How to Become an Assistant Editor: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become an assistant editor. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in editing. View article »

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  • 0:00 Should I Be an…
  • 0:28 Career Requirements
  • 1:11 Steps to Be an…

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Video Transcript

Should I Be an Assistant Editor?

Assistant editors are responsible for supporting editorial teams in all aspects of production, such as researching, copy-editing, writing, fact-checking, and developing story ideas. Looming deadlines may cause stress and require long work hours for this position. Some jobs are on a freelance basis, with many editors working remotely. The work is often competitive, and income can be sporadic.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Fields English, communications, journalism, or a related field
Experience 2+ years writing and editing experience
Key Skills Strong attention to detail; ability to lead and manage a team; ability to make decisions that affect the image of a publication; proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite, HTML, and Web authoring tools; knowledge of QuarkXPress or other desktop publishing software
Median Salary (2016) $36,035*

Source: *Payscale.com

Steps to Be an Assistant Editor

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in journalism, English, or a closely related field is generally a requirement for assistant editor positions. A four-year degree program in journalism includes coursework in professional and technical editing, advanced writing, digital media, mass communications laws, and media ethics. Courses usually include weekly writing assignments to help students hone their writing and communication skills, which are essential for this position.

Students should seek involvement in their student newspapers or any other on-campus publications of interest. Getting involved early as a writer could lead to editorial duties. Assistant editor positions are available in book publishing, journalism, technical writing, and trade publications. Once students determine their area of interest, they can work towards acquiring the specific skills necessary for that particular area.

Additionally, students should supplement journalism and English studies with coursework in other relevant subjects. For example, students wanting to write about science will need an understanding of basic chemistry and biology, while students wanting to write in economics publications will need a background in finance. Becoming subject matter experts will set students apart from the competition.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Many assistant editors begin their careers as writers. Publishing houses and online media companies often promote contributing writers to editing positions once enough experience is gained. Working closely with senior editors on a variety of writing projects provides valuable exposure to various types of media. Because feature stories, breaking news, or other assignments may require quick turnaround times, the ability to complete projects in a timely manner and with a high degree of accuracy is critical for obtaining editing jobs.

To increase employment options and network with others in the field, aspiring assistant editors may join organizations for professional writers and editors, such as the American Society of Magazine Editors or the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors. Editors who join these organizations may participate in professional development and continuing education programs, which can cover grammar, headline writing, and other skills used to improve technique.

Editorial positions require the ability to lead a team of writers and manage contributions. Volunteering for leadership opportunities early on can help develop and showcase these necessary skills.

Step 3: Obtain an Advanced Degree

Though not necessary, some individuals may want to consider obtaining an advanced degree. A bachelor's degree and work experience are sufficient for most jobs. However, a master's degree in a specialized sector, such as political, legal, or science writing may be beneficial. A master's degree program can also offer opportunities for advanced internships and networking that may be difficult to obtain through other avenues.

Aspiring assistant editors need experience writing and editing as well as at least a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as English, communications, or journalism.

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