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Become a Writer for Television: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a television writer. Research the education, training and experience requirements necessary to start a career as a television writer. View article »

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  • 0:00 Become a TV Writer
  • 0:27 Career Requirements
  • 1:05 Career Steps

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Video Transcript

Become a TV Writer

Television writers create scripts for television shows. Whether it's an hour-long drama or a half-hour sitcom, TV writers must come up with the show's characters, story lines, jokes and dialogue. These professionals often must present a spec script that displays their writing skills in order to find work and obtain representation. Writing for television is a coveted job and therefore, difficult to obtain.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Film and TV production, creative writing
Experience Experience required; prospective writers often must produce a spec script for new work
Key Skills Creativity, strong writing and storytelling skills; knowledge of screenwriting software; perseverance and the ability to face rejection when seeking work
Salary $60,250 (2015 median salary for all writers and authors)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

While there are no specific educational requirements to become a TV writer, obtaining a bachelor's degree can provide individuals with the basic knowledge needed to begin working in the field. More importantly, samples of a writer's work are usually necessary for employment. The key skills include creativity, strong writing and storytelling skills, knowledge of screenwriting software, perseverance and the ability to face rejection when seeking work. In 2015, all writers earned a median annual salary of $60,250, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now let's check out the career steps for TV writers.

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Career Steps

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Prospective TV writers may want to earn a bachelor's degree in film and TV production or creative writing. A film and TV production program can offer students an opportunity to learn about the production process, work with actors and write scripts. The program might include courses in broadcast writing, media research and advanced TV production. A creative writing bachelor's degree program, on the other hand, is typically more writing intensive and focuses on telling stories in a variety of formats. The curriculum for these programs includes several writing workshops, along with literature and English courses.

Success Tips

It is important to learn about the structure of a TV script. Purchasing a professional software program like Final Draft may be useful for those who are interested in this particular kind of writing. Also, it's helpful to read successful television sitcoms and dramas in their script form in order to recognize important formatting techniques and terms.

You might also want to participate in an internship. Many bachelor's degree programs allow students to earn credits by completing an internship at a production company, talent agency or studio. This can give students experience in the industry and may grant them access to incoming TV scripts.

Step 2: Create a Spec Script

A spec script is a screenplay that prospective TV writers create to demonstrate their writing skills and abilities to potential employers. Individuals often must write a spec script for free and then send it out to producers who are looking to hire writers for particular projects. The script could be an episode for an existing television show, or it can be a pilot, which is the first episode of an original story that a writer has created.

Success Tip

When creating a spec script, write for a popular TV show. Writing a spec script for any television show is possible. However, creating a script for an existing, popular show can ensure that producers or agents are already familiar with the characters and storylines.

Step 3: Begin Networking

Like actors, TV writers usually need an agent to help them land writing jobs. The best way for TV writers to obtain representation is to network at industry events and take classes. Attending show business lectures or social events can help prospective writers meet professionals in the industry. Writing classes can also allow individuals to sharpen their writing skills, meet other writers and work with teachers who may have networking connections.

Success Tips

It is important to practice your verbal pitch. Oftentimes, securing a job as a screenwriter comes down to how well a writer verbally pitches, or sells, their story idea. Some TV production programs allow students to practice their speaking and persuasion skills in class. Other working writers can benefit from public speaking courses or seminars.

Additionally, think about moving to the coast. TV writing jobs and networking opportunities are often more plentiful in the cities of Los Angeles and New York City, so aspiring writers may want to relocate to one of these locations.

To recap, with a bachelor's degree and a spec script, a TV writer can earn about $60,000 a year to create scripts for television shows.

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