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:
- Learn the medical style manual most often used in your country. In the United States, that is the AMA Manual of Style. I am told that Vancouver style is sometimes preferred in Canada. If learning a new style seems overwhelming, read “How to Learn a Style Guide in 10 Days,” a handout from the 2012 national conference of ACES: The Society for Editing.
- Read medical journals frequently to get familiar with the language and style and to assess how well their editors follow the style manual that you’re studying.
- Read books on medical terminology. Search for the word medical on the “Editing Tools” page of the Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base for links to appropriate books.
- Read the “New Medical Writers Toolkit.”
- Take online courses from the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA).
- Take online courses from the Drug Information Association.
- Take online courses in medical writing and editing from
- the University of Chicago Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies,
- the University of California San Diego Extension,
- medical writer Emma Hitt Nichols, who offers a six-week course in medical writing a few times a year.
- Join AMWA to
- take advantage of lower prices for courses and annual meetings,
- have access via email discussion lists to colleagues willing to answer questions,
- have access to current issues of the AMWA Journal.
- Read back issues of Science Editor, the journal of the Council of Science Editors.
- Read back issues of European Science Editing, the journal of the European Association of Science Editors.
- Consider freelancing initially for science and medical packagers (intermediaries) and editing services. The pay will be low, but you will learn a lot and can move on to better-paying clients. I periodically update a PDF with links to these organizations.
- Contact medical publishers and journals about editing for them. You’ll be required to take an unpaid editing test.
- Follow the advice in “How to Find Medical Editing Freelance Work.”
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.]