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Become a Science Editor: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a science editor. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in science editing.

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Should I Become a Science Editor?

Science editors work for science magazines and journals, book publishers and newspapers. They work with writers to plan the contents of articles and create satisfactory finished products. Editors at newspapers may coordinate science-related content and supervise science reporters. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most editors typically begin their careers as writers.

Editors often work under a deadline-driven schedule and might have to work long hours as a result; however, they have the benefit of often being able to work from home. They have the added pressure of being responsible for ensuring the information in their publication is factually accurate, but the technical nature of science editing can result in earnings that are much higher than editing in other fields.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree, graduate degree may be preferred or required for high-level job
Degree Field Journalism, communications, English, or relevant field of science
Experience 2-5 years of experience in science writing or editing
Key Skills Strong writing and communication skills, creativity, grammar, ability to work with others; editing software, desktop publishing, word processing
Salary (May 2014) $64,140 per year (Mean annual salary for all editors)

Sources: Job postings from October 2012, Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Prospective science writers typically earn a bachelor's degree in journalism or a scientific field. Journalism students study ethics, media writing techniques, reporting and research. Students who wish to specialize in science editing can minor in science fields, such as biology, physics or chemistry, or they can take introductory courses in a broad range of scientific and mathematical fields.

Success Tips:

  • Enroll in an internship program. Aspiring science writers and editors can seek practical experience while they earn their bachelor's degrees. Writing and editing experience can be obtained from college or community news publications, and through internships with newspapers and magazines.
  • Develop desktop publishing skills. Future writers and editors may want to consider learning to use computer software for editing text, video and audio while in college. This will provide the opportunity for students to familiarize themselves with graphics and Web editing tools.

Step 2: Gain Experience as a Science Writer

Some science writers work as journalists for print, online or broadcast publications, while others work as public information officers for organizations like research foundations, museums, universities and corporations. Science writers can also launch their careers as freelance writers for smaller organizations like community newspapers, public information offices and nonprofit foundations. After demonstrating their ability to produce quality content, meet deadlines and work with others, science writers may be qualified for editing positions.

Success Tips:

  • Join a professional association. Aspiring science editors should consider joining a professional association. The National Association of Science Writers (NASW) and the Council of Science Editors (CSE) offers members a variety of benefits including access to industry seminars and conferences, workshops and resources, as well as fellowships and mentoring programs.
  • Consider certification. The Board of Editors in the Life Sciences offers a certification to editors who have a bachelor's degree and two years of life-science editing experience. To become certified, editors pass a multiple choice exam.

Step 3: Complete Graduate Education

Some jobs in science editing require an advanced degree in a field of science. Editors who deal with scientific subjects may need in-depth knowledge of that field in order to adequately review specialized science writing, and thus they may be required to hold a master's or Ph.D. For example, an editor for a journal in cell biology might be required to have a Ph.D. in biology or life sciences. A more advanced degree and specialization will garner higher pay, and potentially, with requisite experience, allow an editor to advance into a senior management position within their respective publication.

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