You do paid medical surveys in your spare time. But what if you only have a few minutes of spare time? You join these medical survey panels.
Most of you know about our medical writing resource page (if you don’t, now you do). However, today I thought I’d delve a little deeper into the additional education related to medical writing many newcomers seem to want. Are these courses a prerequisite to medical writing? Absolutely not. Are they helpful for certain people starting out in the field? Absolutely.
Who Can Benefit From Online Medical Writing Courses
Writers with a science background who may not be clinicians looking to break into medical writing might benefit from taking an online medical writing course. Healthcare professionals who aren’t confident about their writing or English skills may benefit from a specific course focusing on those aspects, as they will likely have the ‘medical’ part down already.
Clinicians with a good grasp of the written word, clear communication styles, and a love for writing probably don’t need any of these courses – maybe just a pep talk to convince yourself that you are already more than qualified. However, additional credentials or certifications may be necessary for certain types of medical writing.
Our Picks for Top 10 Medical Writing Courses Online
We chose medical writing courses developed by trusted institutions and taught by experts in the field.
Sounds expensive, huh? The good news is that most of these online medical writing courses cost less than $100 to take and earn a certificate. Many are also available to take for free if you don't need the certificate and are only interested in the knowledge.
Sounds like they take too long? Nope! Most of these can be completed over the course of 10 to 20 hours. That's not to say there aren't some intensive medical writing courses online, because there are. For example, the University of Chicago medical writing and editing course below takes between 9 months and 3 years to complete.
Without further ado, here are our top picks for the most useful medical writing courses you can find on the internet. Click any of the links below to jump ahead to a specific course.
- Writing in the Sciences (Stanford University)
- Design and Implementation of Clinical Trials (Johns Hopkins University)
- Foundational Skills for Communicating About Health (University of Michigan)
- Understanding Medical Research (Yale University)
- Patient Safety Specialization Certificate (Johns Hopkins University)
- Medical Writing and Editing Certificate Program (University of Chicago)
- Essential Skills Certificate (American Medical Writers Association)
- Freelance Medical Writing as a Career Choice (Nascent MC)
- Medical Writing for Healthcare Professionals (Udemy)
- Your Future Job in Medicine and Healthcare (Northwestern University)
1. Writing in the Sciences
Offered on Coursera’s platform, the full course is available to audit for free or as a certificate program for a modest fee ($79 as of the publication of this article). This is marketed as more of a beginners course, so self-select accordingly.
Learn more about Writing in the Sciences here.
2. Design and Interpretation of Clinical Trials
Learn terminology and reporting conventions for various types of clinical trials, as well as their design mechanics, such as randomization and treatment blinding. This course also covers clinical trial analysis and interpretation, where I would say the ‘medical writing’ piece comes from.
Like most courses on Coursera, this one can be audited for free. However, it looks like you’ll only have partial access to the materials in audit mode. The certificate only costs $49, so is well worth it if you are registering anyways. You can also start in audit as a test drive and purchase the certificate option later if you want to decide that way.
Register for Design and Interpretation of Clinical Trials here.
3. Foundational Skills for Communicating about Health
This is another ‘beginners level’ medical writing course, but seems like a valuable one, even for folks who don’t consider themselves beginners. This course is more of a medical communications program, as it covers oral and written presentations to various audiences in the healthcare industry.
I would say clinicians who are looking to transition into another area of medical writing or communications could benefit most from this course. It’s available for free audit with all course materials except the graded components, or with a certificate for $49.
Learn more about this foundational skills medical writing course here.
4. Understanding Medical Research: Your Facebook Friend is Wrong
To me, this course appears to be geared toward folks without a clinical background. It focuses on study design, statistical interpretation, and fraud in medical research. I personally had a good amount of this in PA school, and am largely friends with other healthcare professionals on Facebook. I also assume everyone else on that platform talking about medicine is wrong by default.
5. Patient Safety Specialization
This course is a little different from those in the preceding entries. You may have noticed that it takes months to complete rather than hours. That’s because it seems to be geared towards preparing learners for a new career (or career trajectory) altogether.
