How can I marry my writing major with my interest in science? Can I get a job writing about science even if I don't have a background or degree in it?

I am taking some science classes as well. Is there anything else I should be doing to prepare for life after college?

Answers

Scarlet Michaelson, English and Writing Teacher

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The general public needs people who can write about science in a way that they understand. Since you're not a trained scientist, yet have a great interest in science, you are perfect for the job. I would start building your writing portfolio now! Send out freelance pieces about scientific subjects that interest you. Show off your diverse knowledge and your clear, concise writing. When you start going on interviews later on, you can use these pieces to showcase your talent. Best of luck!

M. Erez Kats, Seattle Language Arts Teacher, Author, and Artist

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I definitely agree with what the above experts have mentioned. Writers are in demand everywhere, and in all types of topics, including science. As long as you have an ability to clearly express, and understand the type of writing used for a given genre, you can write about most anything. I have read many fiction books by authors like Clive Cussler and Dean Koontz (highly recommended btw) for instance, that use a lot of their actual real-life scientific experience, and incorporate it into their novels. In other instances than fiction, magazine writers may use topics like anthropology or archaeology, or other similar subjects where very clear and focused description and a more straight-forward style of writing, similar to what you see in authors like Charles Darwin or Einstein doing strictly theoretical and observational writing, are often used. And of course blogs may get into a more political or persuasive type of writing surrounding scientific subject matter as well. But whether you want to write fiction, informative articles, or persuasively, the skills used in general writing classes will be very useful, and can be transferred to really any subject you'd like to focus on, and science is absolutely part of this scope and range of topics.

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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Yes, if you are a strong writer with good credentials you can find work writing about anything. Strong writers are in high demand in the sciences. Maybe you can start by writing for a science blog or some other venue to get your feet wet when it comes to this specific type of writing. You also might want to check out the National Association of Science Writers for networking ideas and connections to employers.

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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Numerous medical journals and publishers are located in Philadelphia alone, and I know that they are ALWAYS advertising entry-level writer and editor jobs. This might be a way of breaking in for you. Have you started an account on LinkedIn? If not, consider starting one. It's free, and if you mention your science writing interests, it will no doubt recommend potential jobs for you in this field.

Joelle Renstrom, professor and science writer

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I echo much of what Lisa said. I got my BA in English and my MFA in creative writing and I also write science and technology pieces. Sometimes it's a bit of an uphill battle--reading articles in scholarly journals takes me hours because I have to be sure I'm understanding all the references, which means I often need to look things up, etc--but it's doable.

Arguably the most important aspect of science writing is being able to communicate in a jargon-free way to mass audiences. Most people don't really understand emerging technologies or their implications, so if you can help them to understand not just what's going on, but why it's important, then you can write about science. Doing this involves more critical thinking than specific knowledge or training about science. There are a number of science outreach positions (for science festivals, nonprofits, even university departments) out there that involve communicating to audiences both young and old. These are good places to start a job search.

You will need to build up clips that show you can write about science, though. I did this through a blog I started a number of years ago, which gave me practice writing about scientific topics of my choice in a low-pressure environment. Once I built up a bunch of blog entries, two important things happened: I had clips to show other publications and I started figuring out what type of science and technology I wanted to cover. It's unlikely that you'll be writing about everything with regards to science, so developing an area of focus (climate change, the effects of social media, genetic modification, etc) really helps, especially because you end up learning a lot about the science itself and that knowledge makes for increasingly insightful articles.

Lisa Hiton, Professor of English and Arts, Poet, Filmmaker, Writer

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You absolutely can pursue writing about science. Though you likely won't be producing research papers for academic journals, there are myriad of science institutions that need WRITERS. This past month, I wrote about on the theory of relativity for a high school textbook publisher. I was able to do this because I am a writer.

One thing you might do is start reading science blogs and magazines online. When you like a piece, click on the writer and see what their bio is like. You can often contact these people through twitter or email and ask them about how they came into science writing.

There are many genres of writing that require this kind of love. Biography, for example. Think of all the pieces about great scientists that weren't written by fellow scientists. Children's books. Non-fiction. Science memoir. Etc. The key is to think about the topics within science you love and find publishers, magazines, and blogs that publish the kind of work you're most interested in. Another avenue is anthropology/ethnography--places that take on travel pieces about biology and anthropology in different climates and cultures. There are all kinds of ways science can effect us and it is up to writers to translate that to the public.

Science journalism is also another huge place to consider. From public health, to food science, to environmental issues, there are many publications that bring issues to the forefront of public thinking.

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