNewsArticlesChemistryAnnualReportJournalArticlesTrainingMaterialsAstronomyFactSheetsAlzheimerOnlinePublication

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Top Science Writer Skills

  1. Website Content
  2. Press Releases
  3. Medicine
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Manage website content through application of HTML, including writing and posting articles for distributor base.
  • Produced more than 200 AP press releases and feature articles on a variety of science topics.
  • Edited and produced the publication, Transitions, an adolescent medicine magazine for physicians and other health care professionals.
  • Highlighted research achievements in reports to Congress and responded to Congressional inquiries on NIH policy and research.
  • Revised and edited four science articles to produce clear, direct documents conveying the authors meaning.

Top Science Writer Employers

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