how to become a physical occupational therapy writer or health medical writer

How to Become a Health Writer: For PT, OT, and SLP Professionals

Save 40% on Unlimited Medbridge CEUs with promo code TNCPT!
Save 40% on Unlimited Medbridge CEUs with promo code TNCPT!
Save 40% on Unlimited Medbridge CEUs with promo code TNCPT!

One of the most common questions we get is how to become a health writer. There’s no clear path to working in this field, which is why we put this article together…to make the process easier on you 🙂

There are plenty of PT, OT, and SLP professionals who’ve “made it” in the writing space. We firmly believe that the path success starts with understanding whether this non-clinical career path is right for you.

So, let’s dive in so you can learn more about a career in writing—and how to get where you want to be!

How to become a health writer: pin for physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists

This post may contain affiliate links or codes. This won’t increase your cost, but it helps keep TNCPT alive, and free of annoying ads! Thank you for your support. 🙂

What is a health writer?

A health writer creates written copy for a number of purposes. A copywriter could write ad headlines, web content, white papers (informative documents about products), educational materials, video scripts, sales copy, and copy for brochures and flyers. Frankly, that’s just scratching the surface.

Other names for a health writer might include (depending on your specific role):

  • Health copywriter
  • Health content writer
  • PT content writer, OT content writer, SLP writer, etc.
  • Clinical copywriter
  • Clinical content writer
  • Health marketing copywriter
  • Health/medical/clinical content specialist
  • Medical writer (note that this is a much more involved career path with specialized training usually required)

What does a successful health writer look like?

Successful health writers are:

  • Great at writing – This is essential. People often love the idea of writing but, in actuality, they don’t really like writing. Or, they enjoy writing for fun, but find writing for clients is less enthralling.
  • Detail-oriented – Even if you’re a talented storyteller and enjoy writing, you’ll need to take it to the next level. A professional health writer is expected to have impeccable spelling, grammar, and syntax usage.
    Communicative – You’ll likely interface with others on your team. You might even wind up collaborating with clients directly, depending on your role.
  • Organized – Copywriters typically work on multiple projects at the same time, so you’ll need to be super organized and able to keep track of where you are on each project.
  • Experienced – Unfortunately, you can’t just waltz into a health writer role without having a portfolio and some experience under your belt. Again, never fear. We’ve got the steps you need outlined below!
  • Humble – No matter how incredible your writing is, you’re going to have moments where your work comes back with serious red lines through it. It’s painful, but you’re not writing for you; you’re writing for someone else.
  • Dedicated – Copywriters live and die by deadlines. You must be confident enough to submit your best possible work by a deadline. If you’re not the type to step up to a deadline and stand by your work, it might not be the right role for you.

Check out our free grammar guide for health professionals!

What does a day in the life of a health writer look like?

There’s really no single typical day for a health content writer, since writers work in SO many capacities. We’ll go through a few of the most common roles.

A healthcare tech writer

Your role can vary greatly at a healthcare tech company. For example, one day, you might write patient-facing copy for email blasts, websites, brochures, or other materials. You could also spend time creating messages designed to be sent out to patients via text and email.

Perhaps you’ll work on longer-term projects, like monthly health bulletins sent out to the patients. This type of communication is called business-to-consumer (B2C).

On the other hand, you might also wind up writing different types of communications, where your target audience will be another corporation. This is often called business-to-business (B2B) communication.

Perhaps you’ll work for an electronic medical records (EMR) company, where your job will involve creating copy that speaks to clinicians or practice owners who are considering using your software.

In some cases, the sales copy you create will be designed to convince the audience to buy your software. In other cases, your copy will be educating existing users on the ins and outs of your EMR.

You might even wind up writing about PT itself; you might write about physical therapy news, run a pediatric physical therapy blog, an SLP site focused on early language development, or choose to focus on any other type of niche! You could be a contributor to an OT website, writing about topics like “What is OT?” 🙂

An agency health writer

Many agencies (including advertising, content, SEO, medical communications, and more) like to hire clinicians to create and manage health content. This is where a physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech-language pathology professional would make the perfect match; we understand how to talk to patients and medical professionals because we’ve done it.

