If you love words, live for a well-turned phrase, and enjoy the adrenaline of tight deadlines and a fast-paced working environment, then becoming an editor could be the right career move for you.
With decades of experience under our belt, EHLION’s professional editors bring you a quick-fire guide to how to become a writing editor, and the many routes that can get you there. For a closer look at what exactly editors do, check out our article that explores the ins and outs of working life as an editor.
Editing: a host of opportunities for wordsmiths who enjoy variety
There are as many types of editing as there are people in the industry. Editing is a varied, fast-paced profession that calls on a huge variety of hard and soft skills, and makes for a versatile and rewarding profession.
Editors work closely with a range of different profiles, from authors and field experts to publishers and website managers. They specialize in a range of different online and offline mediums that include:
- Commercial materials
- Technical documentation
If you’re interested in working with words, read on to get the lowdown on how to get a job as an editor, and find out more about all the tools you need to become an editor online.
You might also like to take a look at what technical writers do and how to start working in technical writing – another career path that appeals to profiles with an eye for detail and strong grasp of their native language.
Skills and profiles for editing professionals
Editing professionals come from all walks of life, although most will have a core skill set that is essential to the jobs.
We’ve sifted through the huge amounts of information out there to bring you a quick guide to the non-negotiable skills editors need to have, and the qualifications that can help you get ahead in editing.
- A well-read background: It’s nearly impossible to become an efficient editor without a background in reading. Natural editors are die-hard bookworms with a love of language. Reading, reading and more reading is the number-one prerequisite for any editor worth their salt.
- Unbeatable spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax knowledge: Editors need to know their language like the back of their hand – and have reference books at the ready in case of any doubt.
- An interest in the world: Editing can lead you down some unexpected paths. Depending on where your career takes you, you may find yourself reading through a wide range of different topics and materials. Good editors should have a little knowledge about a lot of things.
- Creativity: Flexibility and an agile mind are key to building a successful editing career, particularly when working in publishing and the press.
- A detail-oriented approach: An eagle eye and razor-sharp instinct for language to pick up on the slightest error or inconsistency are core editing skills that should be mastered.
Qualifications and requirements
What degree do you need to be an editor?
The short answer is none. However, a background and a bachelor’s degree in journalism, English and communications are strongly desirable to most employers. Many editors graduate in other fields, lending them specialist expertise in a given subject. This paired with proven writing skills can often be a winning combination.
While there may be no degree needed to be an editor, it’s undeniable that higher education primes fledgling editors for cutting-edge performance:
- By teaching you research skills
- By introducing you to the arts of cross-referencing, indexing and comparative reading
- By honing your writing skills
- By training you to compile, summarize and ruthlessly adhere to wordcounts
You can also top up your skills with sector-specific training and courses offered by the trade associations outlined below.
Where your career as an editor could take you
A career in editing means multi-faceted opportunities in a plethora of different industries.
Salaries vary wildly, with average pay ranging from $50k to $70k a year, depending on experience and sector. When mapping out your career path as an editor, it’s important to take into account the specifics of the industry that appeals to you.
Become a book editor
Work with authors and publishing houses to perfect and polish manuscripts for print. Editorial work is highly competitive and the publishing industry overall is a cut-throat business.
Aspiring book editors will often start with internships in publishing houses before slowly but surely making their way up the ladder.
Check the Editorial Freelancers Association for guidance on getting started.
Become a copy editor
A more hands-on approach to the written word. Copy editors produce content for magazines, journals and websites, or working with SEO and keywords, following briefs to craft advertising copy and marketing blurb.
The American Copy Editors Society (ACES) is packed full of industry resources and advice.
Become a magazine editor
Magazine editing is a thrilling, fast-paced option for would-be editors who like a challenge. Tasks and duties vary depending on each publication, but magazine editors can write articles, are involved in working with writers, conduct research, map out themes and design layouts – as well as running spelling and grammar checks.
Browse the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) website to glean more information about the job, and read up on conferences and resources to learn more.
Getting into the industry
There’s no two ways about it – if you want to make it as an editor, you’ll have your work cut out for you. This is an in-demand profession, with fierce competition and a steady stream of candidates all jostling for a limited number of coveted roles.
Getting into book editing: Most editorial editors start out through a series of internships that offer on-the-job training.
Getting into copy editing: Copy editing isn’t as hard a nut to crack. Copy editing is increasingly shifting towards the freelance market, with in-house positions scarce on the ground.
Online platforms provide an excellent starting point for building a client list – check our digital marketplace suggestions for tech writers.
Getting into magazine editing: The easiest route into magazine editing is a degree in journalism where you’ll network and gain valuable industry contacts while studying towards your degree.
Internships are rife in this sector, following a similar structure to the publishing industry. Start by checking JournalismJobs.com, a busy, easy-to-use job search website for media professionals.
A career in editing: excitement and a challenge for the right profile
You’ll need to be tough and career-driven to make it as an editor. Raising your profile in an industry that operates by word of mouth and recommendations is no mean feat. To give yourself the best possible chance of success, aspiring editors are advised to seek out higher education in a related field.
Once you’ve been awarded your bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to embark on internships to work your way up and build a name for yourself (book and magazine editing), or dip your toe into the world of freelancing and start compiling a portfolio and client list (copy editing).
EHLION’s team of talented linguists offers professional copy editing that includes DTP and multilingual typesetting, and working with style guides, in addition to proofreading to make sure your texts read like a dream. Our expert editors can also run a check for readability and source text quality via our review service. with EHLION for a free consultation to get you started.