Should I Become a Speechwriter?
Speechwriters prepare talking points and write and edit speeches for political officials, corporate executives, public relations firms or larger organizations. Their duties often include conducting research and organizing the data that contributes to a speech. They may work directly with the speaker to finalize drafts, providing feedback and advice on speech presentation.
Some professionals do speechwriting full-time. For others, such as public relations specialists or freelance writers, it is one part of their jobs. Many speechwriters work in the education, non-profit and government sectors. The job can be a demanding one, and long work hours are common.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Fields||Journalism, communications, English|
|Experience||4 years; varies by position|
|Key Skills||Excellent oral/written communication and critical thinking abilities; creativity; resilience under pressure; knowledge of word processing software|
|Salary||$121,786 (2016 median)|
Sources: Western Carolina University, Salary.com, Career One Stop, University of Wisconsin-Platteville
Speechwriters need at least a bachelor's degree, typically in journalism, communications, English or a related field. Additionally, employers often require candidates to have at least 4 years of experience. Speechwriters should have excellent oral and written communication skills and knowledge of word processing software. They should also be creative, have strong critical thinking ability and possess resilience under pressure. According to 2016 data from Salary.com, speechwriters earned a median annual salary of $121,786.
Steps to Become a Speechwriter
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Aspiring speechwriters may pursue a degree in communications, journalism or English. Coursework in both written and verbal communications is important, and it can include topics such as public speaking, persuasion and creative writing. Some schools offer focused courses in speechwriting, which provide information on writing for particular audiences, maintaining interest and delivering the intended message. Speechwriters must also learn how to conduct research on a variety of topics.
Aspiring speech writers should choose an additional major or specialization. Specializations give speechwriters expertise in a particular field and may increase their appeal to employers. For example, a student interested in the technology field might study computer science, while someone who wants to work for a political candidate could study political science.
Students should also participate in public speaking or debate teams while in school. These activities can provide practice and insight into how to be a persuasive communicator and help develop the mental agility to speak spontaneously. Additionally, students can learn aspects of speechwriting by attending live discourses and reading or listening to recent and historical speeches. This may contribute to a better understanding of engaging writing and oral delivery.
Step 2: Gain Experience
Speechwriters can be employed in a number of settings. Many work for public relations agencies and provide speeches for a number of clients. Others may work as freelance speechwriters on a contract basis with one or more organizations. In some cases, companies or individuals have a full-time speechwriter on staff. Speechwriters must be knowledgeable about current events within their organization and community. At times, they may need to provide material on a tight deadline, and staying informed of developments within their sector can save time on research.
Step 3: Consider Career Advancement Options
Additional education can set speechwriters apart within the field. While the majority of speechwriters hold a bachelor's degree, approximately one third have earned a master's degree, according to Salary.com. Pursing a graduate degree in speech communication or public relations may help a speechwriter to advance to higher positions within the profession.
Speechwriters need at least a bachelor's degree in English, journalism, communications or a similar field, as well as several years' related experience.