Your background will make you an exceptional candidate at an ad agency that serves healthcare clients, if you can prove that you’re an exceptional writer.

If you work for a small clinic, there’s a chance the owner(s) wrote the copy themselves. If you work for a larger hospital, communications are either kept in-house or outsourced to ad agencies.

There’s no rhyme or reason to whether a hospital will keep its communications in-house or choose to outsource. In fact, many of the largest systems will do a combination of both.

If you work for a traditional ad agency, you’ll likely spend a good part of your day answering emails, attending meetings and writing content. This content is then proofed by editors before being passed before clients’ eyes.

If you work for an in-house communications team for a healthcare facility, you’ll have a similar day, but your content will be passed to more senior members of a marketing and/or communications department (sometimes shortened to “marcom”), rather than to clients, for approval.

A freelance/contract health writer

This is the dream, folks!

When you work as a contractor or a freelancer, you truly have a degree of freedom and flexibility that you’ll never find in patient care, or any full-time role, for that matter. When you’re a freelance health writer, you can pick and choose clients, and you can work when you feel like it.

The only downside—and this is a big downside—is that the work can be very inconsistent.

Frankly, contracting and freelancing are best if:

  • You’re in a two-income household
  • You’re willing to work per diem as a PT to fill in the gaps if/when contract work dries up

Freelancing vs. contracting as a health writer

When you freelance, you work for yourself. Freelancing is more flexible than contracting. You negotiate your own rates, and you set your own hours. You bill the client yourself, and you’re responsible for taking care of taxes and all that fun stuff.

The nice thing is you can often get paid more as a freelancer IF you know how to set respectable rates for yourself. It’s also possible to take on more remote work as a freelancer. Thus, if you’d like to be a partial-clinical PT and treat two to three days per week, you can easily fill the remaining days with freelance work.

Save 40% on Unlimited Medbridge CEUs with promo code TNCPT!

When you’re a contractor, you work for a staffing agency. You get paid through this staffing agency, much like a travel physical therapy professional would be paid by the travel staffing company instead of the employing facility itself. The staffing agency makes money off of you—often quite a bit—as a “finder’s fee.”

You can sometimes negotiate your rates so the agency keeps a bit less, just like you can as a travel therapist.

The hardest part is establishing yourself with a staffing agency, but once you’ve done so, you’re in business. The best way to start is to start applying for jobs on their website. If you have no luck, try to simply set up an appointment with a recruiter (talent acquisition specialist) to go through your portfolio.

A staffing agency will find you short-term or long-term copywriter roles at various companies. Some of these companies will be looking for a copywriter for a contract role, but they’re considering making a permanent offer for the right candidate. Other organizations will work with contractors with no intention of making permanent offers, because it’s cheaper to hire someone at a higher hourly rate than pay benefits.

The best agencies will actually offer benefits and retirement plans if you work a certain amount of hours per week for a certain amount of time.

You can start by exploring two creative agencies that often recruit and staff clinical content writers: Aquent and Creative Circle.

The pros of being a health writer

  • Relative calm. Compared to patient care, you’re going to feel like you’re in absolute heaven on some days. If you’re introverted and felt sucked dry, you’ll enjoy the ability to sit in your little cave, type out some literary gold, and log off by 5 PM.
  • Predictable hours. Generally speaking, copywriters aren’t overworked (unless you work at a tiny startup or stressful communications firm). You’ll arrive and leave at the same time every day, and you’ll enjoy an excellent work-life balance.
  • Flexibility. Copywriting is such a wonderful job for the gig economy. You can choose to work full-time, of course, but if you want, you can also work freelance or as a contractor.
  • Pride. In some jobs, you work and work and work, but there’s nothing to show for your efforts. When you’re a copywriter, that’s not the case! You toil for hours over your copy, but then it’s all worth it! You’ll see your words in advertisements, on brochures, and maybe even on billboards! It’s pretty awesome.
  • Work from home. Quite a few writing gigs are hybrid or fully remote. Whether you opt to freelance or negotiate partial-remote hours into your contract, working from home with a cat on your lap simply can’t be beat!

