How To Become an Editor (With Steps and FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 22, 2022 | Published July 26, 2021

Updated November 22, 2022

Published July 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An editor writes, edits and commissions pieces of work in a variety of industries and carries out a variety of tasks. Whatever project you're working on, the final goal is always the same: to improve communication quality. The editor, together with the writer, ensures that a text is suitable for readers, whether in the shape of a news release, report, blog, article, website, book manuscript, blog or news release. In this article, we discuss what it takes to be an editor and how to become one.

How to become an editor

Here are six steps that you can follow to help you become an editor:

1. Earn your bachelor's degree

Editing jobs usually require a college degree and most major in communication, English, or journalism. If you are still pursuing your degree, consider taking modules relevant to editing while you're in school. These modules include composition, proofreading and literary critique. Alternatively, you can pursue classes in the skills above to build your resume.

However, the majors mentioned are not the only ones you can pursue. Most publishing organizations demand an editor with the work ethic and capabilities to generate the work they need. Therefore, a bachelor's degree in a non-editing-related field can suffice.

2. Gain experience

This is something that you can do while pursuing your degree. Signing up to write for your high school newsletter or newspaper can also help you get editing experience if you're still in high school. If you're a college student, seek internship opportunities for the field you want to pursue. An internship in editing allows you to broaden your horizons and get valuable experience in researching, writing and editing.

Doing so will create a network with other editors, making it easier to navigate the professional world and finding a job will be less stressful.

3. Acquire skills

Outside of the profession, employers may need specific talents, just like in any other career. These skills include typing computer skills or web content management, which you can gain through classes or certification. These skills are suitable for the editorial position you want to pursue. For example, those interested in radio can take courses in mass communication to meet the job requirements.

There are four major categories of editing according to Editors Canada, the national organization of professional editors. These include substantive editing, stylistic editing, copy editing and proofreading.

Read More: Copy Editing vs. Proofreading: Definitions, Skills, and Duties

4. Find your niche

Editors can improve communication in a variety of industries beyond traditional publishing. Areas for specialization range from academic editing, legal and medical editing to comic books, manga, crafting patterns and board games.

If you are fluent in other languages, consider comparative editing, which involves ensuring translated material remains faithful to the meaning of the original text.

5. Build a portfolio

Once you've gained some broad experience and identified your specialization, go after that niche work. You may now discover that you have the option of accepting employment that is appropriate to your skill set and aspirations. You should also tailor your applications to the publications where you want to work.

Build a portfolio that will better enhance your editorial skills. You can do this through your own website, where you can showcase your services and skills. This will show clients or any future employers that you are a dedicated professional.

Read More: What Is a Proofreader? And How To Become One (With Skills)

6. Read as much as you can

The most practical and essential thing you can do to prepare for an editorial career is to read. It is best to read articles or pieces of work centred around the type of work you'll pursue. For example, if you want to become a lifestyle magazine editor, subscribe to lifestyle magazines. As a result, you'll get more familiar with the writing style required for your job and the trends that magazine subscribers are interested in reading.

What does an editor do?

Editors prepare information for publication in newspapers, magazines, books and online by planning, revising and coordinating it. They look over story ideas to see what information is most likely to appeal to readers and they make suggestions for improving the product, including headlines and titles.

Editors work in various locations, such as newspaper publishing companies' offices or online freelancing services. Some editors have backgrounds in communication or journalism and do not have an English degree. They get enough experience over time to become proficient in language, spelling and story structure.

Types of editors and their roles

Different editors have different roles and responsibilities. Here is a list of a few examples:

  • Acquisitions editor: An acquisitions editor evaluates manuscripts and proposals. They monitor trends in the market and seek talent to match their publisher's mandate and potential commercial appeal.

  • Developmental editor: A developmental editor helps authors prepare a story for publication. Typically they combine stylistic and structural editing skills.

  • Copy editor: A copy editor ensures correctness, accuracy, consistency, and completeness.

  • Associate editor: Newspapers and magazines usually employ associate editors. With responsibilities similar to an acquisitions editor, they find content or articles for publication.

  • Editor-in-chief: The editor-in-chief is usually the person in charge of the company's editorial department. They oversee larger projects and delegate work to the editing staff. This type of editor is also in charge of maintaining the company's voice and preserving the company's philosophy and objectives.

Related: How To Become a Chief Editor

Editors' duties and responsibilities

Editors prepare information for publication in books, newspapers, periodicals and websites by planning, coordinating and revising it. Editors look over narrative ideas and assess whether the material will appeal to the target audience. A single editor may handle all editorial responsibilities in smaller businesses or delegate them to a few others. Editors' responsibilities might include:

  • flagging legal and ethical issues including permissions and libel

  • reviewing and editing content for grammar, punctuation, and style

  • checking citations

  • recasting material into other formats

  • formatting and fact checking

Frequently asked questions

Here are some questions typically asked about being an editor

Which skills do you need to be an editor?

To qualify as an editor, you need writing, communication, listening and attention to detail abilities. You also need to be curious, meticulous and inventive. You also need to be comfortable working with computers.

Related: Some of the Best Proofreading Jobs (With Skills and Salary)

What are the typical working hours?

This depends on the type of editor. Freelance editors work for various clients to generate their income, so their working hours vary individually. In-house or employed editors typically work 49 hours per week.

What is the average salary for an editor?

In Canada, the average editor income is $52,314 per year. This figure varies with years of experience and different types of editors and companies.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.

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