Ever wonder where you can land science writing gigs?
In today’s fast-paced world, there’s no shortage of research, scientific discoveries, technological breakthroughs, and environmental issues that people want to know about.
If you have an interest in science writing and a solid story idea, you can find a market to land an assignment. The scientific method is actually a good formula to follow to test out an idea.
Start with a question, and find out if it’s got science writing story potential. For example:
- How does Elon Musk’s plan to get humans to Mars?
- What’s it really like to use forensic science to solve crimes?
- What are health researchers doing to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease?
- How can science help solve the food and fresh water problem in drought-stricken countries?
If you want to make a living as a freelance science writer, look around. Story ideas are everywhere. Validate your idea, and then pitch a story to one of these science writing markets:
Want to write for Canada’s leading magazine about science and environmental issues?
Take a look at recent stories like Walmart’s attempt to go green, repairing environmental damage after a marine oil spill in Nova Scotia, and solutions to prevent city drinking water shortages.
Then come up with a story idea for a feature, short report, expert interview, resource guide, or new research findings. Journalism skills, knowledge of academic research, and a solid query will help your pitch rise to the top.
Who to pitch: Editor Leah Gerber
Rate: $0.10/word for 500 to 4,000-word assignments.
If you want to learn how to raise bees and harvest honey, Bee Culture, is one of the best resources available for the most current information in trends and best practices. But the how-to of bee keeping isn’t the only thing this magazine covers.
“There’s so much more to the world we touch,” says Senior Editor Kim Flottum. “Pollination, honey plants, gardening with bees, wildlife and woodland plantings, and all the creatures that bees affect and interact with.”
Bee Culture also features stories about the impact pesticides, pests, predators and disease have on bee colonies, says Flottum.
Study the magazine, and pitch a story idea with a 200-word query that outlines the piece. If you can provide photos, be sure to mention it in your pitch.
Who to pitch: Senior Editor Kim Flottum
Rate: $150 to $200 per assignment, typically 1,500 to 2,000 words.
Big Buds Mag is an authority pub for cannabis industry, policy makers, growers and retailers, and users (medicinal and recreational). Key areas for science writing include articles about growing and cultivation methods, medical research, and scientific advances in cannabis.
When you pitch an idea, include any relevant experience you have writing about cannabis. Any SEO experience or writing for the web, in addition to print, will help you stand out among other writers.
Who to pitch: Big Buds Mag Editor Josh Glazer
Rate: Competitive rates, per assignment
Chatelaine is a popular monthly women’s magazine in Canada that covers health and fitness topics, including the latest in health and science research.
If you can explain scientific research in consumer-friendly language to help women make better food, fitness, and lifestyle choices, pitch a one-page story idea. Explain why it’s a good fit for the magazine and what section it’s best suited for. If you have ideas for a sidebar, infographic, quiz, or other graphic element, be sure to explain.
Who to pitch: Managing Editor Laura Brown
If you customized your search in Writer’s Market to find magazines that pay the highest rates for science writing, this is one that would rise to the top of the list.
Discover is a consumer-focused magazine that features stories about medical research, scientific breakthroughs, technology, physics, space travel, and even paleontology. Keep in mind it’s written for a lay audience, so academic language won’t get you an assignment.
“Discover magazine has a stable of highly qualified contributing writers,” says freelancer Susan Etchey. “The only way a new writer has a chance to get the attention of its editors is to have an explosive, compelling untold science story to tell.”
Best bet for breaking in, before pitching a major feature story…study the magazine. Pitch an idea for the Data section (150 to 500 words), or the 20 Things Column (650 words).
If you want to write for Earth Island Journal, follow the first rule of writing for any magazine. Read it. Study back issues.
In the current issue, you’ll learn about how everyday citizens are transforming scientific discovery, a type of worm that’s crawling across Africa destroying crops, plants, and vegetation with world domination in mind, and efforts to create sustainable, environmentally-friendly perfume, among other topics.
If you’ve got a story idea about innovations in science and technology that will have an impact on the environment, pitch an idea for a shorter 1,000 to 1,500-word piece or longer feature (up to 4,000 words).
Who to pitch: Editor Maureen Nandini Mitra
Rate: $300 to $1,000 per assignment
Get in line at the grocery story, and you might see this magazine on the news stand. But it’s not just a magazine filled with recipes, photos of tasty food, and tips for healthy eating. There’s plenty of science behind the taste, textures, and flavors that make food delicious that Eating Well readers want to know about.
“EatingWell’s voice is journalistic and authoritative,” says Editor-in-Chief Jessie Price. “…We cover nutrition with a newsy, science-based approach.”
Best way to break in. Pitch a story idea for one of the front-of-book sections (listed on the guidelines page). For example, Fresh Health features new information about current health and nutrition studies.