The cons of being a health writer

  • Repetitive. If you enjoy writing, but get bored by it, you might not enjoy content writing. You’re literally writing all day, every day.
  • Lots of sitting. Yes, that’s a big change for the super active therapists out there. That said, many workplaces have become savvy to the risks of sitting all day, and you can usually find employers that are willing to spring for a stand-up desk.
  • Workplace politics. Frankly, this is not unique to copywriters. In fact, we’ve found that copywriters are some of the kindest, most supportive people out there. But once you’re out of patient care, you might that—in general—office politics are more pronounced than they were in your tight-knit therapy team.
  • Occasional stress. At normal writing jobs (again, aside from pharmaceutical medical writing gigs or fast-paced communication firms), you’ll generally deal with very little stress.
  • Temptation to slack off. You’ll be doing a lot of internet research as a copywriter. It can be sooo tempting to just pop open that browser and start stalking people on Facebook. Beware!

Where you can go: career paths for the physical therapy writer

PT/OT/SLP writers have pretty incredible options, in terms of career paths and opportunities to climb that career ladder.

Here are just a few:

  • Content writer → lead/senior content writer → assistant creative director → creative director
  • Copywriter → lead/senior copywriter → managing editor → head of content → head of marketing
  • Medical writer → lead/senior medical writer → director of medical communications
  • Copywriter → content editor → managing editor → editor-in-chief
  • Copywriter → content manager or content coordinator → communications manager → head of communications
  • Copywriter → content marketing specialist → content marketing manager → marketing manager → director of marketing

How do I become a physical, occupational, or speech therapy writer?

Becoming a writer is fairly easy, to be honest, as long as you have a natural knack for creating copy. It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you enjoy writing, it’s an easy transition for a clinician.

Make sure your non-clinical resume reflects every single writing project you’ve undertaken, regardless of how big or how small.

1. Familiarize yourself with writing terminology and get to know the AP style guide

Before you start writing (if you intend to make a profession of it), it’s a great idea to read about the different types of writing. For example, web content writing is very different from print content writing. Not sure what a CTA is? That’s OK, but you’ll want to learn.

Psst…a CTA is a Call to Action. It’s designed to get a reader to take action, whether that’s make a purchase, click a link, or sign up for a service. And multiple CTAs are called “Calls to Action.” You’re welcome 🙂

Learn about white papers, B2B vs. B2C, and memorize what a KPI is (it’s a key performance indicator). A KPI for a writer will be different for each role, but if you’re a marketing copywriter, one KPI might be how many likes your article gets on social media. If you’re sending out email copy, the number of people who open your email or click your content might constitute your KPIs.

You’ll also want to spend some time familiarizing yourself with helpful resources. For example, if you intend to blog, follow Copyblogger.

2. Take a course

There are three reasons to take a writing course:

  • You’ll get where you want to be faster
  • You’ll have the skills you legitimately need
  • You’ll have relevant coursework for your resume

We recommend the following online/remote courses for aspiring health copywriters:

Breaking into Health Writing (Save 25%) – This course is awesome, and it’s quite affordable for what you get. It’s a great introduction for a new or aspiring copywriter needs to understand how to actually start writing. It covers types of writing that are out there (medical vs. marketing vs. health, etc.), and it explores what you need to make an actual plan to get there.

Breaking into health writing discount code coupon code
Health Writer Hub’s comprehensive intro course!

3. Get some writing published

You’re going to need to start small. Start your own blog or reach out to sites to write guest content. Here is a great article with websites that accept guest posts.

We also recommend that you join a site like Upwork, where you can pick up freelance jobs to build your portfolio. 

4. Set up a writing portfolio that is easily accessed

Set up a writing portfolio at site like Contently.

