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How to start your science copywriting career

Kickstart your science copywriting career

Science copywriting is a cool career. How do we know? At 42group, we’ve been at the forefront of scientific writing for over 15 years, working with some of the world’s biggest and most influential brands, academic institutions and research organisations. 

Working as a science copywriter is a challenging career that will push you intellectually and (in some cases) emotionally to deliver work that truly captures the essence and impact of scientific discoveries.

We receive several emails each week from early-career science writers or students who want to break into the business. To help you, we’ve created this post on how to start your science writing career.

Should I take a science writing course?

Science writing courses should provide a solid grounding in the skills and experience needed to work as a science writer. The courses (at least the ones that we have seen) claim to provide targeted training on how to convey complex scientific information effectively in a clear and engaging way.

If you’re considering investing time in a science writing course, look for programmes designed and delivered by experienced science writers or industry professionals.

While science writing courses are a great introduction to science writing, they’re not essential – especially for science copywriters.

Why?

Because copywriting is about using commercial techniques to create content that reaches your audience. While you need an understanding of science and the ability to analyse data and research, you need the storytelling skills to create content that builds human connections 

Do you need a science degree to be a science copywriter?

The simple answer is no. Not all science copywriters have science degrees (but I’d estimate that 99.99% have a degree of some sort).

A degree in a scientific discipline such as biology, chemistry, physics, or a related field will provide a solid intellectual foundation for a career in science copywriting. 

But it won’t necessarily give you the analytical skills you need to appraise research critically. You’ll also need to develop the interviewing, storytelling and SEO skills needed to survive as a copywriter and content writer.

A journalism, communications, or English degree can equip you with the necessary writing and communication skills. Some degree courses enable you to take science writing modules, helping you to gain experience while keeping a broad focus.

Stay up to date with science (and science writing)

Science constantly changes and so should you! It’s vital to invest in your continued education and ongoing professional development. That means reading (or devouring!) science content anywhere and everywhere you can. 

Sector experts will be expected to have the latest knowledge in their areas of expertise. In addition to reading commercial content in newspapers and magazines, subject experts should regularly read journals, attend conferences, and stay on top of new developments. 

If one of our clients comes asking for an expert (in a subject like genomics), we’ll go to the market and search for a specialist. One of the questions we’ll ask is what you’re doing to stay at the forefront of your sector.

Alongside academic and research innovations, you need to continually sharpen your science copywriting skills.

We expect our writers (or those we commission) to be involved with virtual or real-world science writing workshops, webinars and conferences. 

Where can you find them? The Association of British Science Writers (ABSW) is a wonderful resource for science writers of all experience and specialities. Regular newsletters and events will keep you up-to-date with industry trends and best practices.

You can also access competitions, get press accreditation, and find science writing jobs—all for less than £1 per week. Result!

Find a science copywriting mentor

Mentoring opportunities with established science writers and copywriters can be hugely beneficial if you’re an early-stage journalist or science writer. 

You’ll have to find your own way here. Identify an industry professional with the skills you’re searching for. Reach out to them and connect. A personal approach to asking for support, guidance, and networking opportunities could boost your career. 

Remember that science writers are likely to be busy and may not always be able to respond. Don’t badger or pressure them, but respect their time and hope for a response.

Building your science copywriting portfolio

One key step in becoming a science copywriter is building a portfolio that showcases your skills and expertise. 

A well-crafted portfolio will demonstrate your ability to translate complex scientific concepts into engaging content. You’ll want the portfolio to be accurate and honest. (Basically, don’t claim you produced work that wasn’t yours or was produced as part of a team.)

Here’s what we look for:

  • High-quality writing samples: This sounds obvious, but only send relevant, high-quality samples that represent you as a copywriter. Fewer quality pieces are preferable to a portfolio padded out with junk.
  • Provide different types of content: We love long-form articles, but science copywriters must now be adept at producing social copy, SEO content, and more. Ensure your portfolio has a broad range of content types that showcase your value and versatility.
  • Showcase your scientific knowledge – If you’re a specialist, send us samples that establish you as a leader in your field. 
  • Communicate impact: Copywriting is about building connections, so alongside every portfolio piece, tell us what it achieved. Make it tangible and drop in stats where possible.

Breaking into the science copywriting industry

The traditional way for a science journalist to start in the industry was to work as a journalist or within an academic or research organisation. Unfortunately, many of those avenues no longer exist. (Who pays for content anymore?)

That means science writers need to get creative to access the industry.

Networking plays a crucial role in any industry, and science copywriting is no different. Joining professional associations like the ABSW can provide valuable networking opportunities and access to industry events. LinkedIn, too, is a vital way to showcase your skills, create connections and find opportunities.

We won’t lie to you. The copywriting and content industry is difficult, with AI and content mills an existential threat to many small, large, and non-specialist content agencies. At 42group, our core focus and strength in niche sectors keep us busy.

We recommend that you get active in searching for science copywriting opportunities. Monitor job postings on industry-specific job boards (like the ABSW), set up LinkedIn search alerts and scour the market each day. Never underestimate the power of personal connections, either.

Should I approach science copywriting agencies?

This is a tough one, but we’d say yes, with a few caveats. 

At 42group, we have a core team of writers and trusted freelancers with whom we work. While we’re always happy to receive CVs, we’re not always able to respond and certainly not in a position to send you work or simply add you to the team. 

If you want to send us your CV, be polite and personable, share your portfolio and wait for a reply (and don’t be pushy). 

We can’t talk for other agencies, but we reckon they’d say the same.

Connect with a science copywriter

42grop is one of the UK’s leading science, technology and engineering copywriting and content agencies.

If you’ve somehow stumbled upon this blog and want a copywriter, get in touch.

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