There are many lexicographers who work full time for the major dictionary publishers, such as Merriam-Webster Inc. (Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary), Oxford University Press (Oxford English Dictionary), and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language). Others work for publishers of the numerous specialized dictionaries, such as medical, law, and foreign language dictionaries. There are also many lexicographers who work on a freelance basis. Small publishers and organizations often hire freelance lexicographers to compile a dictionary on a particular subject, but even the major dictionary publishers hire a number of freelancers on an ongoing basis to research new words and new meanings for old words.
New lexicographers often start out at dictionary publishers as junior members of a lexicographic team. Others may enter the publishing industry as editorial assistants, proofreaders, and editors and gradually move into this career. Freelance lexicographers begin by soliciting work from dictionary publishers. To gain experience and build client relationships, they usually have to accept small jobs at relatively low pay rates.
As they gain experience, junior lexicographers at dictionary publishers can eventually advance to positions of higher responsibility. They might eventually supervise a team of lexicographers or manage an editorial department. Other lexicographers might make lateral career moves to the position of editor or writer. Experienced freelance lexicographers may charge higher rates or take on more prestigious assignments as their level of expertise increases.
Tips for Entry
Read Dictionaries: The Journal of The Dictionary Society of North America (https://dictionarysociety.com/journal/) to learn more about the field of lexicography.
Join the Dictionary Society of North America to learn more about lexicography.
Participate in internships or part-time jobs that are arranged by your college’s career services office.
Conduct information interviews with lexicographers and ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.