Approximately 118,300 editors (including copy editors) are employed in the United States. One of the best things about the field of editing is that there are many kinds of opportunities for copy editors. The most obvious employers for copy editors are newspapers, magazines, and books, with slightly more opportunities for online publications. If you have a strong interest in a particular field, you will undoubtedly find various publishers that specialize in it.
Another excellent source of employment is business. Almost all businesses of any size need writers and copy editors on a full-time or part-time basis. Corporations often publish newsletters for their employees or produce publications that talk about how they do business. They also need editors to make sure that the copy on their Web sites is written well, and that e-newsletters and other online content reads well and is factually accurate.
Large companies produce annual reports that must be written and copyedited. In addition, advertising is a major source of work for copy editors, proofreaders, and writers. Advertising agencies use copy editors, proofreaders, and quality-control people, as do typesetting and printing companies (in many cases, proofreaders edit as well as proofread). Keep in mind that somebody has to work on all written material you see every day, from books and magazines to menus and matchbooks, as well as Web content, e-newsletters, and e-mails.
There is tremendous competition for editorial jobs, so it is important for a beginner who wishes to break into the business to be as well prepared as possible. College students who have gained experience as interns, have worked for publications during the summers, or have attended special programs in publishing will be at an advantage. In addition, applicants for any editorial position must be extremely careful when preparing cover letters and resumes. Even a single error in spelling or usage will disqualify an applicant. Applicants for editorial or proofreading positions must also expect to take and pass tests that are designed to determine their language skills.
Many copy editors enter the field as editorial assistants or proofreaders. Some editorial assistants perform only clerical tasks, whereas others may also proofread or perform basic editorial tasks. Typically, an editorial assistant who performs well will be given the opportunity to take on more and more editorial duties as time passes. Proofreaders have the advantage of being able to look at the work of editors, so they can learn while they do their own work.
ACES: The Society for Editing offers job listings at its Web site, https://aceseditors.org/resources/job-bank. Other good sources of information about job openings are school career services offices, online ads, specialized publications such as Publishers Weekly (http://publishersweekly.com), and general job sites such as LinkedIn.com. One way to proceed is to identify local publishers and contact them directly.
After gaining skill and experience, copy editors may be given a wider range of duties while retaining the same title. They may advance to the position of senior copy editor, which involves overseeing the work of junior copy editors, or project editor. The project editor performs a wide variety of tasks, including copyediting, coordinating the work of in-house and freelance copy editors, and managing the schedule of a particular project. From this position, an editor may move up to become an assistant editor, then managing editor, then editor in chief.
At newspapers, a common advancement route is for copy editors to be promoted to a particular department, where they may move up the ranks to management positions. An editor who has achieved success in a department may become a city editor, who is responsible for news, or a managing editor, who runs the entire editorial operation of a newspaper.
Magazine copy editors advance in much the same way that copy editors in book publishing do. They work their way up to become senior editors, managing editors, copy chiefs, and editors-in-chief. In many cases, magazine copy editors advance by moving from a position on one magazine to the same position with a larger or more prestigious magazine. Such moves often bring significant increases in both pay and status.
Tips for Entry
While in school, gain experience by participating in an internship at a newspaper, magazine, or book publisher.
Work on your school's newspaper or yearbook.
Volunteer to help a nonprofit organization with its newsletter.
Create, write, and edit your own newsletter, focusing on topics of interest to you.
While in school, take as many courses in English, writing, computers, and photography as available to further develop skills you will use in an editing job.