Health and Science

Some English majors pursue careers in health and science fields, where their excellent communication skills and deep understanding of the human condition are greatly valued.

Career Paths in Health and Science Include: 

Technical Writer

Technical writers transform complex, jargon-filled technical material into texts that can be understood by ‘regular’ people.  Working for businessess, government agencies, or organizations, technical writers produce user guides, instruction manuals, FAQ pages, memos, product announcements, and reports of various kinds.   They increasingly write for online audiences, so an ability to navigate social media is useful.

Skills and Responsibilities

  • Translate highly technical information for a lay readership
  • Be able to learn technical subject matter
  • Research complex content
  • Collaborate well with technical specialists
  • Write clearly and concisely
  • Edit and proofread documents
  • Be aware of audience and context

Where They Work

Technical writers are often hired by software, engineering, and medical companies.  Businesses that have recently posted jobs for technical writers in California include Esri, Google, Amazon, and Northrop Grumman.

Grant Writer

Grant writers research and locate private and public grants, write proposals to fund various projects, and coordinate grant budgets. They often work for non-profit organizations and corporations.  

Skills and Responsibilities

  • Research and evaluate grant opportunities
  • Read scholarship related to grant projects
  • Possess excellent analytical and rhetorical skills
  • Write grant proposals
  • Develop grant budgets
  • Edit and proofread documents to ensure clarity and correctness
  • Interact with project officers at granting agencies
  • Possess strong organizational and time management skills

Where They Work

Grant writers are often employed by businesses, government agencies, and universities.  Companies and organizations that have recently posted jobs for grant writers in California include the Boys and Girls Club, RAFT, various universities, and the American Red Cross.

Speech-Language Pathologist

A speech-language pathologist evaluates and treats a wide range of language, communication, speech, and voice disorders. They work one-on-one with clients and patients, who may include children and/or adults, in various educational and health care settings.

Skills and Responsibilities

  • Have expertise in linguistics, language acquisition, and language disorders
  • Evaluate and treat patients/clients with various language pathologies and communicative disorders
  • Administer and interpret test results
  • Create treatment plans and develop goals for patients/clients
  • Collaborate with therapists, physicians, teachers, and patients’ families on treatment plans
  • Write patient reports
  • Maintain accurate records

Where They Work

Speech-language pathologists often work in K-12 schools settings and medical facilities.  Companies and organizations that have recently posted jobs for speech language pathologists in California include Kaiser Permanente, Easterseals, US Department of Veteran Affairs, Kindred Rehabilitation Services, and various school districts.

Health Communications Specialist

Part technical writer, part public relations expert, a health communications specialist develops messages about health and wellness for particular target audiences.  They are employed by hospitals, medical clinics, pharmaceutical companies, news organizations, universities, private non-profits, and government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  For these contexts, health communications specialists address such topics as nutrition, environmental safety, disease prevention, and wellness programs. They also compose within a variety of genres, including press releases, websites, newsletters, brochures, online videos, public speeches, and social media.  As such, health communications specialists must be rhetorically flexible, able to adapt messages for different situations, audiences, and media.

A health degree is not required to work as a health communications specialist.  In fact, a background in a communication-oriented major such as English may be preferred.  Those who work in this field, however, must be able to research and develop expertise in health-related subject matter.

Skills and Responsibilities

  • Communicate messages on health-related topics to particular audiences
  • Compose texts for print, digital, and visual media
  • Plan social media campaigns on various health issues
  • Locate and interpret health and medical research
  • Be creative and rhetorically-savvy
  • Have excellent writing, editing, and design skills

Where They Work

Health communications specialists work for medical clinics, pharmaceutical companies, private non-profits, universities, and government agencies.   Companies and organizations that have recently posted jobs for health communication specialists in California include Davita Medical Group, UC Santa Cruz, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Community Health Educator

Community health educators teach individuals and community groups about varied health topics, including nutrition, disease prevention, and mental health.  To this end, they collect data on the health needs of a particular community and develop educational materials, presentations, and programs that address these needs in ways that are sensitive to the community’s cultural beliefs and practices.  Community health educators work with urban and rural populations as well as with K-12 and college students.

English majors bring a number of strengths to community health educator positions including an ability to interpret situations, cultural awareness, and effective communication skills.  To work in this area, however, English majors also need a graduate degree in health education or closely related health field. For a sampling of graduate programs in health education, see Additional Information below.

Skills and Responsibilities

  • Research health risks, needs, beliefs and practices of particular communities
  • Develop health-related teaching materials and presentations
  • Work well with people from diverse cultural backgrounds
  • Be an effective public speaker

Where They Work

Community health educators are often hired by government agencies, private non-profits, hospitals, medical clinics, and universities. Companies and organizations in California that have recently posted jobs for health educators include UC San Diego, Sierra Health Foundation, and Good Samaritan Hospital of Los Angeles.

Physician

Contrary to what you might think, English majors are well-suited to careers as medical doctors.  Their experience interpreting literature, for example, prepares them to understand a wide swath of human experience.  This capacity for empathy is of great value to their work as physicians.  Their background in linguistics and writing can also make them skillful communicators with patients, families, and medical personnel.  In addition, English majors are well prepared to excel on the verbal and analytical problem-solving portions of the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test).  

Recognizing the importance of English Studies to medicine, a number of medical schools and residencies have incorporated ‘narrative medicine’ within their clinical training.  In such programs, medical students and physicians discuss poems, short stories, and essays in relation to patient care—activities that have yielded positive outcomes for both patients and doctors.

English majors make good physicians because they . . .

  • Can interpret people and situations
  • Empathize with different perspectives
  • Creatively problem-solve
  • Have strong reading skills
  • Are sensitive to cross-cultural communication dynamics
  • Understand the human condition

Education and Additional Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Some science coursework
  • Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
  • Medical school
  • Internship/residency