Key skills

What does it take?

The ability to write clear, engaging stories is critical for success as a science writer. While you likely have experience with scientific writing from your geoscience degree, writing for public audiences requires unique skills and lots of practice. You must be able to translate complex scientific ideas into a written or visual story that can be easily understood by a public audience. You'll need to write compelling proposals to pitch ideas to editors. You must avoid jargon, using plain language and metaphors to describe scientific findings. Build your writing skills with these resources for beginning science writers:  

Pitch Publish Prosper is a collection of online resources from The Science Writer's Handbook series. The series covers "everything you need to survive and thrive as a science writer." 

A Getting-Started Guide for Newcomers to Science Writing by The Open Notebook is a great tip sheet with steps for practicing and honing your writing skills. 

The National Association of Science Writers has a collection of resources for those new to science writing, including articles on finding the story in the science, journalism story structure, and contacting sources. 

Signal to Noise Magazine is an educational tool for beginning science writers to submit pitches and, if selected, write articles for publication. 

If you are still in school, take advantage of writing courses offered by your college or university. Writing clubs, student newspapers, and university press offices also provide opportunities to practice your skills. 

When applying for science communication jobs, potential employers will want to see examples of your writing. The more you practice writing for a general audience, the more examples you will have to highlight your skills. And of course, science communication doesn't only include writing. If you are interested in illustration, film making, photography, or other forms of storytelling, you should work on developing your portfolio to showcase your skills. 

Education

What's next?

Some scientists who are interested in moving from science to communication enroll in academic science journalism programs. These programs offer formal education in science writing and valuable networking, but are not necessarily required for a communications career and can be very expensive. Read What Does a Science Writing Master’s Program Get You? by The Open Notebook to see if a graduate program is the right fit for you.

Short courses and workshops can be a great, more affordable option for further education in science writing and communication. The Open Notebook offers free Science Journalism Master Courses. Other examples include The IECA's Environmental Communication - Research Into Practice course, workshops offered at AAAS meetings, COMPASS trainings, and the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop. In-person workshops are also an excellent opportunity to make connections with other professionals.

If you'd like to try out science communication but further formal education doesn't feel like the right fit for you, create your own education. Listen to podcasts or radio about scientific advances, such as NPR's On the Media or Radiolab. Read science writing in outlets like Science News, National Geographic, or the New York Times Science section. Start your own blog or submit pitches to Signal to Noise Magazine.

Finally, you can learn about starting a freelance science writing business by listening to The Writers' Co-op, a podcast for writers and freelance business owners.

Internships

Practice is key!

Try your hand at science communication and build up your resume with an internship. Internships are a great opportunity to develop your skills, get hands-on education, and network with potential employers and other professionals (often while getting paid). Read the articles linked below to learn more about finding, applying for, and making the most of science communication internships: 

Getting an internship in science journalism by Catherine de Lange, Naturejobs

Finding and Landing the Right Internship in Science Writing by Rodrigo Pérez Ortega, The Open Notebook

There are many internship opportunities for science communicators, spanning different sectors and types of media. Some examples are listed below.

AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellowship
AAAS Diverse Voices in Science Journalism Internship
GSA Science Communication Internship Program
ASLO Science Communication Internship
Smithsonian Environment Research Center Science Writing Internships
National Park Service Climate Communication Internship Program
National Public Radio Internships
KQED Public Radio Internships (and check out public radio stations in other states)

Science communication internships can also be found in the private sector, where positions are often advertised on job boards (and through professional networks).

Find additional opportunities by networking with professionals in the science communication community, following #scicommjob on Twitter, and contacting magazines, newspapers, radio and broadcast stations, university or government press offices, and other science-related organizations.

     Applying

Find and secure a job

Networking is key to successful job hunting in science communication. While searching job boards is one way to find open positions, you can learn of jobs that are not widely advertised by using your network. There are a multitude of options for building connections in the community, many of which are highlighted by Stephanie Deppe on this page. The resources linked below are a good place to get started. 

Join: 
   National Association of Science Writers 
   NASW SciWriThrive 
   NPR Scicommers
   Science Talk Community
   SciComm Slack 

Reach out to writers in the NASW Find a Writer database and our Ask an Expert page.

Find a local science writing group

Follow #scicomm and #scicommjob on Twitter. 

Look for jobs:
   Science Communication Jobs Facebook Group
   SciJournr Newsletter
   Scicomm Board
   Resource compilation by Virgina Schutte
  

Once you are ready to apply to positions, view the general career resources by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Career Learning Center and the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology Career Resources for advice on applying and interviewing for positions. You can also find support through your department, your campus career center, or your personal network.

About
  • GROW is a collection of career resources for undergraduate and graduate students in the geosciences, intended to help students identify and pursue career paths beyond academia.
Support
  • This project was supported by the National Science Foundation (Award #1911527) and our many contributors who generously volunteered their time and knowledge to assist our team.

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  • Any opinions, findings, and recommendations expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation nor of contributor employers.
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