Review, rewrite, and edit the work of writers; review story ideas proposed by staff and freelance writers to decide what material will appeal to readers; oversee the production of publications.
Editors review, rewrite, and edit the work of writers. They also may do original writing. Most editors begin work as writers. Those who are particularly adept at identifying stories, recognizing writing talent, and interacting with writers, may be interested in editing jobs. An editor's responsibilities vary with the employer and type and level of editorial position held. Editorial duties may include planning the content of books, journals, magazines, and other general-interest publications. Editors also review story ideas proposed by staff and freelance writers then decide what material will appeal to readers. They review and edit drafts of books and articles, offer comments to improve the work, and suggest possible titles. In addition, they may oversee the production of publications. In the book-publishing industry, an editor's primary responsibility is to review proposals for books and decide whether to buy the publication rights from the author.
Major newspapers and newsmagazines usually employ several types of editors. The executive editor oversees assistant editors, and generally has the final say about what stories are published and how they are covered. Assistant editors have responsibility for particular subjects, such as local news, international news, feature stories, or sports. The managing editor usually is responsible for the daily operation of the news department. Assignment editors determine which reporters will cover a given story.
In smaller organizations—such as small daily or weekly newspapers—a single editor may do everything or share responsibility with only a few other people. Executive and managing editors typically hire writers, reporters, and other employees. They also plan budgets and negotiate contracts with freelance writers, sometimes called “stringers” in the news industry. Copy editors review copy for errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling and check the copy for readability, style, and agreement with editorial policy. They suggest revisions, such as changing words and rearranging sentences and paragraphs, to improve clarity or accuracy. They may also carry out research and confirm sources for writers and verify facts, dates, and statistics. In addition, they may arrange page layouts of articles, photographs, and advertising; compose headlines; and prepare copy for printing.
Editors often employ others, such as interns, fact checkers, or editorial assistants, for some entry-level positions. While gaining practical experience in a newsroom, they may carry out research and verify facts, dates, and statistics for other writers. In addition, they may arrange page layouts of articles, photographs, and advertising; compose headlines; and prepare copy for printing. Publication assistants who work for book publishing houses may read and evaluate manuscripts submitted by freelance writers, proofread printers' galleys, and answer inquiries about published material. Assistants on small newspapers or in smaller media markets may compile articles available from wire services or the Internet, answer phones, and proofread articles.
Work environment. Advances in electronic communications have changed the work environment for many editors. Laptop computers and wireless communications technologies allow growing numbers of editors to work from home and on the road. The ability to send e-mail or text messages, transmit and download stories, perform research, or review materials using the Internet allows editors greater flexibility in where and how they complete assignments. Still, some editors work in offices and many travel to conduct on-site research on their topic.
Editors’ schedules generally are determined by the production schedule and the type of editorial position. Most salaried editors work in busy offices much of the time and have to deal with production deadline pressures and the stresses of ensuring that the information they publish is accurate. As a result, editors often work long hours, especially at those times leading up to a publication deadline, which can be daily or even more frequently when editing material for the Internet or for a live broadcast. Overseeing and coordinating multiple writing projects simultaneously is common in these jobs, which may lead to stress, fatigue, or other chronic problems. Freelance editors face the added pressures of finding work on an ongoing basis and continually adjusting to new work environments.
Training, Qualifications, and Advancement
A college degree generally is required for a position as an editor. Good facility with computers and communications equipment is necessary in order to stay in touch with sources, writers, and other editors while working on assignments, whether from home, an office, or while traveling.
Education and training. A bachelor’s degree or higher is typically needed for a job as an editor. Because writing skills are essential in this occupation, many employers like to hire people with degrees in communications, journalism, or English, but those with other backgrounds and who can demonstrate good writing skills may also find jobs as editors. Editors who want to focus on particular topic may need formal training or experience related to that topic. For example, fashion editors may need expertise in their subject area that they acquired either through formal academic training or work experience. The Internet and other media allow some people to gain writing experience through blog posts, text messages, or self-publishing software. Some of this writing may lead to paid assignments based upon the quality of the writing, unique perspective, or the size of the potential audience, without regard to the absence of a degree.
