How to Become an Editor: Step-by-Step Guide to Landing a Job

In some ways, editors are like the undercover agents that help make the world go round. You may have never thought about it, but nearly every single thing you read throughout your daily life has passed through the hands of an editor. Without editors, there’d be absolute mayhem in the form of typos and misspellings...

In some ways, editors are like the undercover agents that help make the world go round. You may have never thought about it, but nearly every single thing you read throughout your daily life has passed through the hands of an editor. Without editors, there’d be absolute mayhem in the form of typos and misspellings all across the web, newspapers, and magazines.

That’s why we need editors who ensure we can sleep at night without that nagging thought of the “there, their, they’re” mistake we noticed in that news column.

If you’re wondering how to become an editor, we’ve laid out everything you need to know about this profession. We’ll go over what an editor does, the different types of editing jobs, and the steps you can take to land your first editing job.

What Does an Editor Do?

Editors are responsible for making sure written content is grammatically correct and free of any typos, punctuation errors, and misspellings. This includes making suggestions on formatting, following style guidelines, and sniffing out any factual errors.

Just about every publication, newspaper, magazine, book, website, advertisement, and any other piece of written content has an editor or team of editors making sure it’s ready for readers to see.

An editor helps writers improve their work and suggests changes before any piece of written content is finalized. This consists of rephrasing portions of text, suggesting improvements, and giving guidance for changes that need to be made.

After this copy editing review process, editors can also handle publication responsibilities. Since editors are often the last set of eyes that reviews a piece of work, they’ll sometimes approve final copies and send it to the printer or push it live if it’s digital content.

While some companies only have one editor handling these responsibilities, others have multiple editors who share responsibilities in a hierarchical structure. To give you an idea, let’s look at different types of editing jobs.

Types of Editing Jobs

There are several types of editing jobs out there. As mentioned above, some companies may have only one editor, while others have a team of editors. These job titles are often interchangeable but can also vary quite a bit depending on which company you work for.

  • Copy Editor
  • Assistant Editor or Editorial Assistant
  • Managing Editor
  • Executive Editor
  • Proofreader

The role of a proofreader is similar to an editor, however, there are some fundamental differences. An editor focuses on the structural components of an article and guides writers through the creative writing process.

Proofreading, on the other hand, consists of skimming through written pieces of content and correcting typos, misspellings, and formatting issues. Proofreaders aren’t necessarily in the weeds giving writers suggestions on how to improve the overall content.

How Much Does an Editor Make?

According to Glassdoor.com, the average yearly base pay for an editor is $53,777. This average is based on nearly 7,300 salary submissions in the United States.

You should note that this figure is an average and there can be a wide range of salaries depending on how much experience you have, which company you work for, and how much you work. Looking at the graph below, you can see that salaries are distributed from $37,000 to $80,000.

For instance, if you’re a freelance editor, your salary is largely based on how much you work and which clients you’re working with. If you’re able to crank editing jobs from high-paying clients, then your salary will be greater.

Requirements of an Editor

How to become an editor: Some tools of the trade are a laptop, pen, and paper

In order to become an editor, you’ll need to possess specific personal qualities, seek out education, and obtain a certain level of experience to get hired.

Personal Qualities

If you’ve ever cringed at the sight of a typo or misspelling, then becoming an editor may be right up your alley. Editors are detail oriented and have an eye for grammar and proper writing.

Editors have strong interpersonal skills and are able to gracefully provide feedback, suggestions, and changes to help writers improve their content. They’re also decisive and confident in their abilities. Editors should rarely have to second-guess themselves since most writing follows particular guidelines.

Additionally, editors should have basic writing skills on top of excellent editing skills. They should be able to look at a piece of content and check it for errors, but also inject creative life into the work.

But what about education? If you want to know how to become an editor, you need to know which type of degree should you pursue.

Education

Most companies are looking for an editor who has a bachelor’s degree in communications, journalism, English, or other related studies. While a degree isn’t necessarily required, it will definitely make you stand out from your competition.

A critical component of editing is understanding the different formatting and style guidelines such as APA, MLA, and Chicago Style. This can be learned through your schooling, but if you want to dive in now, you can head to this link and start browsing through writing guidelines.

You should also possess experience in the editing field. This could come in the form of working on certain school projects, internships, or blogging online. The more you can show what you’re capable of, the better off you’ll be.

How to Become an Editor

If you want to become an editor, you can follow these four steps to landing a job and moving up the ranks from a fledgling editor to a master of your craft.

1. Seek Education or Training

The first step in how to become an editor is ensuring you’re qualified to apply for editing jobs. Companies aren’t going to just hire anyone off the street. You need to show that you’ve educated yourself in the space.

You can seek education through a four-year degree program, but that’s not the only ticket to success. You can also seek out online education at websites like Coursera or Udemy.

It’s also important to be familiar with the medium you’ll be editing and the type of content. For example, if you’re editing for an online publication, you should be familiar with SEO principles to help articles rank on Google. If you’re editing a food magazine, you should know your way around the kitchen and understand food, kitchen tools, and terminology.

2. Get Experience

The next step will be getting some experience under your belt. This can be through previous work experience or any other side projects you may have going on.

If you’re struggling to get experience, then you can either offer your services for free or list your services for a low price on freelancer job boards.

Remember, a company wants to hire someone with proven ability. It won’t matter how much education and training you have unless you put it to good use and show that you’re a reliable and competent worker. Let your work do the talking.

3. Find Your First Editing Job

Now it’s time to find an editing job. You should decide if you want to pursue a full-time or part-time job before you hop into your job search. You can then start looking for work in a few different ways. One way is to go to general job boards that will have every type of job under the sun and search for editor positions.

Another way is to go to editor-focused job boards where companies are strictly looking for your type of service. Lastly, you can go to freelance editing job boards and start applying for project-based gigs, short-term, or long-term opportunities. When you find editing work, the only thing left to do is hit the ground running. Here’s a great guide on everything you need to know about finding freelance editing jobs.

4. Perfect Your Craft and Climb the Ladder

Once you land your first editing gig, it’s time to show what you’re capable of doing. This is your opportunity to improve your skills and perfect your craft. If there are multiple editors at your company, reach out and ask as many questions as possible. The faster you can strengthen your skills, the sooner you’ll be able to move up and take on more responsibilities.

Time to Edit

Now that you know how to become an editor, it’s time to follow the steps laid out above and get started on your career path.

Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a professional editor and saving readers from a world full of typos, misspelled words, grammatical errors, and boring copy.

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