Gaining real-world experience
One low-cost approach to gaining real-world writing experience that’s also worthy of adding to your résumé is to start a
blog. One benefit of having a blog is that it reflects personal
and unedited work; thus, employers can visit your blog to get
a better understanding of the “true you”. You can also gain
writing experience by writing for Reactions, the ACS Undergraduate Blog at www.acs.org/undergradblog. (Contact
firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.)
Another way to gain experience is by becoming a volunteer
science writer. Nonprofit organizations dedicated to science
and medicine sometimes recruit writers for a trial period before
hiring them permanently. Because you will not be earning a
paycheck as a volunteer writer, you must keep in mind that
this experience is an investment in your future that will enable
you to build a portfolio of “clips”, or writing samples, that any
employer will want to see before hiring you as a science writer.
Another way to gain experience is by writing for your college’s newspaper. While most colleges have a newspaper, not
many highlight the exciting research of their scientists and
students. This is a great opportunity for you to demonstrate
leadership in joining a journalistic team and proposing to write
a scientific section or column.
Writing internships are also very valuable. These positions
will demonstrate to future employers that you received structured training and mentoring within the field. For more information on various internships, students can visit the ACS Get
Experience website at www.acs.org/getexperience or search
Naturejobs for a broader list of writing and editorial opportunities at www.nature.com/naturejobs/science.
Graduate certificate programs
Graduate certificate programs will help to nurture your skills
and demonstrate to future employers a bit more specialization
within the field of writing. Although these programs are not a
prerequisite to becoming a professional science writer, Machalek notes that they may still help. What she believes is more
important is proving that you’ve got a mind for science and the
skills to write for the public.
A future in writing
The future appears bright for science and for science writers!
As scientists continue to make important discoveries, there will
continue to be a demand for adept science writers who can
communicate these advances and educate the public. Journals
and magazines need editors to screen manuscripts for publication. And the emergence of any new biotech or pharmaceutical
company will require skilled technical writers.
If you are looking for a dynamic and highly creative outlet
that also harnesses your love for sciences, consider science writing. Start by getting some form of experience to determine if
this is really your destined path. Who knows? You may have
a knack for it! If you decide that this is where you want to be,
then, as Machalek advises, “just keep on writing.”
Daryl Ramai is a science writer who lives in New York.
Many institutions and media outlets offer science writing
internships, which can be paid or unpaid. Some last for just a
few months, while others can extend for a year or more. Here
are just a few of the many options.
• Brookhaven National Laboratory Science Communication
Internship — www.bnl.gov/education/program.asp?q=118
• National Cancer Institute Health Communications Internship
Program — https://hcip.nci.nih.gov/hcip
• Science magazine Minority Science Writers Internship—
• Society for Science and the Public, Science News Internship—
• Journal of Young Investigators (the undergraduate journal)—
• Rhode Island Sea Grant — http://seagrant.gso.uri.edu/
• Argonne National Laboratory— Summer Science Writing
Internship for Undergraduates. www.anl.gov/news-room/
• National Public Radio — Offers a list of internships
throughout different semesters. www.npr.org
• American Society of Animal Science— Communications
The number of science writing certificate programs in the United
States has increased in the past decade. Here are a few examples.
• University of California, Santa Cruz science communication
• Vanderbilt University communication of science and
• Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate program in
• John Hopkins University Master of Arts in Science Writing and
Graduate Certificate in Science Writing
• University of Wisconsin–Madison science writing program
• Boston University graduate program in science journalism
• New York University Science, Health and Environmental
• Texas A&M University graduate program in science and