You NEED a portfolio to get your writing career started. Why? When a recruiter or potential employer asks to see some of your samples, it’s an easy, central spot where all your work lives. Plus, you look like a legit writer if you have an online portfolio 🙂

5. Adapt your resume for copywriting jobs and/or freelance health writer jobs

It’s all about making that non-clinical resume perfectly free of errors when you’re gunning for copywriting jobs. Make sure to use the right keywords and highlight the right experiences in your resume.

Copywriter-friendly keywords to include in your resume include:

  • Audit
  • Proofread
  • Document
  • Formalize
  • Communicate
  • Liaise (This shows you can communicate well, and can spell “liaise” correctly!)
  • Interpret
  • Cross-reference
  • Analyze

Try to chop out anything overly specialized from your resume, unless it is directly relevant to the job you’re targeting. For example, if you’re applying to write for a neuro rehab website, leave ALL your neuro experience on your resume! But if you’re applying to a generic healthcare tech company, you can probably slash a huge chunk of your con-ed bragging section, if not the whole thing (again, unless it’s relevant), to make room for your awesome copywriter skills! One mistake many clinicians make when leaving patient care is failing to adapt their resumes to look less clinical in nature.

Non-clinical hiring managers and recruiters won’t recognize PNF or NDT, but they will understand that your monthly task of auditing other therapists’ charts translates to being detail-oriented.

Let’s do some surgery on your resume:

Anderson Rehab Hospital – Lead PT – 10/2012 – 11/2013

  • Cultivated relationships with case managers, physicians, nurses, OTs, and SLPs by organizing annual rehab potluck. (Keep this: It shows you can work well in a team.)
  • Coordinated seamless scheduling of acute care physical therapists on weekends and holidays. (Only keep this if there’s room: It shows you’re organized, and can help if you’d like to move into a managing editor role.)
  • Exceeded stringent productivity expectations by collaborating with OTs by dovetailing appropriate treatments. (Cut this: Nobody cares about understands dovetailing in the content world.) 
  • Utilized Epley’s Maneuver for challenging BPPV cases. (Cut this: Unless you’re writing for a vestibular company, nobody will understand what this means.)

As you can see, your patient care section will shrink significantly. That’s OK. You’ll want to fill that space with your copywriting roles.

Consider adding a section like this:

Freelance Copywriter – 10/2023 – Present

  • NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com – “6 Ways to Collaborate with an Occupational Therapist” – Published 10/31/2024
  • StudentDoctorNetwork.com – “Preventing Burnout in Subacute Facilities” – Published 9/20/2023
  • APTA Student Pulse – “How I Survived PT School With a Chronic Illness” – Published 4/20/2023

Here’s where you need that contently portfolio. Spare your recruiter or hiring manager the hassle of typing all these things into a browser, trying desperately to find your work and read it. Keep everything in just one place!

Don’t forget that you need to insert relevant keywords into your resume, too. Carefully study each job for which you’re applying. If the job specifies that it requires experience with B2B or B2C communications, make sure you have business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) somewhere in your resume (as long as you’ve really got that experience).

Again, don’t forget, if you don’t have the experience, reach out, ask around, and write for free. It will pay off in spades down the road.

6. Tweak your cover letter for copywriting jobs and start applying

Again, the ideal copywriter resume will be flawless and free from errors. Avoid making it canned; instead, really tailor the tone to the employer’s own tone, and try to inject plenty of buzzwords from the company’s website and mission statement, without sounding like a suck-up.

Ensure that you mention why you’re looking to change careers. Be honest, transparent, and optimistic about this career move. Don’t sound like a victim.

(For the “start applying” part, just scroll to the bottom—we discuss where to find copywriter jobs!)

