Copy Editors


Education and Training Requirements

High School

To prepare for a career as a copy editor while in high school take as many English and writing courses as possible. Working on your school newspaper or yearbook also will provide beneficial experience. Because a college degree is necessary to enter this profession, also take college preparatory course. Learning and mastering a second language—such as Spanish—will allow you to work on manuscripts that are in another language. Having this talent will make you a more attractive job candidate. 

Postsecondary Training

A copy editor must have a bachelor's degree, and advanced degrees are highly recommended for editors who are interested in moving up in the industry. Most copy editors have degrees in English or journalism, but it is not unheard of for editors to major in one of the other liberal arts. If you know that you want to specialize in a field such as scientific editing, you may wish to major in the area of science of your choice while minoring in English, writing, or journalism. There are many opportunities for editors in technical fields, since most of those who go into editing are interested primarily in the liberal arts. Many colleges offer courses in book editing, magazine design, general editing, and writing. Some colleges, such as the University of Chicago, University of Denver, and Stanford University, offer programs in publishing, and many magazines and newspapers offer internships to students. Take advantage of these opportunities. It is extremely important that you gain some practical experience while you are in school. Work on the school paper or find a part-time job with a newspaper or magazine. Don't hesitate to work for a publication in a noneditorial position. The more you know about the publishing business, the better off you will be.


The City College of New York, Columbia University, New York University, Pace University, University of Chicago, the University of Denver, and other colleges and universities offer publishing-related certificates to those who take a certain number of classes about topics such as publishing basics, proofreading, copyediting, and copyright. A full list of schools that offer these programs can be found at

Other Education or Training

The American Society of News Editors, ACES: The Society for Editing, Association of American Publishers, Editorial Freelancers Association, Investigative Reporters and Editors, MPA–The Association of Magazine Media, and Online News Association offer webinars, conference seminars, workshops, and other continuing education opportunities. Topics include editing, proofreading, developing a freelance business, writing, social media, and technology. Contact these organizations for more information.


Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification or licensing requirements for copy editors.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Experience gained while in college through internships, volunteering to help a nonprofit with its newsletter, or working on your college newspaper or yearbook are among the methods to gain the skills necessary for employment as a copy editor.

Good copy editors are fanatics for the written word. Their passion for good writing comes close to the point of obsession. They are analytical people who know how to think clearly and communicate what they are thinking. They read widely. They not only recognize good English when they see it but also know what makes it good. If they read something they do not understand, they analyze it until they do understand it. If they see a word they do not know, they look it up. When they are curious about something, they take action and research the subject. They are not satisfied with not knowing things.

You must be detail oriented to succeed as a copy editor. The ability to communicate clearly and diplomatically, particularly when writing queries to authors, is useful in this work. You must also be patient, since you may have to spend hours combing manuscripts for inconsistencies and style issues. If you are the kind of person who cannot sit still, you probably will not succeed as a copy editor. To be a good copy editor, you must be a self-starter who is not afraid to make decisions. You must be good not only at identifying problems but also at solving them, so you must be creative. If you are both creative and a perfectionist when it comes to language, copyediting may be the line of work for you.