Advice Columnist: Job Description, Duties and Salary

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an advice columnist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and salary expectations to find out if this is the career for you.

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People write to advice columnists about a problem or question they may have, and the advice columnist provides an appropriate response, done by personal research or asking an expert in a particular field. Advice columnists typically work either as journalists or freelance.

Essential Information

Advice columnists respond to letters from people who are dealing with various situations, including family problems, legal issues, or medical concerns. Their columns may appear in newspapers, magazines or on websites. An advice columnist may be a staff member at a publication or may write on a freelance basis. While there's no specific degree program for advice columnists, many have degrees in journalism or a relevant field. Some advice columnists may work as reporters in other areas in addition to writing an advice column.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in journalism, communications or related field
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% for all writers and authors
Annual Median Salary (2015)* $60,250 for all writers and authors

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Advice Columnist Job Description

An advice columnist provides guidance to a publication's readers. Some advice columnists are specialists who may hold credentials in mental health, medicine, or law, and can answer questions or give advice about sensitive legal, medical, or financial issues. Other advice columnists are freelance writers or salaried journalists who don't have any specific professional credentials, but give solid, thoughtful advice to people with personal, job, or relationship issues. An advice columnist may often have to provide information about organizations that can provide letter writers with support and services as they struggle with serious problems that can't easily be resolved.

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Job Duties

An advice columnist must read through the letters sent to him or her and select those that are best suited to his or her column. In some cases, the columnist needs to do some research to provide the letter-writer with good advice. A columnist who doesn't have credentials in a particular field may contact an expert, such as a doctor, accountant or psychologist, for suggestions on how to answer some questions from the readers. Some advice columnists write a column every day, while others may only write columns once a week or once per month, depending on the needs of their publishers. In some cases, the advice columnist may write columns in addition to performing other writing, editing, or reporting duties for a publication.

Salary Information for Advice Columnists

The salary of an advice columnist depends, in part, on whether he or she is an employee of a publication or a freelance writer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for all writers and authors as of May 2015 was $60,250. The rates for freelance writers vary by publisher (www.bls.gov). Freelancers who are members of the National Writers Union can use its free contract advice service to negotiate a fair rate for their writing.

An advice columnist must be adept at researching and writing, and some are credentialed in a specific field, while others rely on finding sources for their answers. Many advice columnists have a degree, although they aren't required. Salaries differ by place of employment, frequency of work, and if the person works freelance.

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