After looking around on the internet I found a few forum posts asking about the same thing, "should I do a PhD to get into Med Comms?”. Most people said no not necessarily. But as far as I could tell, all of them did have PhD’s and were just telling people well maybe yes and maybe no.
Since getting a job as an associate medical writer without a PhD, I've heard a lot more of this conversation occurring within the industry and especially at careers fairs. A lot of people do have PhD’s and quite often post-doctoral experience. But that is normally because they started out in academia and then discovered medical writing, not because they thought that experience would help them get into medical writing.
I recognise that my position is not common, I proactively went to an employer that happened to be thinking about taking on junior staff. I also advertised my CV on some job sites and I was later contacted by a few agencies. Some thought a PhD might be useful and some didn’t, so don’t be disheartened if one company says no.
As far as I have learned, moving up to more senior positions will not be hampered by not having a PhD either, as the skill set of an academic is somewhat different to that of a medical writer (although not entirely).
Getting that first job is what counts; you can gain far more relevant experience from working within the industry than in academia
I think that doing some science blogging may have helped me to get the position by demonstrating an interest in writing about science and anything that showed interest, capability and initiative is going to help you stand out from the crowd.
My advice to anyone thinking about this line of work would be to talk to potential employers and see whether you would be a good match in terms of culture, major therapy areas, the role that you can expect to take up etc etc. Remember these people want to see potential in their junior staff, someone they can sculpt into a successful writer at their company.
In my opinion, going through the stress of getting a PhD if you don’t want a job that requires one is an option to avoid. If you can get a foothold in the career that you want to end up in and gain some relevant experience, then that would be the obvious choice to me.
Feel free to leave any questions in a comment below and I’d be happy to talk about this in greater depth.