Medical Editing/Copyediting: An Overview

As a long-time freelance writer (since 1993), I’ve done many kinds of writing, eg, sales letters, web copy, SEO content, etc. One niche I never got into though was medical. As the owner of an editorial staffing agency in New York City though(1996-2004), I’ve recruited for positions in this niche (eg, medical editors, copy editors, proofreaders, etc.).

Become a Medical Editor / Copy Editor: Skills & Qualifications Needed

I posed questions to some freelancers who worked as medical editors, copy editors and/or production editors about exactly what their jobs entailed – in detail – all so that if you’re considering this niche of editorial freelancing (or FT work), you could get a really good idea of what the positions.

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Contributors answered the following 9 questions (following each question are random excerpts from those surveyed).

1. How long have you been a medical editor/copy editor?

I’ve been an editor in the medical publishing /advertising / education industry for nearly 9 years.

2. Do you know AMA? If so, how did you learn it?Medical_Copyediting-cover-med

I initially learned AMA when I first started out as an assistant editor, but always keep my AMA style guide close at hand, because . . .

3. How did you get into the field?

I got into this field purely by accident. I was going to school in the Midwest as a pre-med major but gravitated toward English elective classes.

When I told one of my English professors that I was going to transfer to an East Coast school because I was homesick — I’m from New York — he suggested I change my major to English when I transfer out. . .

4. Describe a typical day on the job?

A typical day could go from doing nothing to editing ads, editing monologues and transcribing CD’s or making correction.

5. If you’ve worked in other fields, do you think medical editing/copyediting more difficult, less difficult, or has about the same difficulty as other types of editing / copyediting? Explain your response. 

Medical copyediting would probably be on the same level as legal and financial but somewhat more intense mainly because of . . .

6. In your opinion, what specific requirements are necessary to obtain employment in this field?

You have to know proofreading symbols. Also, no one expects you to memorize the whole book, but it’s important that you become familiar with the AMA Manual. Brush up on spelling, grammar and punctuation . . .

Why HostGator is the best web hositing company for freelance writers (IMO)7. If someone has no experience, how would you advise they break into the field?

If you want to break into the field, ask other copyeditors how they got into copyediting. I recommend taking proofreading and copyediting classes . . .

8. In your opinion, does medical editing/copy editing pay more/less/about the same as other types of editing/copy editing? Please give high/low, hourly/yearly wage ranges where possible.

In my opinion, I think medical copyediting pays more than other types of editing. Publishing companies have an average hourly (at least what I’ve seen) . . . One publishing company I work for pays on a fee-per-project basis, or a flat fee.

9. Over the last five years, have you found it easier/harder/about the same to find employment in this field?

Over the last five years, finding work in this field is about the same. A few months before September 11, 2001, finding freelance work was difficult, but not impossible . . .


As you can see, contributor accounts are insightful because they detail specific experiences from real people who explain how they got into the field, what a typical day is like, and what you can look forward to as an editorial professional within this discipline — and much more.

This is e-guide is a good place to start if you are curious about this field and want to gain a true, inside glimpse of what it would be like to be employed in this field.






Account #1: Medical Editor, 9 Years Experience

Account #2: Production Editor, Copy Editor, Editor 10+ Years Experience

Account #3: Medical Editor, Copy Editor, 15 Years Experience

Account #4: Medical Copy Editor, 5 Years Experience


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