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Screenwriter: Responsibilities, Outlook and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a screenwriter. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and salary projections to find out if this is the career for you.

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If you are thinking about a career as a screenwriter, you should possess strong writing talent, as well as creativity, patience, self-motivation, resiliency and an understanding of the filmmaking process. While no training is required in this field, many screenwriters pursue a degree or attend a training program in screenwriting.

Essential Information

Screenwriters work with directors and producers to write scripts for films or TV shows. Some may begin their careers as copywriters or writers for production companies. Screenwriters need to be able to work in a team and under pressure. A degree is not necessary, but many screenwriters perfect their skills through bachelor's degree programs or by enrolling in screenwriting certificate programs.

Required Education No specific requirements, but many hold bachelor's degrees or certificates in screenwriting
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% for all types of writers and authors
Median Salary (2015)* $60,250 for all types of writers and authors

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

Responsibilities of a Screenwriter

Screenwriters develop scripts derived from their own ideas or other existing ideas or work. When writing scripts, screenwriters are responsible for describing the stories in detail, including physical environments and the moods of the characters. Films and televisions shows require the use of these scripts. Prior to production of a film or show, screenwriters might produce a synopsis and several scenes of a story. A shooting script is then prepared. The shooting script entails camera, lighting and shot instructions.

During the preproduction process, screenwriters must take into account the ideas of directors and producers they are working with. They should possess the ability to work and collaborate with others. Screenwriters may be asked to rewrite or make various versions of the scripts they are working on.

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Job Outlook and Salary for Screenwriters

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a slow 2% increase of employment for writers and authors between 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). For screenwriters just entering the field, small or independent filmmakers may provide the best job opportunities. According to the BLS in 2015, all types of writers and authors earned a median salary of $60,250.

Screenwriters may strengthen their careers by enrolling in a training program or pursuing a degree at a college or university. Earning a certificate in screenwriting offers students the opportunity to develop their writing skills and teaches them how to analyze scripts. Others progress to earning bachelor's degrees to further their career.

Requirements to be a Screenwriter

Though no formal education is required, screenwriters usually gain knowledge and skills from previous experience. They usually possess prior experience as freelance writers or editors. Creativity and talent are essential when seeking a career in screenwriting. Patience, self-motivation and the ability to accept criticism are also essential. Screenwriters must also be able to understand filmmaking, possess creative writing skills and be an expert in film language.

Screenwriters adapt or write scripts for film or television, providing synopses and shooting scripts, and collaborating and rewriting on deadlines. No formal training is required for screenwriters, but some hold degrees or attend training programs, and prior experience as a freelance writer is helpful. Screenwriters must be motivated, patient and resilient, and writers and authors can expect to see a 2% increase in the number of job opportunities available between 2014 and 2024.

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