Last Friday afternoon, I spoke on a panel about media careers for the “What Can You Be With A Ph.D.?” Symposium held at NYU Langone Medical Center. I talked to several students and postdocs after the program and wanted to pull together a list of resources related to careers in science writing.
It was a fun session– I learned a lot from my co-panelists and the auditorium was full of people with a lot of interesting questions about careers that blend science and communications– including journal publishing, medical communications, medical science liaisons (MSL– a career, incidentally, that I didn’t know anything about until Friday), and yours truly, who talked about my mix of freelance science writing experiences. The overall symposium program looked terrific– I wish that I’d had access to a careers program of this size and quality when I was a graduate student.
But back to science writing:
- First off, my general advice for navigating the migration from Ph.D. scientist to science writer, from an earlier blog post on Webb of Science.
- National Association of Science Writers (NASW): You can become a student member. Going to a national meeting and networking among other writers helped me figure out how to navigate my career change from chemistry to science writing
- Science Writers in New York (SWINY): The regional affiliate of NASW– a great opportunity to meet local writers and find out about local science.
- A book: the recently-updated, A Field Guide for Science Writers.
- An internship program especially for scientists: AAAS Mass Media Fellowship
I also got a few questions (after the main session) about freelancing. A few thoughts:
- It’s not a good fit for everyone. You’re starting a business, so you have to think about all the issues (and potential insecurities) that go with that: finding health insurance, start-up costs, lack of a retirement plan, etc.
- Getting started is hard work, and it will probably take a while to prove yourself. Persistence is key: continue to pursue opportunities, get experience where you can, and build your clip file.
- It is possible to start a freelance business even if you don’t have a huge cushion of savings (I didn’t). Think about practical strategies that will allow you to start slowly. Having some source of steady income while you ramp up is essential if you don’t have a nest-egg to fall back on.
UPDATE NOVEMBER 23: For NYC-area scientists interested in learning more about the transition from the bench to a writing career, Science Writers in New York has a program on December 1: Goodbye Benchtop; Hello Laptop.