Answer: Scientific communication is the process of distilling technical information about science-related topics into understandable messages and stories for public consumption. It is a field concerned with bridging the gap between scientists and the general public, and a multi-faceted form of communication that spans scientific fields such as the hard sciences, physical sciences, technology, health, environmental science, and more.
Science communication professionals leverage their understanding of complex scientific topics, along with strategic communication principles, to craft compelling and informative stories about science and related disciplines. This combination of industry knowledge and practical communication skills allows science journalists, broadcast professionals, public relations specialists, environmental coordinators, and technical writers to advance the public’s understanding of scientific research and discoveries.
The broad nature of science and its related disciplines allows for a diversity of employment options for individuals with a graduate education in scientific communication. Those with a background in the field can pursue employment in a variety of areas, including biotechnology, public health, biomedical engineering, medical technology, environmental science, aerospace, neuropsychology, animal science, or other related scientific industries that require communication professionals.
Master’s in Scientific Communication Programs
Master’s degree programs in scientific communication introduce students to the theoretical foundations, major concepts, and research methodologies of effective communication. Students gain an understanding of strategic writing and content creation practices across different mediums (e.g. print, online, social media) and learn how to use those mediums to target audiences with specific scientific information. In addition, programs often explore scientific fields, such as ecology, epidemiology, or climate science, as well as how audiences engage with those fields and how to apply different communication models within each discipline.
The curriculum in a master’s in scientific communication program introduces students to the fundamental practices of storytelling across traditional and digital media, including print, visual, broadcast, and social media. Course topics might include science writing, science and society, science reporting, research methods, multimedia reporting, environmental and life sciences, profile writing, investigative reporting, and more. Students in these graduate programs develop into professional storytellers, able to leverage written, visual, and oral communication skills to craft engaging stories that advance the public’s knowledge of science, technology, environment, medicine, and other complex topics.
For additional information about master’s in scientific communication programs, including sample class plans and general degree requirements, please refer to our Master’s in Technical Communication and Scientific Communication Programs page.
Skills for Graduates with a Master’s in Scientific Communication
Below if a list of skills students can expect to gain or build on through their studies in a master’s in scientific communication program:
|Writing and editing||Scientific acumen|
|Data research and analysis||Grant writing|
|Multimedia production||Visual and graphic communication|
|Critical thinking and creativity||Advanced oral communication|
|Digital fluency||Technical writing|
Careers in Scientific Communication
A degree in scientific communication can lead to a diverse number of career paths in fields such as journalism, physical or biological science, environment, nutrition, medicine, engineering, veterinary science, biomedical technology, or any other science-related industry. Graduates might pursue career opportunities with a wide range of employers, including national laboratories, universities, state and federal agencies, online media publishers, newspapers and journals, museums, television and radio stations, and more.
With their knowledge of a scientific field and strategic communication practices, professionals with a graduate education in scientific communication can help the general public better understand complicated subject matter in science and beyond. Whether creating stories that reach large audiences through mass media, or working in social research to survey how communities think about local scientific issues, professionals in the field explore and consider how people engage with scientific discourse in order to deliver informative messages as effectively as possible. Below is a list of potential careers for graduates of a scientific communication program to consider:
- Science Journalist/Writer: Science writers typically work in communication roles both in and outside the journalism industry. They research and tell science-related stories through a variety of materials, such as websites, news releases, social media posts, and investigative reports. Their other duties might include coordinating with editors and communication directors to manage editorial calendars, identifying new story ideas, or analyzing and tracking content performance.
- Scientific Copy Editor: Scientific copy editors work across industries, such as medical communication or environmental science communication. They copy edit, annotate, and fact check scientific manuscripts; oversee publication management databases; secure and review journal or publication submissions; and coordinate with writers and senior editorial staff.
- Scientific Communication Director: Scientific communication directors work in both the public and private sectors, managing scientific communication plans for agencies, corporations, nonprofits, communication consulting firms, or other businesses. In their role, they develop an overall approach to communication strategies, liaise with journalists and clinical investigators, and devise plans to transform scientific data into relevant messages for the public. These messages may include manuscripts, press releases, conference presentations, scientific abstracts, and more.
- Scientific Communication Officer: Scientific communication officers are responsible for communicating scientific information to non-scientific audiences. They might work in universities, public relations firms, research facilities, laboratories, print or online publications, or other science-related organizations. Their duties typically include conceptualizing and creating various content materials, such as newsletters, online articles, print brochures, videos, or press releases, as well as pitching stories to the media, scheduling press opportunities for scientists, and conducting research into potential new media opportunities.