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

Learn the various steps to becoming an editor in this video. The education, training, skills and types of experience required for starting a career in editing will be covered. View article »

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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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Video Transcript

Becoming an Editor

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Journalism, communications, English, or a comparable discipline
Experience Entry-level editorial experience preferred
Key Skills Grammar, creativity, communication, and intermediate computer skills; working knowledge of publishing and communication tools
Salary $56,010 (2015 median for all editors)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Editors ensure the written quality of print and online publications. Their duties might include reading manuscripts, making sure that a writer's formatting fits house style guidelines, correcting grammatical or factual errors and making suggestions for improvement. They may also be responsible for selecting articles or manuscripts for publication, assisting with design layout and overseeing other aspects of publication.

Editors typically work closely with authors throughout the editing and publishing process. Although editors' jobs can be very rewarding, with seeing their work come to final publication, there are many stressors involved as well. Hours can be very long, including nights and weekends, especially when a deadline hovers. Additionally, those working as freelance editors must continually pursue more work and may need to adjust to new job environments on a regular basis.

Step 1: Pursue Your Editing Interests

The first step to becoming an editor involves identifying and pursuing specific editorial work. Prospective editors should identify what type of editorial work they wish to do. For example, fashion magazine editors should have an interest in fashion, whereas book editors should enjoy literature. Other specialty areas include medical and legal publishing. Identifying the industry in which one wants to work may help prospective editors determine what training they need.

Understanding the differences between content editing, copyediting and proofreading can also influence the type of training a prospective editor might seek. For example, individuals who want to be content editors may focus on honing their writing skills, because a large part of their jobs would involve revising content, whereas aspiring copyeditors may seek out additional grammar courses because they will likely be responsible for proofreading manuscripts or other literature.

It may also be beneficial for prospective editors to work at their high school papers. Many high schools allow students to work on their newspaper as writers and editors. Those interested in editing as a career may try working at their high school newspaper before committing to a bachelor's degree program to see if it is something they really want to pursue.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The second step to becoming an editor centers around earning a bachelor's degree. A college education is required for most editing jobs. Although it's possible for someone who demonstrates strong writing and editorial skills to train on the job, a bachelor's degree in English, communications or journalism is often a prerequisite for one seeking to become an editor. Students in these programs generally receive instruction on composition, sentence structure and editing. Advanced courses may delve into more specialized topics, such as news or content editing.

Acquiring an internship can also be useful. Many undergraduate programs offer students an opportunity to work at an internship. These internships allow students to choose a field they wish to further explore, such as content editing or proofreading. Although editorial internships are often unpaid, interns gain writing, editing and researching skills and make connections that could help them secure a job.

Step 3: Acquire Supplemental Skills

The third step to becoming an editor involves acquiring supplemental skills. Since most editing is done on a computer, prospective editors also might take classes in computers, graphic design and Web content management, which can help them to better understand specific editing issues, such as layouts and character limits. Because more and more manuscripts are being submitting in electronic format, it's important for editors to have a working understanding of computers and editing software. Students considering a career in editing for television may also consider enrolling in courses, including mass communications and TV production.

Step 4: Gain Work Experience

The fourth step to becoming an editor consists of gaining work experience. Entry-level editorial positions in publishing houses or with news organizations can allow aspiring editors to gain professional experience. Recent graduates often start out as editorial assistants or may begin their careers as writers and then advance to work under, or as, an editor-in-chief. Advancement in the editing field is typically commensurate with experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for editors is $56,010 as of 2015.

Becoming an editor involves four general steps:

  1. Pursue your editing interests
  2. Earn a bachelor's degree
  3. Acquire supplemental skills
  4. Gain work experience
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