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Editor: Salary and Requirements

The work and life of an editor can be an interesting one, a fulfilling one, and even an exciting one. To truly enjoy editor jobs, candidates must enjoy the language with which they will be working. With that in mind, let’s examine what editors do and the prospects for making this career path a reality.

What Do Editor Jobs Entail?

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There may be a tendency to think being an editor would just involve reviewing someone’s writing, correcting it, and recommending changes to improve it. The lowest level of editing jobs could fit that description, but the more advanced the position the less that’s true. Being an editor can carry a great deal of organizational responsibility and require a variety of skills. That translates into an occupation that provides plenty of opportunity for challenges to our talents and imagination.


Copy Editor

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An entry-level editor who doesn’t get there by first becoming a reporter has the job title of a copy editor. The duties for this position include proofreading with correction of basic mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. The copy editor can also be given additional duties such as bringing a piece into alignment with the publication’s style and preferred editorial policy, and also fact-checking and headline writing.

Publication Assistant

Under the heading of publication assistant is a person at a publishing house who receives and evaluates new manuscripts and proofreads drafts that haven’t been corrected yet. If this worker is at a small newspaper, they would be likely to do whatever duties come their way. Examples would be gathering articles from news services or even the internet for their own publication or proofreading articles submitted by reporters or freelancers.

Assistant Editor

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The next step up the ladder is the assistant editor who has a specific subject of interest for which they are responsible. This can be local news, sports, letters to the editor, the arts, or whatever else might apply to that publication. That includes newspapers, television broadcasting outlets, magazines, and any company that produces print or online content. The assistant editor usually assigns the story to a writer and edits the first draft.

Managing Editor

The managing editor oversees the daily operations of the publication or news department of a broadcasting station.

Executive Editor

Executive editors, also known as editors-in-chief, are those who supervise the assistant editors and managing editors. They decide which stories will be used and how they are used. They also hire contributors, such as writers and reporters. They are at the top of the corporate ladder in the editorial department. As such, they have expanded duties that go well beyond what we typically think of as an editor’s job description. For instance, they work with artists, typesetters, and others on the design for the publication. They negotiate contracts, plan budgets, and more.

How to Become an Editor

There are different paths leading to editor jobs. Some writers or academics have declared themselves editors, represented themselves as able to do the job, and have done so as freelance professionals. It’s not unlike actors, mechanics, or musicians who learn their craft on the fly and become proficient without formal training. However, to be hired as an editor by a legitimate newspaper or other publication isn’t easy without proper education and experience.

The Right Stuff

The first step is to go to college and get a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, communications, or English. There are plenty of good schools in America that can provide these common courses of study at a competitive rate of tuition.

Editor jobs do not come automatically with the degree, though. There will be significant competition for these positions, and it’s helpful to know what else to bring to the table when applying. If possible, gaining experience by working in related fields can make all the difference in being hired or rejected.

Relevant Experience

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Working at a small newspaper, even a weekly, as a writer is one way to get a foot in the door. Doing anything with news copy for a television or radio station could turn into a valuable experience. If your major is communications or journalism, you may do some related work for your campus radio station or newspaper. Even experience working during high school on the publication of the yearbook or school newspaper would be a plus on a resume. Creative posts on social media and blogging for your own website can also help generate experience worthy of merit.

Working for other types of organizations can also make for experience helpful in a search for editor jobs. Writing copy or getting a shot at some editing for an advertising agency or even some company you know locally that needs some advertising help can count. If you can show you have a talent or some bright ideas, small publishing companies or even nonprofit organizations may give you a chance to prove yourself. There are also internships in some of these firms. Doing an internship during summers fits into your education well.

Gaining Experience From Behind the Keyboard

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One avenue right at your fingertips is creating with your computer. Graphic design and web design are excellent abilities to tack on to that degree, so practicing to hone your skills in those areas is highly advisable. Also, any publishing you can generate online will add to your relevant experience. Whether it’s on Amazon publishing options, YouTube, or just your own website, you can develop editing skills that can be used in a variety of ways.

Finding a Niche

One other point to touch on is this: If you envision yourself working in some field that would be considered a specialty or a niche, seek as much knowledge and training as possible to make yourself appealing to publications in those fields. We noticed recently that the long-running magazine Field & Stream has taken on a much more modern look since the last time we noticed it years ago. The editorial staff almost certainly had something to do with the changes. If you want to work for a specialty magazine such as Field & Stream or Cosmopolitan, become an expert in that area.

Editor Salary and Career Outlook

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The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics published 2018 figures for editors’ median pay at $59,480 per year. This amounts to $28.60 per hour. At the low end of the spectrum, in figures from 2016, editors were earning an annual income of about $29,000. The most affluent editors were earning over $111,000. States with the highest population centers, such as New York, California, and Texas, are well above the median pay while more rural states are at the lower end.

Career Outlook for Editor Jobs

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The government’s report on editor jobs shows no net growth in this field, but stability is expected through 2026. A dip of 1800 jobs is projected, but out of the 2016 count of 127,400, that represents a loss of only 1% of the occupational positions. They state, “Despite some job growth in online media, declines in traditional print magazines and newspapers will temper employment growth.”

Print media may continue to decline. There is also the concern that standards for maintaining the traditional levels of spelling, grammar, and punctuation are deteriorating. If these trends continue, editors may become less valued. Despite those possibilities, we are inclined to accept the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ view that job growth in online media will keep the demand for editors steady. Editors who can work smoothly with the latest technology and digital tools will most likely enjoy an advantage in finding employment.

One area of optimism for editor jobs is in the category of visual entertainment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics foresees job growth of 17 percent from 2016 to 2026 for film and video editors. This outpaces all other occupations for this period.


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Being an editor requires not just good writing skills, but also a well-organized and creative mind that can see what a piece of writing is and what it can be. It’s a unique talent that will always help good writers become better at their crafts. The editor has to be able to handle people with a combination of a strong hand and a confident kindness. Correcting a writer’s creation while encouraging that person is a sign of leadership and a key part of the job description.

Editing is not the career that will bring you wealth and fame. The median range of an editor’s salary can make for a reasonably comfortable lifestyle. The best part of this career is the satisfaction that can come from it. Creation is at the heart of it. Exercising a love of language and assisting writers to be the best they can be makes for a personal one-on-one experience.

Overseeing a publication or film that informs, inspires, or entertains at a high quality provides a sense of achievement on a project well done. Then, as editor-in-chief, having a guiding hand on a smooth-running operation brings to pass a fulfilling career of which you can be proud.

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