How to Become a Professional Editor in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for a professional editor. Get the facts about education and experience needed to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Children`s Book Illustration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Professional Editor Do?

Editors may be responsible for assigning stories to reporters that will be developed for publication or broadcast. As part of their tasks they will review content, identify technical mistakes and make suggestions for revisions to improve the presentation of information. They may also decide what to publish and determine which items should be given priority placement, such as publication on the front page. They work with reporters and photographers to ensure they have the written and visual materials needed to present stories effectively. As of 2015, 52% of editors worked for publishers of newspapers, books, periodicals or directories.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study English; communication; journalism
Key Responsibilities Fact checking; advise writers on how to improve work; approve page layouts
Job Growth (2014-2024) -5%*
Median Salary (2015) $56,010*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Professional Editor?

A professional editor is a specialist who reviews written text and corrects spelling and grammatical errors. In this job, you may verify facts and offer advice to writers on changes in tone, content or organization that would potentially improve a piece of writing. Editors at newspapers and magazines also develop story ideas, assign stories to reporters, coordinate the work of other editors and enforce deadlines. You might also have review and approval authority over layout, typeface and the allocation of space to photos, text and illustrations.

Step 1: Prepare in High School

High schools provide many opportunities to develop your writing and editing skills, particularly a school's formal courses in English, language arts, literature and creative writing. History, psychology, social studies and economics courses can also push you to refine your talents. Extracurricular and informal activities, such as working for the school newspaper, blogging or keeping a journal, are helpful as well. Finally, cultivating the habit of reading quality writing, whether in books or periodicals, will enhance your own capacity to produce quality writing and recognize it in others.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Although they differ in academic emphasis, Bachelor of Arts programs in English, communications or journalism develop your writing and editing skills. English programs teach you to think critically about the content and historical context of literature, conduct research and present complex arguments in writing expressing your point of view. Journalism programs teach you to investigate events, trends and issues of the day and report on them in a factual manner. Many journalism programs allow you to specialize in print, broadcast or photojournalism. Communications programs explore the most effective ways of presenting a message orally, visually and in writing.

Any interests you have outside of your major should also have some influence on your choices. For example, if you enjoy following developments in science and technology then courses in engineering, physics, chemistry or biology can help prepare you to edit material in those areas.

Step 3: Pursue On-Campus Editing Opportunities

Most colleges have a campus newspaper and many have a literary magazine. If yours does, try to join the staff of either or both as an editor. Campus organizations would probably accept your services if you volunteered to proofread the bulletins or newsletters they send out. You could also offer students your editing services for their theses, papers, lab reports and resumes.

Step 4: Pursue Off-Campus Editing Opportunities

If you're earning a degree in journalism, the program might include an internship with a newspaper or magazine. If you're earning a degree in communications, internships with advertising, marketing or public relations firms might be part of the curriculum. You may have to take more initiative to secure an internship if you're studying English, but the same internship opportunities available to journalism and communications students should be accessible to you. Publishing houses also hire English majors as interns.

Step 5: Find Employment

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that a majority of editors work in the online and print publishing industry (www.bls.gov). However, you could also potentially find work with colleges and universities, businesses, non-profit organizations, professional organizations and radio and TV stations. Approximately 96,690 people worked as editors in 2015, according to the BLS. From 2014-2024, employment was projected to decline by 5%.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts create content that's assigned to them by editors, and must also have a bachelor's degree. Technical writers focus on creating instructional materials and how-to guides; a bachelor's degree is required to become a technical writer. Writers and authors create content for forms of media including books, magazines, television and movies, and also need a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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