Training and experience for editor jobs can be obtained by working on high school and college newspapers, community newspapers, and radio and television stations and submissions to literary magazines. College theater and music programs offer playwrights and songwriters an opportunity for them to have their work performed. Many magazines, newspapers, and broadcast stations also have internships for students. Interns may write stories, conduct research and interviews, and learn about the publishing or broadcasting business.
Other qualifications. Editors must be able to express ideas clearly and logically and should enjoy writing. Creativity, curiosity, a broad range of knowledge, self-motivation, and perseverance are also valuable. Editors must demonstrate good judgment and a strong sense of ethics in deciding what material to publish. In addition, the ability to concentrate and to work under pressure is essential. Editors also need tact and the ability to guide and encourage others in their work.
Familiarity with electronic publishing, graphics, Web design, and multimedia production increasingly is needed. Use of electronic and wireless communications equipment to send e-mail, transmit work, and review copy often is necessary. Online publications require knowledge of computer software and editing tools used to combine text with graphics, audio, video, and animation.
Advancement. Most editors begin work as writers. Those who are particularly adept at identifying stories, recognizing writing talent, and interacting with writers, may be interested in editing jobs. Except for copy editors, most editors hold management positions and must also enjoy making decisions related to running a business. For them, advancement generally means moving up the corporate ladder or to publications with larger circulation or greater prestige. Copy editors may move into original writing or substantive editing positions or become freelancers.
Editors held about 129,600 jobs in 2008. About 12 percent of editors were self-employed.
While 51 percent of salaried editors worked in the publishing, except Internet industry (half of those for newspapers), a large number of editors were also employed in other industries. Business, professional and social organizations, information services, and educational institutions employed editors to work on their publications or Web content.
Jobs are somewhat concentrated in major media and entertainment markets—Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, DC—but improved communications and Internet capabilities allow editors to work from almost anywhere. Many prefer to work outside these cities and travel regularly to meet with publishers and clients and to do research or conduct interviews in person. As a result, job location is less of a requirement for many editing positions than it once was.
Employment is expected to see little or no change. Keen competition is expected for editing jobs as many people are attracted to this occupation. At the same time, many employers are downsizing.
Employment change. Employment of editors is expected to see little or no change from 2008 to 2018. Employment in salaried editing positions is expected to increase slightly as jobs become more prevalent throughout the economy. Companies in a wide array of industries are using newer multimedia technologies and online media to reach a more technology friendly consumer and meet the growing demand for Web-based information. Online publications and services are growing in number and sophistication, spurring the demand for editors, especially those with Web or multimedia experience. Businesses and organizations are adding text messaging services to expanded newsletters and Web sites as a way of attracting new customers. They may hire editors on either a salaried or freelance basis to contribute additional content. Some publishing companies however, especially those that rely on advertising revenues and sales receipts to support large staffs of writers, will employ fewer editors. But many experienced editors will find work with nonprofit organizations and associations in their public relations offices, or in the public affairs departments of large companies or agencies. Others will find freelance work for newspaper, magazine, or journal publishers.
Job prospects. Competition is expected for editing jobs as many people are attracted to this occupation. Competition for jobs with established newspaper and magazines will be particularly keen as many organizations move their publication focus from a print to an online presence and as the publishing industry continues to contract. Editors who have adapted to the new media and are comfortable working with a variety of electronic and digital tools will have an advantage in finding new work. Some job openings will arise as experienced workers retire, transfer to other occupations, or leave the labor force.
Median annual wages for salaried editors were $49,990 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $36,690 and $69,140. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,090, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $95,490. Median annual wages of those working for newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers were $49,280.
Average annual wages of editors in May 2008 in the Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers industry were $58,270.
For More Information
For information about editing careers, contact:
- Editorial Freelancers Association, 71 West 23rd Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10010-4102. Internet: http://www.the-efa.org
- American Copy Editors Society, 7 Avenida Vista Grande, Suite B7 #467, Santa Fe, NM 87508. Internet: http://www.copydesk.org
For information about accredited creative writing programs and creative writing conferences, contact:
- The Association of Writers and Writing Programs, George Mason University; MS 1E3, Fairfax, VA 22030-4444. Internet: http://www.awpwriter.org