Employment Prospects


Approximately 118,300 editors are employed in the United States. One of the best things about the field of editing is that there are many opportunities for editors. The most obvious employers for editors are book and directory publishers, magazines, and newspapers. Thirty-eight percent of editors are employed by these companies. There are many varieties of these types of publishers. There are small and large publishers, general and specialized publishers, local and national publishers. 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 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. Large companies produce annual reports that must be written and edited. In addition, advertising is a major source of work for editors, proofreaders, and writers. Advertising agencies use editors, proofreaders, and quality-control people, as do printing companies (in many cases, proofreaders edit as well as proofread). Keep in mind that somebody has to work on all the printed and digital material you see every day, from books and magazines, to menus and matchbooks, to Web sites.

Starting Out

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 assess their language and copy editing skills.

Many 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 duties. Typically, an editorial assistant who performs well will be given the opportunity to take on more and more editorial duties. Proofreaders have the advantage of being able to look at the work of editors, so they can learn while they do their own work.

Good sources of information about job openings are school career services offices, classified ads in newspapers and trade journals, specialized publications such as Publishers Weekly (http://www.publishersweekly.com), and Web sites. Media-focused career sites such as mediabistro.com (http://www.mediabistro.com) are another useful source. Many publishers have Web sites that list job openings.

Advancement Prospects

In book publishing houses, employees who start as editorial assistants or proofreaders and show promise generally become copy editors. After gaining skill in that position, they may be given a wider range of duties while retaining the same title. The next step may be a position as a senior copy editor, which involves overseeing the work of junior copy editors, or as a project editor. The project editor performs a wide variety of tasks, including copy editing, 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 assistant editor, then managing editor, then editor in chief (also known as editorial director). These positions involve more management and decision making than is usually found in the positions described previously. The editor in chief works with the publisher to ensure that a suitable editorial policy is being followed, while the managing editor is responsible for all aspects of the editorial department. The assistant editor provides support to the managing editor. (It should be noted that job titles and responsibilities can vary from publishing house to publishing house.)

Newspaper editors generally begin working on the copy desk, where they progress from less significant stories and projects to major news and feature stories. A common route to advancement 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 editors advance in much the same way that book editors do. After they become copy editors, they work their way up to become senior editors, managing editors, and editors-in-chief. In many cases, magazine 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

Read publications such as Editor & Publisher (http://www.editorandpublisher.com) and Tracking Changes (https://aceseditors.org/resources/tracking-changes) to learn more about the field.

Visit the following Web sites for job listings:

  • http://www.bookjobs.com
  • http://www.editorandpublisher.com
  • https://jobs.magazine.org
  • https://aceseditors.org/resources/job-bank

Participate in internships to obtain experience and make networking contacts. Visit http://bookjobs.com/search-internships for a list of internships offered by book publishers. The Dow Jones News Fund, ACES: The Society for Editing, and other professional organizations also provide information on internships at their Web sites.

Attend conferences of ACES: The Society for Editing and other organizations to network, improve your skills via continuing education, and interview for jobs. A list of conferences is available at http://bookjobs.com/publishing-events.