7. Hone your interview chops to present as a true copywriter

  • As in step 1, make absolutely sure that you’re familiar with all types of writing. Even if you just study a basic wikipedia article, understand what a copywriter role will involve.
  • Study the job description carefully and consider examples of times that you’ve shined in similar ways. If these instances have been in patient care scenarios, that’s ok, but try to come up with instances where you’ve solved problems through the gift of your written word.
  • Be personable, pleasant, and memorable. Personality goes a long way in non-clinical jobs. Whereas you primarily work with patients as a clinician, you’ll be doing lots of collaboration with other professionals as a copywriter.
  • Be transparent about why you’re eager to take on a non-clinical role, without being too much of a downer.
  • Explain that you’re very comfortable shifting between different brands’ tones. If you’re a copywriter for a single company, that’s less vital, but ad agencies have multiple clients and you’ll need to explain that you can shift your writing tone and style to meet each client’s unique preferences.

Again, discuss how much you enjoy collaborating with other professionals, and explain how you’re detail-oriented and comfortable writing a wide range of copy.

Make sure that you convey in your interview that you’re capable of stepping up to the plate and taking on extra assignments and staying late as needed. It won’t happen often, but you’ll likely be salaried and staying late might happen from time to time. Being that you’ve come from a job that might have been hourly, your interview team might want to ensure you’re not the type to just leave assignments with deadlines until the next day.

If you can convince your interviewer that your PT work ethic and attention to details will make you stand out as a writing employee, you’re in good shape.

The average health writer salary as of 2024 is $80,371.

According to ZipRecruiter, the average pay for a health writer is $38.64/hour. This roughly translates to an annual salary of $80,371.

You’ll likely start off at much lower rates, and you will probably even write some guest posts for free when you’re first putting together your portfolio. Over time, you can command higher rates.

Is a health writer the same as a medical writer?

No. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but the jobs are different.

Medical writer jobs typically pay more than health writer jobs, and that’s because such positions often require existing experience in the writing world, a PhD, and/or additional training or upskilling.

The average medical writer salary in 2024 is $95,944.

If you’re specifically interested in medical writing careers, which pay $95,944/year on average, be sure to check out Non-Clinical 101, our flagship course. In the health/medical writing lesson in step 2 of the course, you’ll learn all about the writing profession in much more detail than this article goes.

Where to find copywriter jobs

  • Search for full-time jobs on indeed or even Glassdoor (we like Glassdoor because you can review companies’ ratings while you’re at it). Here are the results of a LinkedIn search for “healthcare copywriter.” Don’t forget to try different iterations of the same job title when you search for jobs.
  • Another trick is to find a healthcare/healthcare tech company that you really admire and see if you can find a role directly on their website. It’s a long shot, but you’ll occasionally get lucky!
  • As noted above, you can also find writing jobs on Upwork, but they will be freelance gigs, and you might not get paid much.
  • Join our FREE email list, where you’ll get non-clinical job postings sent to your inbox most Sundays.

Don’t be discouraged when you don’t have the needed skills for these roles right from the get-go. You’re starting from scratch, which is why you’ll need to be patient. Lots of companies won’t respond to your application…until someone does. Don’t be shy about upskilling and guest posting to start getting your name out there!

Overwhelmed? It’s OK to not know what you want to do next.

We created Non-Clinical 101 to help you learn about the non-clinical career world the FUN way. It’s an online, self-paced course, where you’ll find information about all sorts of non-clinical career paths, including writing! You’ll learn how to create a resume, get detailed ATS-friendly resume templates, how to interview, how to negotiate, and how to discover the RIGHT career path for you!

non-clinical-101-ad
27 career paths, 50+ non-clinical resume and cover letter templates, LinkedIn and networking tips, interview and negotiation strategies, and guided insights to make your career transition seamless and FUN!
Plus, you’ll get early access to curated non-clinical job listings and a bonus lesson on AI!

14 thoughts on “How to Become a Health Writer: For PT, OT, and SLP Professionals”

  1. THANK YOU SO MUCH for this article! I’m a recent physical therapy grad on the hunt for non-clinical roles (especially ones with remote work agreements) for a large variety of reasons. I’ve been strongly considering careers in healthcare writing because I liked it much more than anticipated in PT school. However, I’ve been feeling quite desperate and confused about where to start. This is by far the most comprehensive guide out there and I’ll be referencing it often as I try to follow it step by step! Thanks again for everything you do! ☺️❤️

    1. Hi Kristina!

      Thanks for the kind words! I know that feeling and hope that this site provides the same hope to others that it does for you. That’s the goal! Healthcare writing is honestly pretty awesome. I’ve enjoyed it immensely, and I’ve also enjoyed branching into non-healthcare writing. I see you have an established blog–awesome! I’ll be sure to follow it 🙂 Whatever you do moving forward, be sure to keep in touch!