Who to pitch: Associate Nutrition Editor Julia Westbrook or another member of the editorial team.
Before Folk Rebellion founder Jess Davis launched this site, she spent the better part of her career as a copywriter and consultant for a long list of leading consumer brands. And then she realized, today’s world had become slightly out of touch with a simpler way of life. Folk Rebellion was her answer to change that.
So what does a digital pub like Folk Rebellion have to do with science writing? There’s room for how-to articles, interviews, features, and columns for lot of different topics here, including the psychology of motivation and change, and neurosciences.
Who to pitch: Founder and Editor-in-Chief Jess Davis
Rate: $100 to $350 per assignment (500 to 3,500 words)
You’ll need to know the language, jargon, and lifestyle of forensic scientists to write for this magazine. It’s primarily a trade pub for forensic researchers and crime scene investigators.
Pitch ideas about the merging of science and technology to advance forensic science, which may include the use of biometric data, DNA testing, toxicology reporting, or evidence collection and testing.
Rates: Based on assignment.
If you want to grow a garden in your backyard, or raise crops on a farm, you can learn about it Growing Magazine. This mag features lots of practical how-to guides on growing.
But you’ll also find articles about agricultural science, soil testing, watering and irrigation, and managing pests and invasive species to prevent crop failure.
Who to pitch: Editor Stephanie Peake
Rate: $175 to $500 per assignment
If you want to write about archaeology, ecology, biology, geology, and oceanography of marine coastal environments, take a closer look at Hakai magazine.
If you’ve got solid journalism experience, research skills, and the ability to interview sources, you’re a good fit for writing for Hakai.
“We are interested in great stories and strong voices,” says Editor Jude Isabella. “We tilt toward science and environmental stories, but we’re also interested in people and communities and how they interact with coastal ecosystems.”
Pitch short news stories about coastal environmental topics (500 to 800 words), or an in-depth feature (1,000 to 5,000 words).
If you can provide video (five minutes or less), to go with your story, include details in your pitch. You may also pitch an idea for an infographic related to marine coastal environments.
Who to pitch: Editor Jude Isabella
Rates: $0.75 to $1/word
Got journalism skills, an attitude for social justice, and the chops to write about the connection between science and humanity? Here’s another place to get paid for science writing.
Recent stories by Humanosphere writers included the rise of cholera in East Africa linked to El Nino, the 12 deadliest bacteria on earth, results of clinical trials for a new malaria vaccine, and new technology that may make breathing the air in even the most polluted cities better.
“We want to tell stories that influence the public dialogue about global development so we can actually live up to the lofty aspiration of a more just and equitable world,” says Publisher Tom Paulson. “We look for writers who do their homework…, but are not afraid of taking a stand and holding people or organizations accountable. We want stories that have authority, flavor, and personality.”
Study the site and guidelines before pitching a news story or feature.
Who to pitch: Publisher Tom Paulson
Rates: Based on assignment
In Mother Earth News, you can learn about things like designing a geothermal heat pump to warm your house, why growing borage can help your entire garden thrive, and how to use resources like the sun, wind, and even bio mass as an energy source.
If you want to write about science-related topics for Mother Earth News, pitch a feature story idea about renewable energy, green transportation, natural health, or environmental issues. Best way to break in: Start with a short how-to articles (100 to 300 words), before pitching a more in-depth feature.
Rates: $25 to $150 per assignment
You’ll need to know a lot about The Garden State to write for New Jersey Monthly. It’s primarily a lifestyle magazine for the East coast state with an estimated 9 million people. But an estimated 100 million people a year visit New Jersey. That alone as an environmental impact, along with bordering the Atlantic Ocean.
If you’ve got a New Jersey-focused story idea about the environment, science or technology that goes beyond a traditional hard news story, pitch your idea. Recent examples include a profile on physicist Rush Coleman (a New Jersey U.S. Congressman), a science-inspired art exhibit featuring 20 of New Jersey’s best artists, ocean explorations and discoveries off the coast of New Jersey, and many others.
“We are looking for writers who can deliver brightly written, well-researched service articles,” says Editor Ken Schlager. “But we are also interested in investigative stories from qualified reporters.
Pitch a story idea based on the editorial calendar, to improve your chances of landing an assignment.
Who to pitch: Editor Ken Schlager
Rates: $750 to $2,500 per assignment
The New Scientist has an editorial staff of 40-plus writers who cover news about science, technology, health, and the environment. That’s important to know if you want to pitch a story idea to this magazine. Your best bet, pitch a feature story with a strong science focus.
“We are looking for science and technology stories from around the world that will intrigue, entertain and inform the widest possible audience, be they physicists, biologists or people with no science background at all,” says Editor Emily Wilson. “We cover fascinating bits of pure science with no possible application as well as high-impact stories such as weapons technology and the psychology of terrorism. Besides reporting the latest research, we also try to find interesting scientific or technological angles on major news events.”
