So, you want to be a science writer? Great! Writing about science is an exciting and creative way to combine storytelling with curiosity. But how do you break into a specialized field like science writing? In this article, we’ll take a look at how you can become a science writer and cover all of the amazing scientific breakthroughs happening here in Costa Rica and around the world. But before we begin, it’s important to note that there are two main types of science writers: science journalists and public relations specialists who produce PR writing about science. We’ll talk a bit about each in turn.
Science Writers Caught the Trend
Science journalists are the better-known type of professional science writers. Science journalists report on new developments in science, often by framing discoveries in terms of storytelling and relaying that information directly to the general public. Science journalists might work for a single news outlet or freelance their work to many different publications. By contrast, science PR agents work directly for the producers of science, typically universities and academic publishers, and write press releases to convey the essence of new research to journalists, who in turn write stories based on those press releases.
These two paths are not mutually exclusive, however. It is quite common for science writers to switch between PR and journalism during their careers. Indeed, many PR science writers do freelance journalism on the side, while many science journalists either started in PR or transitioned to PR after working for a time in journalism. If you choose the path of science writing, your options will remain fluid for decades to come, so don’t feel as though making a choice now will lock you in forever.
As you begin your science writing career, you should consider educational opportunities. This doesn’t necessarily have to take the form of a four-year journalism degree, but taking a course in science writing can help to provide you with a foundation. You should also consider purchasing books that can build your writing skills, including the style guides for the publications that you hope to write for as well as science journalism guides like A Field Guide for Science Writers and The Science Writer’s Handbook.
Freelance Work is Not the Only Solution
Another important step in becoming a science writer is to join an organization devoted to science writing. Many countries have their science journalism societies, such as the National Association of Science Writers in the United States. In Latin America, international organizations such as the Cross-Border Science Journalism Project operate in Costa Rica and provide opportunities for Spanish-language science journalism and the development of science journalists in Latin America. Being a part of a professional organization can help to jump-start a career by providing you with networking opportunities and contacts that will get your foot in the door and give you real-world advice that no book (or online article) can teach.
A further way to network is to attend scientific conferences where you can meet other science writers and networks. Conferences can be expensive, so it can be helpful to look for conferences close to home or to apply for scholarships, fellowships, and grants that can help you to defray some of the costs of attending. Attending both science writing conferences and conferences devoted to the field of science that you hope to cover as a science writer can help you to develop your skills and expand your knowledge of current developments in the field.
One of the best ways to start in the field of science writing is to complete an internship. When you work as an intern for a news organization or the PR department of a scientific or educational institution, you develop practical experiences and skills that will serve you for years to come.
Potential Pitfalls and How to Deal with Them
While it is evident, that becoming a science writer is a prospective course of action, you should be ready to face more than one pitfall on its way, for example:
- An enormous amount of time needed to keep abreast of the development in the chosen field of science. It is not enough to read some peer-reviewed journal once a week. You have to pay attention both to the latest news and to significant research. Subscribe to relevant newsfeeds and dedicate at least half an hour per day for it.
- Intricate online search process. In most cases, you won’t be able to use a simple Google search to find references and facts for your writing. Start with Google Scholar and also create a list of the most reliable online libraries. Some of them will charge you, so it is a good idea to include those charges in your overall prices.
- Reputational vulnerability. While commercial writers produce tons of content, part of which is less than perfect, and easily move forward, science writers are judged by every article they write and should be very careful maintaining a proper reputation.
As you can see, on your path to becoming a science writer, there are times when you will need help. When students need to find an essay writer, so they can attend science conferences or complete their internships while still making the grade in the class, an online service like SmartWritingService.com can be your best option. Hiring an expert writer to take care of challenging essays so you can focus on the things that matter can be a powerful shortcut to save you time and stress as you prepare to launch your career as a science writer.
Finally, try to get your name out there so potential employers can see how well you write. Seek out a few opportunities to write for free and show everyone how well you can do. Once you have some credits to your name, it will be much easier to convince editors that you are the right person to cover the next breakthrough in science. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to success as a science writer.