Science writing and communication is a broad field that encompasses writing for research institutions, non-profit organizations, medical centers, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, scientific journals, news outlets, and more. Clear and effective science writing is crucial across multiple industries. For example, medical communication ensures that patients and practitioners get the information they need, while detailed research publications enable scholars and professors to learn the latest developments in their respective fields. Furthermore, quality science journalism enables the public to stay abreast of important environmental, health, and technological issues.
Graduate certificate programs in science writing and communication prepare students to enter or advance their careers in the expanding field of science writing and communication, as editors of scientific publications, medical writers, research analysts, consultants, and technical writers and editors, to name just a few possible roles. Generally designed for working professionals who want to supplement their existing educational credentials, graduate certificate programs in science communication can also be useful for Ph.D. graduates, post-docs, and scholars who wish to explore opportunities outside of research.
Graduate Certificate Programs in Science Writing and Communication
Graduate certificate programs in science writing and communication are typically comprised of 12-18 credits delivered over four to six classes. Most certificate programs can be completed within a year or less of full-time study, though many programs allow students to complete their program part-time. While some graduate certificate programs in science writing have a set curriculum that all students complete, others offer students a variety of courses from which they can choose to tailor their training.
The majority of graduate certificate programs in science communication are designed for working professionals, and as such feature online, hybrid, and/or evening classes so that students can complete their coursework without disrupting their work schedules. In addition, many programs have multiple start dates per year, meaning students can start a program in the fall, spring or summer semesters. For a full list of graduate certificate programs in science writing and communication, see the table below.
Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Science Writing and Communication
For students who do not live near a campus-based program or who cannot commute to a campus for classes, there are programs that can be completed entirely online. Many online certificate programs in this field also utilize asynchronous instruction, which allows students the additional flexibility to complete their class lectures and assignments on their own time. This is especially important for students who are working full-time or for students who are not able to attend live online courses due to other personal or professional responsibilities.
Examples of online graduate certificate programs in science writing and communication include:
- Johns Hopkins University’s Online Graduate Certificate in Science Writing: This certificate program is comprised of one core course in the science writing techniques, and then students’ choice of a science writing workshop, an elective, and two courses of their own choosing, selected in collaboration with their advisor.
- Kansas State University’s Online Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Professional Communication: This program is comprised of four classes and can be tailor to focus on science communication. Students complete a foundational course in science communication, followed by their choice of three courses in areas such as environmental communication, grant writing, scientific writing, health communication, and business communication.
- Temple University’s Scientific Writing Graduate Certificate: This program is comprised of four classes that give students a foundation in scientific writing, grant writing, and the ethics of biotechnology policies and regulations. Students also take a writing intensive course in reporting and writing, and learn about the principles of regulatory writing for pharmaceutical, health care, and biotechnology companies.
- The University of Maryland’s Online Graduate Certificate in Science Communication: This program is comprised of four set courses that teach students about science writing principles, scholarly journal writing and editing, science journalism, and grant and proposal writing and editing.
- The University of the Sciences in Philadelphia’s Online Certificate in Marketing Writing: This certificate program is designed for professional medical writers who want to either advance their careers or make a transition into marketing. It requires one course in professional writing for the science field, followed by students’ choice of three electives in areas such as medical education, health journalism, biomedical product promotion, and information strategy in biomedicine.
Example Courses in Science Writing and Communication Programs
While courses vary from program to program, some examples of classes that students of graduate certificate programs in science writing and communication might take may include:
- Principles of Scientific and Medical Writing: The foundational principles of and techniques for writing about scientific and medical topics for a variety of audiences and a range of publication forms. Students explore scientific writing on topics in nature and biology, engineering, health and medicine, and technology.
- Creativity in Contemporary Science Writing: Students learn about the different forms of contemporary science writing, from the opinion piece to the institutional journal article, as well as how scientific communication can be translated to digital and mass media, including social media and journalistic articles.
- Regulatory Writing for the Biomedical Field: The foundations of scientific and regulatory writing for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Students learn how to write clinical reports, abstracts, posters, documentation, and educational content for patients and health care providers. This class also covers the main national and international regulatory agencies, and the process of conducting and reporting on clinical trials.
- The Fundamentals of Grant Writing: The process and mechanics of writing effective proposals, including identifying grant sources, conducting research to substantiate requests for funding, and tailoring grant application content to specific audiences.
- Digital Journalism for the STEM Fields: The fundamentals of crafting informative news and feature article content for science, technology, engineering, and medical topics. The role of social media in digital journalism on STEM. How to use the latest web authoring technologies to create compelling content online.
Important Information to Consider While Researching Graduate Certificate Programs
In addition to certificate programs in science writing and communication, many schools offer graduate certificate programs in technical communication, professional writing, and/or professional editing that may also offer coursework in scientific and medical writing. However, these programs typically do not provide as many courses in science writing when compared to specific certificate programs in science writing and communication. Nonetheless, depending on the curriculum, these programs may still be an option for some students.
While, most graduate certificate programs in science writing are designed for working professionals, some schools offer certificate programs that are specifically designed for current students of the university. For example, the Graduate Certificate in Science Communication program at the University of Arizona is reserved for current students (MS or Ph.D.) or post-docs in the College of Science or the College of Agriculture and Life Science. Washington University in St. Louis also offers a Science Communication Credential that is only designed for current Ph.D. students in their Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences.
There are also certificate programs or minors in science communication that are designed for undergraduate students working towards their bachelor’s degree. These types of programs are not graduate certificate programs. Therefore, prospective applicants should carefully research admission requirements and contact departments or schools offering programs of interest to ensure they meet the admission criteria before applying.
Master’s in Science Communication, Journalism, and Writing Programs
Some schools that offer graduate certificate programs in science writing and communication also offer master’s in science communication programs as well. At these schools, the coursework for the certificate program often overlaps with some of the core and/or elective coursework of the corresponding master’s program. For example, the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia’s Online Certificate Programs in Marketing Writing and Regulatory Writing are comprised of courses from the institution’s Master of Science in Biomedical Writing program. In some cases, departments offering both a master’s degree and a certificate program may allow students who complete their certificate to apply to the master’s program and transfer their certificate coursework towards their graduate degree.
Master’s programs in scientific communication tend to require 30-36 credit hours, which corresponds to 10-12 courses. Master’s programs in science writing and communication typically take a year and a half to two years of full-time study to complete, though the specific curricular timeframe varies by program. These programs also typically require a culminating experience in the form of a capstone, which could be an applied project or a master’s thesis. For a full list of master’s programs in science communication, see the table below.
Graduate Certificate Programs in Science Writing and Communication
Master’s Programs in Science Writing and Communication
Disclaimer: Students pursuing a graduate certificate program are not typically eligible for financial aid.