There are approximately 45,860 writers and authors currently employed in the United States. About 10 percent of salaried writers and authors work in the information sector, which includes newspapers, magazines, book publishers, film companies, and radio and television broadcasting. Writers also work for advertising agencies and public relations firms and work on journals and newsletters published by business and nonprofit organizations, such as professional associations, labor unions, and religious organizations. Other employers are government agencies and film production companies. About 63 percent of writers and authors are self-employed.
A fair amount of experience is required to gain a high-level position in the field. Most writers start out in entry-level positions. These jobs may be listed with college career services offices, or they may be obtained by applying directly to the employment departments of the individual publishers or broadcasting companies. Graduates who previously served internships with these companies often have the advantage of knowing someone who can give them a personal recommendation. Want ads in newspapers and trade journals, in print and online, are another source for jobs. Few vacancies are listed with public or private employment agencies, however, because of the competition for positions.
Employers in the communications field usually are interested in samples of published writing, and usually prefer to see these samples in a digital portfolio. Bylined or signed articles are more credible (and, as a result, more useful) than stories whose source is not identified.
Entry-level positions as a junior writer usually involve library and Internet research, preparation of rough drafts for part or all of a report, cataloging, and other related writing tasks. These are generally carried on under the supervision of a senior writer.
Many firms now hire writers directly upon application or recommendation of college professors and career services offices.
Most writers find their first jobs as editorial or production assistants. Advancement may be more rapid in small companies, where beginners learn by doing a little bit of everything and may be given writing tasks immediately. In large firms, duties are usually more compartmentalized. Assistants in entry-level positions are assigned such tasks as research, fact checking, and copyrighting, but it generally takes much longer to advance to full-scale writing duties.
Promotion into more responsible positions may come with the assignment of more important articles and stories to write, or it may be the result of moving to another company. Mobility among employees in this field is common. An assistant in one publishing house may switch to an executive position in another. Or a writer may switch to a related field as a type of advancement.
Freelance or self-employed writers earn advancement in the form of larger fees as they gain exposure and establish their reputations.
Tips for Entry
Write as often as you can and create a portfolio of your work to show potential employers. Visit Blogger.com and WordPress.com to start your own blog.
Talk to writers about their careers. Ask them for advice on entering the field.
Visit the following Web sites for job openings:
The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) offers a mentoring program for freelance writers. Visit http://www.asja.org/for-writers/personal-mentoring-program for more information. The ASJA also offers The ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing for a small fee.
Apply for entry-level jobs in the book, newspaper, or magazine publishing industry in order to gain experience in the field.