How to Become an Editor

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How to Become an Editor

Are you passionate about the written word, have a wide range of interests and love a creative challenge, but also enjoy working with structure and details? Maybe you have considered being an editor, or want to find out more about ‘How to Become an Editor’.

Broadly, editors are responsible for ensuring the quality of written publications, both in print or online. If you often read articles and books and think you can see a better way for them to be organized or structured, then this could be an ideal profession for you.

Editors not only work closely with writers and authors to edit their words for style, grammar, and punctuation, but are also often responsible for selecting work for publication, correcting factual errors, assisting with the visuals and design layout, and overseeing other aspects of publications.

The ultimate goal is to ensure a high quality of communication that is appropriate to the specific publication being edited.

Professions editors work in a variety of industries and across a wide range of publications, working on texts which may include articles, book manuscripts, websites, reports, blogs, technical manuals, news releases or other forms of communication.

Magazines, newspapers, publishing houses and websites amongst others, all employ editors to work with writers and oversee their publications.

You will need to be creative, self-motivated, and organized, have a passion for written language and ideally be something of a broad collector of knowledge and experiences. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that the number of editor jobs will remain steady in the 2016-2026 period.

The median annual wage for editors was $58,770 in May 2017. However, reports that positions for online editors – called also online producers, web producers, web editors – is the fastest growing area. A large number of editors also work freelance.

If work like this interests you, here are some steps to take to become an editor. There is no single clear path to becoming an editor, but following our guide will set yourself up for a successful career.

Step 1: Identify and Pursue Your Editing Interests

Many people who work as editors did not necessarily start out with a plan to become an editor. Due to the variety of industries an editor can be employed in, there are many editors who began their careers in completely unrelated fields and only later combined that with education in writing and editing.

When you are starting out it is a good idea to identify what area you would like to work in and seek opportunities to suit that kind of editorial work. As an example, if you want to work for a fashion magazine, then you need to pursue your interest in fashion.

Or, maybe you have a strong interest in technology, and you want to be involved in technology publications, then you should increase your knowledge in that area. Other specialized areas include working in legal or medical publishing.

Identifying the areas you are interested in will also help you work out what education or training to pursue.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

It is highly recommended to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Technically you don’t need a degree in any specific field, many professional positions for publications or in corporate settings will expect a bachelor’s degree at minimum.

You should consider courses in English literature, history, communications or journalism. In these programs, students will learn techniques of composition, sentence structure, and editing, plus often advanced courses in news writing or content editing.

If you know you are interested in technical areas, then choosing a science degree, or including some medical or technology courses in your degree will be helpful. There are now also some specialized degree programs which focus on writing, editing, and publishing.

How to Become an Editor

Step 3: Informal Education

What makes a good editor, much like a good writer, is often a combination of honing the craft and knowing about lots of different things. It definitely helps to have a well-developed sense of curiosity, and skills in research and critical thinking.

Practice these things to improve your editing:

  • Read voraciously: Reading good writing will help you learn and develop an eye for what works in terms of grammar and punctuation, but also how good text flows. Don’t just read the kind of work you want to edit, but read widely: fiction for creativity and social awareness; non-fiction for things like history and technical understanding; newspapers and magazines for structure and current affairs.
  • Study vocabulary: Take an ongoing and committed interest in words. These are the tools of your trade – learn them and play with them. Having large vocabulary and knowing how to use it will mean you can more effortlessly select the exact word to suit the circumstance.s
  • Write every day: Even if you will be primarily working with other people’s words you will still need to be crafting sentences and molding structures. This is the core of your craft, so practice it often. It can be anything – journalling, essays, blog articles – just stick with doing it consistently.s
  • Explore the world: Get out and do things, meet people, go places and explore the world. It will increase your knowledge and empathy for others. It is also good to surround yourself with people who know more than you – and learn from them. And, you never know when something you’ve seen or experienced will inform a text you are working on.

Step 4: Do an Internship

An internship is for many people the way they get their foot in the door, and start acquiring hands-on experience. Editing is becoming a sought-after job, and even internship positions can be competitive. Although internships are often unpaid, interns gain writing, editing and researching skills who can greatly assist in finding employment. You can also get exposure to a number of different areas, such as content editing or proofreading, which is a good chance to see which you prefer.

Step 5: Supplement Your Skills

As we mentioned, editing for websites and online publications is a growth area, so having good technical skills will likely make you more employable. Some skills that you could look at take short courses or studying online for include: graphics software programs, HTML and website creation, or web content management.

Since virtually all manuscripts are now edited electronically, ensure that your editing software skills are also solid and up to date.

Step 6: Gain Work Experience

Now you need to get out and put in the hard work to gain solid work experience. You may also consider taking positions in fact-checking or ghostwriting when you are starting out. Getting a good reputation as the hard worker who will tackle any job and deliver it in a timely and high-quality manner will help you in establishing a good reputation.

Some Top Degrees to Become an Editor

There is no one perfect area to study to be an editor but, these are some good choices to consider in journalism, English, and communication.

American University

Located in Washington, D.C., this private American University offers a BA Journalism, as well as numerous master programs through their Communications school. Students also have opportunities to join high-profile internships around D.C.

Arizona State University

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication offers B.A. programs in Journalism and Mass Communication, Sports Journalism, and Mass Communication and Media Studies.

University of California-Irvine

UC Irvine offers Bachelor of Arts in English and Bachelor of Arts in Literary Journalism degrees in their School of Humanities. There are also options in creative writing available.

Texas A & M University

TAMU offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in English program with three streams: Literature, Rhetoric, and Creative Writing. They also have a Professional Writing Certificate available.

East Carolina University ranked ECU’s online BS in Communication as number 5. This one stands out to us as you can choose from specializations in- interpersonal/organizational communication, media studies, journalism, and public relations.

About the author

Indu has been educator since last 10 years. She can find all kind of scholarship opportunities in the USA and beyond. She also teach college courses online to help students become better. She is one of the very rare scholarship administrator and her work is amazing.