Recent examples include stories about the earliest people to live in North America, medical debates about breast cancer surgeries, why some people’s brains can remember and recall more, the impact drilling for natural gas will have on the global environment, and many others.
Got a feature story idea for New Scientist? Pitch your story idea in a couple of paragraphs, show off your writing skills, and make a case for why this story will matter to readers.
Rates: $300 and up per assignment
Few magazines have been around as long as Popular Science. It made its debut in 1872, and has been one of the most widely-read magazines around the world about science and technology for the average reader ever since.
“For freelancers interested in science who are pursuing print assignments, Popular Science‘s front-of-book is a good place to start,” says Contently Editor-in-Chief writer Jordan Teicher.
If you’ve got some journalism experience, and the ability to explain science in a way that’s interesting, engaging, and educational to the average reader, pitch a story idea to the magazine. Start with a front-of-book pitch in 200 words or less. Land that assignment, and move on to pitching full-length features of 1,000 words or more.
Want insider information about writing for Popular Science? Check out this Q&A with a former editor about how to land front-of-book assignments.
Who to pitch: Senior Editor Rachel Feltman
Did you know the American Association for the Advancement of Science publishes a journal widely read by a unique audience: scientists and academics, and everyday people interested in science? It’s called Science.
And if you want to break in to this well-paying science pub, you’ll need to look a lot further than the latest press releases about new research, findings, and publications.
“Our biggest piece of advice for selling us on a straight research story is this,” says Deputy Editor Barbara Jasny, “Pitch us hidden gems.”
If you know how to combine hard-news journalism skills, science, and storytelling, study the “How to pitch” guidelines, develop a story idea, and track down the right editor to connect with.
Breaking science news that hasn’t been covered in depth yet, an inside scoop, or a scandal within the scientific community will put your idea on the fast track for consideration. And there’s opportunity to write for the online version of Science as well as the print version.
Who to pitch: Check the “Meet the Editors” page to find the right staff member to pitch your story idea to.
Rates: Based on assignment
Even if you’ve never picked up a telescope or studied the stars, you probably heard about the total solar eclipse that passed over the United States in 2017. Millions of people from coast to coast scrambled to viewing locations within the Path of Totality across America to get a glimpse of the moon blocking out the sun for just a few minutes.
For the amateur astronomer, the eclipse was a monumental opportunity to test out equipment, teach others about astronomy, and even practice taking astrophotos. And it’s the kind of content you’ll find in Sky & Telescope for the hobbyist interested in science and astronomy.
“These enthusiasts run the gamut from armchair astronomers to professional astrophysicists,” says Senior Editor Kelly Beatty. “Most, however, are amateur astronomers. People from all walks of life who love the night sky and want to learn everything they can about it.”
Rates: Based on assignment.
Did you know the Smithsonian Institute includes 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and 2.7 million square feet of indoor space? There’s a lot to know and a lot to learn about the past, present and future of science, technology, the environment, and even the universe. And you can write about it for the Smithsonian magazine.
But you’ll need to do your homework, know the magazine and it’s readers, and write a stand-out query to land an assignment. In your pitch:
“There has to be something surprising and narratively interesting there,” says Senior Editor Jenny Rothenberg Gritz. “If the story is about the natural world, either the person you’re writing about has to be super charismatic and interesting, or something done about the issue has to be amazing.”
Rates: $1 to $3.50/word
If you know the intersection where health and wellness meets science and research, and like to tell stories, you can write for Tonic. It’s an online lifestyle mag designed to give readers a fresh perspective on healthy living using science-based journalism, and plenty of in-your-face facts, like:
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t see anything wrong with a bit of rat hair in your food?
- If you eat enough poppy seed muffins, you might actually fail a drug test.
- There’s a physiological reason some people pass out at the sight of blood.
- Why you might be at risk for contracting a flesh-eating bacteria
“We tell the human stories on the leading edge, capture paradigm shifts in research that allow us to see the world in new ways, and offer a roadmap to people who want to live healthier lives,” says Editor Kate Lowenstein.
Who to pitch: Editor Kate Lowenstein
Rates: $250 per assignment
Two critical rules for science writing
If you want to tap into these science writing markets for freelance assignments, there’s two critical things you need to do before you email an editor.
- First, read the magazine, blog, online articles. Go back a couple months, and pay attention to voice, style, attribution, sources, and topics to help you start thinking of story ideas.
- Second, study the guidelines. If you want to succeed at science writing, or write for any other magazines or publications, get familiar with writer’s guidelines. Find out what the editor wants to see in a pitch, do your research, and write a compelling query.
And if you get rejected or don’t get an answer, keep going. There are plenty of science writing opportunities out there for freelancers willing to put in the work to pitch great story ideas.
Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline, or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultramarathon.