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Learn how to become a professional writer. Research the job duties and the education and training requirements and find out how to start a writing career.
Writers convey information to an audience through the written word. Types of writers include biographers, novelists, copywriters, screenwriters and journalists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the majority of writers working in the U.S. in 2012 were self-employed.
Those who choose to work in the media industry may need to live close to a metropolitan area, while those who choose to work in the film industry may need to live close to Los Angeles or New York. Other writers need only to have access to a computer. There is often strong competition for writing jobs, but those who can adapt to new mediums in writing may have an advantage over the competition, according to the BLS.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree is preferred by most employers|
|Degree Field||English, journalism, communications or another relevant field|
|Experience||Little experience for entry-level positions; 1-5 years of experience for technical writers|
|Key Skills||Strong verbal and written communication skills, persuasive skills, creativity, web programming and blogging software knowledge|
|Salary (2014)||$67,870 per year (Mean annual wage for professional writers)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Bachelor's degree programs in English, journalism or communications offer preparation for this career. Programs that focus on specific areas of writing, such as screenwriting or playwriting, are also available. Individuals with writing ability and an undergraduate degree in a specific field may consider technical writing training.
Many writers start at smaller publications and work their way up to larger and more prestigious organizations as they gain experience. Journalists start at small newspapers and move to larger papers or magazines. Some newspaper and magazine writers move forward to write books. Copywriters start on local ads and move to national accounts with experience. Employers may prefer that technical writers gain experience in the technical field before entering into technical writing for that field.
It is not required for professional writers to have a graduate degree. However, in some instances, a master's degree can improve a candidate's marketability. Technical writers with an undergraduate degree in computer science may find a graduate degree in journalism or communications helpful. An individual with an English degree may find a graduate degree in communications will give them a competitive edge as a copywriter. Additionally, a master's degree program often requires a thesis or project that can be used as a work sample.