• Science journalism

Big questions face us as individuals and as a society:

  • What will be the effects of climate change and global warming?
  • When will there be cures for cancer, heart disease, AIDS and Alzheimer’s?
  • What innovations in technology will help us communication more efficiently?
  • What are the alternatives for fossil fuels?
  • Will we ever be able to conduct inter-planetary exploration?

All of these questions are scientific and technological. All of them – and many others – need the attention of good journalists.

If you are interested in an area of science or technology and in writing about it, there are many opportunities for you to pursue a career and to make a good living doing this work. Many scientific organizations around the world are devoted to different aspects of science, and they need writers who are intelligent about their fields to write about them. Or you may want to freelance – that is, write about a scientific subject for a number of different publications or organizations but essentially be self-employed, choosing the assignments that you will take. This can happen, too, although it will take a great deal of work and determination for you to get to this point.

Whatever career path you might choose in science or technology journalism, here are some considerations for you to keep in mind:

You do not have to have a degree in a scientific or technological field to do write about these topics.

You do have to be curious and have an open mind. You should also be an active reader and learner, and you should begin that pursuit immediately. Pick a topic or field and find some basic books and articles about it. Talk to people (beginning with the science teachers at your school) about what would be the best sources of information for you to begin with.

Learn the ways in which scientists think and the methods they use to make discoveries.

A knowledge of mathematics or a programming language may be necessary for you to more fully understand a specific field. Don’t shrink from learning these things. All of the knowledge that you accumulate now will help you in your pursuit of a scientific writing career.

Join scientific associations or technical groups. The fact that you may not know as much as the members of the group does not bar you from membership. That’s why the groups exists – to help beginners like yourself learn about the field. Most major scientific organizations have student memberships that do not cost very much money, if anything at all.

Ask knowledgeable people to explain what they know. Usually people are more than happy to talk about the things they do or are interested in. Once something – a method or process or whatever – has been explained to you, try to repeat the explanation in your own words to see if you understand it. You may have missed something important the first time around, and the person you are working with can help you master the topic.

Be prepared to learn something new every day for the rest of your life. That’s the truly exciting part of science and technological journalism.

Note: Those students who are already inolved in science journalism should consider joining the National Association of Science Writers <http://nasw.org>. The organization has been around since 1955 and, according to its web site, attempts to “foster the dissemination of accurate information regarding science through all media normally devoted to informing the public. Over the years, its officers have included both freelancers and employees of most of the major newspapers, wire services, magazines, and broadcast outlets in the country.” Take a look at the membership requirements to see if you qualify.

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