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Katharine O'Moore-Klopf

How to Become a Medical Editor

As a medical editor, I think I have the best job in the world. While I’m getting paid to edit medical manuscripts, I get to keep up with the latest research findings and treatment practices. There is a lot of this kind of work if you know where to look. Although there is no single way to become a medical editor, I have suggestions for you.

This was my path to becoming a medical editor: I earned a degree in journalism, worked as a newspaper reporter and ended up on the medical beat, moved into general publishing as a production editor, became a production editor for a medical publisher, started freelancing and then took an exam to obtain board certification as an editor in the life sciences. Journalism and publishing have both changed so much in the last few years, however, that you’ll have to take another path. It won’t be quick, but starting a new career or moving into a new niche never is.

Try all of these things, but not all at once:

I know that some of the advice I’ve provided here is U.S.-centric. Do you have additional Canadian resources to provide? Please share links to them in the comments, and I’ll gladly share them in other venues.

[Note: Some links in this post were updated on 25 January 2019.]


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17 Comments on “How to Become a Medical Editor”

  • Great post—tons of helpful information here and not just for medical editors. Thanks, Katharine!

  • Meenakshi Venkat

    says:

    Very useful and informative. Thanks so much!

  • You are very welcome, Claire and Meenakshi. Thank you both for your kind words.

  • Great info. I would also suggest taking a stats course or two. There is a lot of statistics in medical editing.

  • Frances Peck

    says:

    What a valuable list of resources to have all in one place. Thanks for sharing. Canadian pharma editors and writers (lots in Montreal in particular) might have some Canadian resources and tips to add.

  • Kristine, I agree about taking stats courses. Thanks for bringing up that point.

  • Frances, I’d be delighted to see more info from pharma editors and writers.

  • Lisa

    says:

    Is a British view OK? Medcomms agencies pay pretty well – better than academics in my experience – but prefer at least a first degree and probably a higher degree in a life science. If you have stats certificates and editing certificates and some sort of track record then I am sure that would do instead, but the degree is a helpful shortcut. If you have such a degree, definitely edit science and medicine because of all the rewards listed in your first paragraph 🙂

  • Heidi Sarna

    says:

    Thank you, great tips!

    • I’m glad you find them helpful, Heidi.

      Those of you who are experienced editors who would like to learn about and possibly start doing medical editing may be interested in this. A 3-part webinar, «Medical Editing 101: An Introduction,» will be hosted in February by the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). It will be taught by two experienced medical editors: Julie Munden and me.

      Go here for details and to sign up:

      http://www.the-efa.org/eve/catalog.php#428

      *Session 1 is on February 1, 12:00–1:00 p.m. Eastern time, and is called «Overview of Medical Editing.» The session is taught by Julie and me. We cover these questions and more: What is medical editing? What skills does it require? Who contracts with self-employed medical editors?

      *Session 2 is on February 8, 12:00–1:00 p.m. Eastern time, and is called «Editing Journal Articles and Working With ESL Authors.» I teach this session. I will cover writing and cultural issues to watch for when editing manuscripts written by non-native English writers, building long-term working relationships with these authors, and much more.

      *Session 3 is on February 15, 12:00–1:00 p.m. Eastern time, and is called «Editing Promotional & Nonpromotional Medical Materials.» Julie teaches this session. Not all medical editing deals with journal articles. There’s so much more you can work on.

      Note: The webinar series is open both to EFA members and to nonmembers. Also, if you are able to attend only 1 or 2 of the sessions, or if you can’t attend any of them when they are scheduled, go ahead and sign up. Those who purchase the webinar will be given access to recordings a few days after the live event.

  • Awesome list @Katharine. Each point is valuable here. Thanks for sharing your complete experience via various blog.

  • I have updated information for you.

    There used to be a Canadian chapter of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA), which I mentioned in my blog post. But I just learned on September 19, 2017, that there are now 4 AMWA members who live in Canada (2 in Toronto, 1 in Montreal, and 1 in Ottowa) who have volunteered to be AMWA local networking coordinators (LNCs). They can be reached by visiting the «Local Networking» page of the AMWA website:

    http://www.amwa.org/page/Local_Networking

  • Sharon Joseph

    says:

    That was insightful, with bundles of new and helpful information! Thanks a lot, Katharine! Reached here following your suggestion in ICF. 🙂

  • Tiffany Ly

    says:

    I’m just starting in medical writing, currently pursuing my graduate degree, and I am so grateful for this post. The list is holistic and precise; thank you Ms. Katherine!

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