How to Become an Editor: Step-by-Step Guide

Nov 15, 2019

Individuals who want to learn how to become an editor of any kind, such as a book editor or newspaper editor, can explore the typical requirements for these positions, including possible bachelor's degree programs. Learn about a career as an editor here.

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  • 0:00 Becoming an Editor
  • 1:00 Step 1: Pursue Your…
  • 2:16 Step 2: Earn a…
  • 3:13 Step 3: Acquire…
  • 3:51 Step 4: Gain Work Experience

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How to Become an Editor

Students wishing to become an editor and review content for various publications typically need at least a bachelor's degree and some experience in the field. Here we discuss a few of the steps to becoming an editor in greater detail.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Although there are many undergraduate program options, such as online certificates and diplomas in journalism and associate's degree programs in English, editors typically need a bachelor's degree in journalism, English, or communications.

Bachelor's degree programs in these fields usually take 4 years to complete (although some programs may offer a 3-year fast track) and can often be completed entirely online. Many of these degree programs provide hands-on learning opportunities through projects and internships. Undergraduate courses in English may include topics like:

  • Composition
  • Critical reading
  • Creative writing
  • Research and argument
  • Rhetorical situations
  • Literature

Although it is not required, there are many communication graduate schools and other graduate-level programs in English and journalism available. These programs can further develop a writer's and/or editor's skills.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Editors usually need to have some experience writing and proofreading. These experiences can often be obtained through internships or work as a writer, editorial assistant, or reporter. Internship opportunities can commonly take place during college, where students may also have the opportunity to gain experience at school newspapers, radio stations, and more. It is also important that editors develop computer skills in such areas as multimedia production, electronic publishing, and social media. Editors generally need to be good at finding compelling stories and communicating well with writers throughout the writing process.

Step 3: Advance Your Career

Advancement in editing looks different for various kinds of editors but may include working at larger and/or more prestigious publications or moving up from copy editing positions to positions as executive or managing editors. Other editors may prefer to work as freelancers or move to a position where they can do their own writing.

How to Become an Editor Without a Degree

Although a bachelor's degree is preferred, it may be possible for some editors to break into the field without a degree. These editors typically need strong writing skills and may have backgrounds in areas other than English and communications. For example, some editors may be able to specialize in a particular area where they have had prior work experience, such as fashion or advertising.

What Does an Editor Do?

There are many different types of editor, such as a book editor, magazine editor, and newspaper editor, as well as different levels of editing, such as a copy editor vs. an executive editor. In general, all editors work closely with writers to revise their work and help prepare it for publication. This process may require editors to perform duties like:

  • Checking for punctuation, grammatical, and spelling errors
  • Reviewing facts for accuracy
  • Coming up with content ideas
  • Helping writers further develop their stories and ideas
  • Determining what is worthy of publication
  • Assisting with page layouts
  • Approving final drafts for publication

How Much Do Editors Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), editors made an average annual salary of $69,480 as of May 2018. The industry with the highest level of employment for editors in 2018 was newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers, where editors made an average salary of $65,890. Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing offered the highest average salary for editors at $101,210, per the BLS.

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