How to Become an Editor

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 22, 2021 | Published February 4, 2020

Updated February 22, 2021

Published February 4, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

With the ability to work in a variety of industries, take on countless tasks and see the content they've worked on reach publication, working as an editor can be extremely fulfilling. Deciding whether or not an editing career is for you begins with discovering which role and industry you are interested in. In this article, we explore what an editor does, the types of editing roles available, the steps you can take to become an editor and some of the most frequently asked questions people have about this type of work.

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What does an editor do?

Editors are professionals who are responsible for ensuring the quality of written material, either for print or online publications. Their responsibilities can vary somewhat according to their industry, although they're generally responsible for planning, coordinating and revising material for magazines, books, newspapers and websites. They may review ideas for content and determine which material will have the greatest appeal to readers. They may make suggestions for improving the product and recommend different titles or headlines. Their duties often include:

  • Reading content and correcting typos, spelling, punctuation and grammatical mistakes

  • Rewriting text to improve the clarity for readers

  • Verifying facts that are cited in the material

  • Reviewing writer submissions to determine what to publish

  • Working with writers to further develop ideas and stories

  • Revising content according to the style and editorial policy of the publication

  • Approving final drafts for publication

There are a number of different types of editors, including:

  • Assistant editors: Assistant editors can work in any industry, from newspapers or online publications to publishing houses and public relations firms. They are usually in charge of one particular subject within the publication.

  • Copy editors: Copy editors are responsible for correcting errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling and make changes to sentences to improve accuracy and clarity. They may perform fact-checking and arrange page layouts for articles and advertising.

  • Managing editors: This type of editor works for a magazine, newspaper or television and is generally responsible for the daily operations of a news department. They typically oversee the deadline schedule and may manage the editorial budget as well.

  • Executive editors: This type of editor works in a variety of different industries, including newspapers, magazines, television and public relations. They are typically in charge of hiring writers and reporters, planning budgets, negotiating contracts with writers and making the final decision about which stories are published.

Related: 16 Top Communications Degree Jobs

How to become an editor

Follow these basic steps to become an editor:

  1. Earn a bachelor's degree. A college education is typically required for most editing jobs. Employers usually prefer a bachelor's degree in English, journalism, communications or another closely related degree. Within these programs, students usually learn sentence structure, editing skills and guidance on how to compose articles. Advanced courses may also be available that focus specifically on topics like the news or content editing.

  2. Obtain experience. This can, and should, be done as you are earning your degree. If you are still in high school, you can even gain editing experience by working on a high school newspaper. If you are in college, look for internship opportunities in the field you are interested in entering. An editorial internship will let you further explore the different industries and gain invaluable experience writing, editing and researching. You will also be able to use this opportunity to network with other professionals in the industry who may be able to help you find employment after college.

  3. Acquire supplemental skills. Editors are often expected to have other skills outside of editing, such as computer skills or an understanding of content management systems. You may want to consider taking classes or obtaining certifications in certain types of software, web content management or even graphic design to make yourself more appealing to potential employers. If you are interested in a career in television, you should take courses in television production or mass communications to enhance your qualifications for these competitive roles.

  4. Obtain professional experience. Entry-level positions are available in news organizations, online publications or publishing houses that will give aspiring editors the professional experience they need to launch their careers. Editors often begin their careers as writers or editorial assistants and then advance to positions like copy editors, managing editors or executive editors.

Related: Guide to Submitting a Writing Sample

Frequently asked questions about being an editor

Here are some common questions about being an editor:

What skills are required to be an editor?

Editors need strong writing, interpersonal, speaking and listening skills. They must be curious, detail-oriented and creative. They must also be comfortable using computers to do their job.

Do editors work from home?

Many editors and proofreaders do work from home, and many companies have ongoing or occasional work for people who want to work from home. However, these companies typically require candidates to have experience before they hire them for a remote position.

What is the average salary of an editor?

The salary for an editor can vary substantially according to your geographic location, experience and the industry in which you work. The average salary for an editor is $50,563 per year with a salary range between $14,000 and $121,000 per year.

Are editors in demand?

The outlook for editor careers has been relatively unchanged since 2004, largely because of decreases in traditional print magazines and newspapers. Editors who have adapted to digital media and are comfortable working with electronic and digital tools are in the best position for finding work. While people consume media differently today, editors will continue to be needed and add value by reviewing and revising content drafted by writers and monitoring the style and voice of a publication.

How many hours per week do editors work?

Editors generally work 40 hours per week, although one in five editors works more than a 40-hour workweek, especially leading up to a publication deadline. Editors may also work long hours if they work on digital material or for live broadcasting organizations.

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