Innovators Guide

Writer / Editor Training and Qualifications

A college degree generally is required for a position as an author, writer, or editor. Good facility with computers and communications equipment is necessary in order to stay in touch with sources, editors, and other writers 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 author, writer, or 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 writers. Writers who want to focus on writing about a particular topic may need formal training or experience related to that topic. For example, textbook writers and fashion editors may need expertise in their subject areas 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 author, writer, and 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. Authors, writers and 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. Authors, writers, and 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. Writers and authors generally advance by building a reputation, taking on more complex writing assignments, and getting published in more prestigious markets and publications. Examples of previously published work form the best route to advancement. Establishing a track record for meeting deadlines also makes it easier to get future assignments. Writing for smaller businesses, local newspapers, advertising agencies, or not-for-profit organizations either as a staff writer or on a freelance basis, allows beginning writers and authors to begin writing right away and take credit for their work. Opportunities for advancement within these organizations may be limited, because they either do not have enough regular work or do not need more advanced writing.

In larger businesses, jobs and promotions usually are more formally structured. Beginners often read submissions, do research, fact check articles, or copy edit drafts, and advance to writing and editing more substantive stories and articles.

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.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition

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