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Writing and Editing Careers, Jobs and Training Information

Writing and Editing Career and Job Highlights

  • General requirements include a college degree in journalism, English, communications, or technical-writing field.
  • Occupations have very high appeal and thus are likely to remain highly competitive in the near future.
  • Demands for writers and editors have reached an all-time high with the expansion of sophisticated services and publications over the Internet.

Editing and Writing Career Overview

Three types of writing and editing exist: Writers and editors, who create original material for all different publications, including books, journals, company newsletters, and magazines. Editors revise and prepare written material for publication. Technical writers create technical manuals and instructions used for format design.

Writers and editors should be familiar with electronic publishing systems and computers. Often, they will write material to be published directly on the Internet, such as e-newspapers and magazines, fictional stories, or web sites. Knowledge of such things as page layout, desktop publishing software, and graphic design is very useful. Knowledge of other web-technologies is necessarily required in order to bring sounds and graphics together.

An important part of writer’s work is connecting with editors through credible research and citation. They should meet all of their deadlines and be ethical in their work.

Creative writers, poets, and lyricists write original material for either performance or publication. Novelists, screenwriters, and playwrights are included in this category. They may work for hire or be commissioned to work by a sponsor.

Nonfiction writers create original material or may be provided a topic to research by a publisher or editor. They gather all of the research and material they need, and convey a story through writing. They spend considerable time revising and rewriting. Copywriters work with advertising or promotional material to prepare it for broadcast or publication. Newsletter writers create material to be distributed to different organization’s members and clients, firm employees, and the general public.

Freelance writers sell their material to different advertising firms, publications, and department agencies, or a publisher may contract them to write a certain article, book, or about a product.
Editors revise and rewrite a writer’s material. Their work, depending on their employer, may include planning appropriate book, journal, or magazine contents for specific audiences. They select which material is most appealing, and edit several drafts of material while adding much commentary and suggestion to improve it. Editors are also heavily involved in the publication process. They decide if a book proposal is good enough for a publishing company to buy the rights of production.

Magazine and newspaper publications hire many different types of editors. Assistant editors work under the supervision of executive editors in special interest areas, such as sports, local or international news, and feature editorials. Managing editors supervise the day-to-day operations and functions of the department, while assignment editors make the story assignments. Copy editors examine material for grammar, accuracy, style, and content applicability.

Smaller publishing organizations may hire editors to cover all responsibilities. Executive and managing editors make budget plans and decide contract terms with freelance writers, or “stringers” as they are sometimes known. Program directors in broadcasting firms cover much of this same territory.

Editors and program directors may have an assistant to assist them in the editing process. Production assistants and copy editors are two common titles for these positions. They revise, research, and arrange layouts for pages, photographs, advertising, and articles. They do all of the necessary work to prepare the material for print. Publication assistants work for publishers in revising material produced by freelancers and answer inquires about published or printed material. Assistants who work for small radio stations or publications gather material from the Internet in addition to performing common office secretary work.

Technical writers translate information into readable language. This involves the preparation of catalogs and operating manuals, assembly instructions, promotional material, project proposals, and parts lists. These writers usually work with technical engineers to translate engineering specifications into a language that the average person can understand. They edit and prepare all diagram and illustrations for use.

Science and medical writers convey and organize scientific or medical material. They document their research and prepare it for the public’s needs. They help translate technical information into a language that average people can understand.

Nearly one-third of writers and editors in 2002 were self-employed, while over one-half of writers and editors earned a salary through their employer. Most salaried positions existed in the information sector, while others were in advertising, computer services, and education. Jobs also exist in government, religious and non-profit organizations, business, electronic manufacturing, and other labor associations.

The major publishing, broadcasting, and advertising agencies are located in the large cities of Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Newspaper, journal, and trade and technical magazines are found in many locations.

Freelance writing continues to be a prominent way for many people to support themselves. They usually have other jobs as well, but make considerable amounts of income through sales of books, articles, and movie and television scripts.

Writing and Editing Training and Job Qualifications

Most writing and editor jobs require one to have received a bachelor’s degree in journalism, English, or communications. Specialized knowledge in areas of business, legal, fashion, or a second language is also looked favorably upon.

Technical writing is becoming increasingly dependent on having a specialized business, scientific, or engineering knowledge. Some people are skilled enough to learn these skills on the job, while others transfer from their technical jobs. Individuals often begin as assistants in an informational department and, after acquiring the relevant technical writing skills, can start performing writing tasks.

Writers and editors should have a strong love for writing and be able to clearly express their ideas. They should be self-motivated, creative, and have patience with their work. They should also be wise in selecting appropriate material to be published, in addition to maintaining leadership in guiding others to perform quality work.

Many jobs require some familiarity with electronic production equipment and computer software for certain publication processes. Workers should be able to work under intense pressure and possible confusion at times.

Practical experience can be gained through work on a high school or college publication or broadcast. Also, internships are available to students at broadcast stations and newspaper and magazine publishing firms. In this way, individuals can gain experience performing research, interviewing, writing, and learning the dynamics of the trade.

Beginning assistants in a small firm may be given writing or editing assignments immediately. However, because opportunities and full-time jobs are few, many writers prefer or settle for jobs on a short-term, project basis. Freelance writing and sales are common.

More structured and specialized work is found in larger firms. Slow advancement can occur from performing simple research and copy-editing to involvement with larger-scale assignments. Advancement is usually gauged by the importance of articles a writer is assignment.

Writing and Editing Job and Employment Opportunities

Employment rates are projected to grow along with the average of all occupational rates in the future. However, writing and editing jobs will continue to maintain high competitiveness due to the job’s high appeal.

Job growth within publication firms will grow along with consumer demand for these publications. Special interest periodicals are growing in demand, and business newsletters are becoming a common practice. Companies are also becoming more comfortable with Internet publishing, hence the demand for more writers and editors with knowledge of the Web. Other areas of job growth will occur within public relations and advertising agencies.

Writers with a specialized knowledge such as medicine, economics, or law generally have the best opportunities for job placement. This is largely due to the growth and discovery of technical and scientific information. Workers with both writing and technical knowledge are needed to translate instructional and training material for the general public.

Job growth will also result from the replacement needs within industries. Employees transfer or retire, creating more opportunities for new job seekers.

Historical Earnings Information

Approximate annual salaries for authors and writers range from $21,000 for the bottom ten percent to $85,000 for the top ten percent. In 2002, middle earnings were upwards to around $43,000. Salaries tended to be higher in advertising service industries and lower for publications.

Approximate annual salaries for editors range from $24,000 for the bottom ten percent to $77,000 for the top ten percent. In 2002, middle earnings approximated $41,000 for all editors, including those in publication industries.

Approximate annual salaries for technical writers range from $30,000 for the bottom ten percent to nearly $81,000 for the top ten percent of workers. In 2002, approximate middle earnings were $51,000, for all technical writers, including those in computer systems design.

The Society of Technical Communication estimated in 2002 that median annual earnings for beginning technical writers were around $41,000. For intermediate-level workers, earnings rose to nearly $50,000, and senior level technical writers earned around $66,000.