I came in by what might be an unusual route, but it could be of interest to those not ready to write full-time. I had two long-running interests, space exploration and zoology. I started with professional papers on space and then went on to articles. With zoology, I saw a market for a book that collected scattered information on my interests in new, rediscovered, and mystery species, much of it from journals, for the general reader. I worked with some historians in the space area and got a NASA contract for a book on the Sputnik race of the 1950s. I have a job in consulting which restricts the time I have for science writing but allows me freedom in that I don’t have to worry about profitability. The most important lesson I learned is that you don’t have to be a degreed expert in a particular field to make a worthwhile contribution to it, but you do have to be very thorough in your research. The other lesson is that experts, in general, love to talk about what they do, and they will answer questions from an unknown writer. So work hard and write about what you love.
At that time the most noted science news messengers had science backgrounds, such as Sagan and Isaac Asimov. (As you might have seen in another post, my colleague Tom Levenson in the MIT Graduate Program in Science Writing had similar inspiration from Asimov.) So, I left my job and went back to college, intent on obtaining a second baccalaureate degree, this time in science, that would boost my credentials. Carried away, I ended up with a master’s degree in physics and dabbled with the idea of continuing to a Ph.D.
ResourcesFor additional information about Science Writer:
Luckily, the program (Ann Finkbeiner’s at Johns Hopkins) was awesome, and science writing and reporting makes me feel warm and fuzzy almost every single day. I mean it.