  2. Thanks Meredith for an excellent article. I have read a lot of articles about how to get into freelance writing. Mostly they did not factor in the clinician who might want to get involved in writing.

    BTW, I discovered I love writing when I began writing my first book. Writing a book, blog post, article etc is very different to the reams of written work required when treating. I hated all the paperwork when directly involved with clients. It’s so time consuming and was not the reason I got into becoming an OT.

    Writing copy that is of benefit, whether it is a book, workbook, article or other is quite different.

    Thanks for mentioning the OT in your post. Nice to see PTs recognizing the importance of collaborating with an OT.

    Shoshanah

    1. Hi Shoshanah! Thank you so much for commenting. Yes, when PT/OT/SLP professionals switch into writing, there needs to be lots of very specialized info. We have so much clinical knowledge and experience, but making the transition into a completely different way of working can be quite the endeavor 🙂 I totally relate to your experience!!! I remember people being like “why would you pursue writing…you’re always complaining about documentation!” But it’s the same with productivity and quotas. Some people love meeting goals and quotas and some people love writing, but the type of unrealistic productivity we face at work (and the boring documentation that hardly counts as writing!) don’t always reflect what sales or writing would be as real jobs 🙂 Always happy to collaborate with OTs (and SLPs…and assistants!) and hear your perspectives! Thanks again for commenting!!!

  3. I’ve just started a copywriting course and I’m so excited to see where it takes me! While researching potential niches, I came across your website. I LOVE the idea of helping therapists maximize their client base and improve their website content. Thank for this resource!

  4. Hi Meredith!
    Love your website! Very helpful!
    Quick question: I’m starting from scratch! Before we have online or printed work available to link on Contently, what would be the best strategy for adding samples of our work on our Contently page? Is a personal blog the only option?
    Thanks!

  5. Thank you so much for all the content in this article. It provides so much tangible advice. I am seriously considering stepping into freelance medical copywriting and have started practicing by submitting blogs for my outpatient company. One of my main concerns is that there might already be a gazillion people doing this. I mean, it sounds like such a perfect job wouldn’t everyone want it? Since you are inside the field, how do you feel about available prospects in the industry?

    1. Hi Jenny!

      I’m glad you found the article helpful 🙂 There are definitely some other people doing freelance writing, but there are tons of clients looking for content, and if you play your cards right, you can certainly make a good living in this field. I will say, it takes some time until you can command the big bucks for your writing, but if you front load and do some free/low-paying work for a few months to build up your portfolio, it becomes much easier to justify asking for a good pay rate for your content. I hope this helps!! Let me know if you have other questions!

  6. Meredith,

    I applaud you for being bold enough to take your career in a new direction and for all that you have accomplished in your non-clinical role! Thank you so much for sharing what you learned along the way!!

    I am excited to pursue freelance writing as a new venture. Would it be redundant to take both the “Breaking into Health Writing” and “Principles of Health and Medical Writing” courses?

    -Shalynn

  7. Hey Meredith,

    Thanks for the insightful and fantastic article. You mentioned you wrote free for a “long time” until being able to land a job. How long did this take or how many unpaid articles would you say you submitted?

    Also, based on your experience, do many copywriters jobs offer remote opportunities?

    Thanks

    1. Hey Martin! This is a great question…I would say I probably wrote consistently on the blog I was running at the time for about 6 months. During that time, I was also submitting guest posts on other blogs. Around that time, I was able to start getting paid for my work 🙂
      And, yes…lots of remote opportunities for copywriters!
      Wishing you lots of luck!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Want to go non-clinical, but need some help? Sign up for our e-mail list to get our FREE mini-course!