You’ll learn how to improve patient safety from a systemic perspective by studying healthcare-specific process improvement techniques. This could be a path to a non-clinical role for a currently practicing physician or other healthcare professional. A friend of the site and fellow PA, Courtney Titus from Empowered PAs, works mostly non-clinically in a quality improvement role in addition to retaining some clinical hours in a pediatric emergency department.
Anyways, I say all that because this course does not have an option to audit for free. It’s a real commitment. The first seven days are free, followed by $49 per month until you complete the course. With an estimated timeframe of eight months, that’s about $400 all-in. Of course, if you work faster or slower, you’ll need to adjust your budget accordingly.
Learn more about Johns Hopkins University Patient Safety Specialization here.
6. Medical Writing and Editing Certificate Program
University of Chicago’s remote Medical Writing and Editing Certificate program is probably the most prestigious and thorough course on this list. It’s also the most expensive, but more on that later. The curriculum is built from five core courses and one elective.
There is also a specialization track in freelancing for those interested in setting up their own medical communications shop. If you choose this track, it’s an eight-week program.
The price varies, but breaks down like this:
- Tuition per course: $1440 x 6 total courses = $8,640
- Specialization in Freelancing: $1,800
Members of certain professional organizations are eligible for a 10% discount with proof of current membership. This includes the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA), which I recommend all medical writers and aspiring MWs to join. I would contact UChicago before registering if you need the discount as the terms don’t make it clear to me if this course actually qualifies.
7. Essential Skills Certificate
Speaking of AMWA, they also offer medical writing courses. The most accessible is their Essential Skills course. It covers topics such as basic grammar, punctuation for clarity and style, sentence structure, and medical terminology.
This medical writing course also teaches the skills to develop, interpret, and communicate medical information through data visualization techniques like tables, graphs, and figures. Once complete, you’ll also be awarded with a certificate.
The digital package is $850 ($1,235 for nonmembers) and the print version will run you $975 ($1,275 for nonmembers). There is also a pretty handy basic grammar and usage quick reference guide available as a free download on the course overview page.
Become a member of AMWA and get your discount.
8. Freelance Medical Writing as a Career Choice - Emma Hitt Nichols, PhD (Nascent MC)
Dr. Nichols is a pretty well-known name in the medical writing world. In this course, she gives you an honest overview of what to expect if you decide to become a medical writer. It’s less focused on the technical side of things and more of a helpful guide for those considering a career switch.
While it’s not about technical medical writing, there are practical sections including the types of medical writing, steps to take to get into medical writing, how to make the transition, and what tools and software you’ll need.
The registration fee is listed at $19.99, but there are frequent sales up to 25% off. Either way, it’s a pretty great deal. You’ll have lifetime access to the materials, including 2 downloadable resources (plus a 30-day money-back guarantee).
9. Medical Writing for Healthcare Professionals - Alex Evans, PharmD, MBA
The Medical Writing for Healthcare Professionals course is a great one to start with if you really do want to become a medical writer. It covers the basics of the job itself (the technical writing) as well as essential business and legal considerations for medical writers.
Participants learn how to find work as a medical writer, pitching to clients, and business strategies you’ll need to know. Additionally, the course covers how to write CME/CE needs assessments, presentations, monographs, as well as regulatory medical writing skills.
The regular price is $39.99, but also has frequent discounts as much as 50% off. It comes with 4 hours of on-demand video, 8 articles, 7 downloadable resources, assignments, and a certificate of completion.
Note: Udemy (which hosts the above two online medical writing courses) also has several (thousand) more courses related to medical writing if you want to browse yourself.
10. Career 911: Your Future Job in Medicine and Healthcare
From my favorite local, nationally known hospital and medical school, this course serves as a foundation to help people map out their medical career. Generally, that probably means students (college or even high school) who are exploring their career options in the healthcare industry, including clinical and non clinical roles.
Take the full course (without certificate) for free or enroll in the paid, certificate-awarding version for $49 on Coursera.
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