When it comes to thinking about writing-related careers, most of us immediately think of publishing and editing. While there are certainly a lot of career opportunities in these fields, writing and communication skills are also highly valued in other careers such as science communication, non-profit management, and technical writing. If we are interested in careers in writing and communication, how can we utilize the skills we already have as graduate students and what skills can we develop? How do we prepare for careers in writing? 

GradPro reached out to two industry experts, who have also completed graduate degrees, and asked them how they suggest graduate students prepare for careers in writing. They share what actions graduate students can take to demonstrate their writing skills in career development and land a writing-focused career.

Careers in the Publishing Industry

The publishing industry works closely with writers to refine and publish their work. Publishers employ editors, researchers, as well as acquisition and sales professionals to provide support for all stages of the publishing process. When it comes to careers in publishing and editing, GradPro talked to Lindsay Wright, the Director of the Los Angeles Review of Books Publishing (LARB) Workshop, who holds a master’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Virginia. Lindsay mentioned that graduate students “already possess many of the skills they need in a publishing career, such as a keen attention to the written word, understanding of research practices, and the ability to manage many complex processes at once.” However, in order to prepare for a career in publishing, graduate students need to apply the skills they develop in research and teaching to professional contexts.

Lindsay shares that, “the best way to prepare for a career in publishing is through apprenticeship, whether by working on a graduate student journal or as an intern at a magazine or press. Since publishing is an industry that runs through connections, it’s important to start to get to know people at the organizations that you might be interested in working for, whether they are Big 5 publishing houses, academic publishers, independent presses, or non-profit organizations.” The LARB Publishing Workshop, for example, is a great opportunity for graduate students to build their publishing network. Applications are due on March 31 for this summer’s workshop.

In addition to attending apprenticeships like the LARB publishing workshop, Lindsay also encouraged graduate students to reach out to alumni who are already working in the industry for an informational interview to learn about the specific job or career in the field: “Many people are surprised, for example, to learn that many editorial jobs often require more administrative and project management skills than they do an ability to copy edit or work on a sentence level with the writer. Graduate students may find that many of the skills they picked up along the way through teaching, working in digital collections, or administering academic programs can be translated to publishing careers and will make them attractive to prospective employers.”

Careers in Science Writing

For graduate students who are interested in writing careers that intersect with scientific research, you might be interested in a career in science writing. Science writers write and produce material to inform the public about knowledge in science, health, engineering, and technology. We interviewed Dr. Summer Allen, who holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Brown University, for advice in developing a career in science writing. As an experienced science writer and editor, she has worked on a variety of projects from popular science articles, to textbook chapters, grants, press releases, and white papers. Dr. Allen encourages graduate students to practice writing “as much as you can, whether on your own blog, in a research publication, or for a department website.” Dr. Allen also recommends that graduate students join the National Association of Science Writers as a student member, and consider going to the annual meeting to learn more about the science writing industry and to network with professionals. 

Dr. Allen also encouraged graduate students to take advantage of the wide range of resources available in the science writing community. For example, you can look into the AAAS Mass Media Fellowship, attend the Science Talk conference, or connect with the vibrant community of scientists/science writers on Twitter. In addition, check out projects such as the Open Notebook  and the Science Writers’ Handbook to develop further insights into the science writing industry.

Other Writing Careers

Aside from publishing, editing, and science writing, there are many other writing careers that may interest graduate students. As the technology sector continues to grow, writers who can create content to attract and engage with target audiences are in high demand. Many tech companies consistently recruit content marketing specialists and technical writers who can communicate technical information with clarity and conciseness, a skill which many graduate students already possess. Check out this article on writing jobs in the tech industry for more ideas. If you are more interested in non-profit work, consider developing skills in grant writing and white-paper publishing, in addition to managing complex projects. The Communication Mark offers workshops and many free resources to help you start learning about writing grant proposals.  Finally, consider applying to be a Graduate Writing Consultant at the Graduate Writing Center (applications will open later this month) to gain experience exploring writing resources and providing writing consultation for peers. 

There are many amazing career opportunities that utilize the research, writing, and project management skills you are developing during your graduate studies. Consider meeting with a GradPro PDL for a one-on-one consultation to discuss your goals and plans for career exploration and preparation.