Education and Training Requirements

High School

Editors must be expert communicators, so you should excel in English if you wish to be an editor. You must learn to write extremely well, since you will be correcting and even rewriting the work of others. If elective classes in writing are available in your school, take them. Study journalism and take communications courses. Work as a writer or editor for the school paper. Take a photography class. Since virtually all editors use computers, take computer courses, especially those that emphasize basic HTML and other Web-development skills. You absolutely must learn to type. If you cannot type accurately and rapidly, you will be at an extreme disadvantage. Don't forget, however, that a successful editor must have a wide range of knowledge. The more you know about many areas, the more likely you will be to do well as an editor. Don't hesitate to explore areas that you find interesting. Do everything you can to satisfy your intellectual curiosity. As far as most editors are concerned, there is no useless information.

Postsecondary Training

An editor must have a bachelor's degree, and advanced degrees are highly recommended for book editors and magazine editors. Most 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 studying for a minor 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 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.


Several colleges and universities offer programs in which students can earn certificates after taking a certain number of classes about topics such as publishing basics, proofreading, copy editing, and copyright. Schools that offer these programs include the City College of New York, Columbia University, New York University, Pace University, University of Chicago, and the University of Denver. A full list of colleges and universities that offer these programs can be found at http://bookjobs.com/publishing-programs. Additionally, Poynter News University (a project of The Poynter Institute, a leading provider of journalism and editing training) offers a certificate in editing, as well as more than 100 interactive journalism courses. Visit https://www.poynter.org/newsu for more information.  

Other Education or Training

A variety of webinars, conference seminars, and other continuing education opportunities are offered by professional associations such as the ACES: The Society for Editing, American Society of News Editors, Association of American Publishers, Editorial Freelancers Association, Investigative Reporters and Editors, MPA–The Association of Magazine Media, and the Online News Association. Topics include writing, editing, proofreading, developing a freelance business, 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 editors.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Previous experience as a writer, reporter, or assistant editor is needed to work in the field.

Good 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 don't understand, they analyze it until they do understand it. If they see a word they don't know, they look it up. When they are curious about something, they research the subject.

You must pay close attention to details to succeed as an editor. You must also be patient, since you may have to spend hours turning a few pages of near-gibberish into powerful, elegant English. If you are the kind of person who can't sit still, you probably will not succeed as an editor. To be a good 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, editing may be the line of work for you.