Writers and Editors work with words for a living. The written word may be published, recorded in sound or video productions, or spoken. The original works done by writers may be later reviewed, edited, rewritten or critiqued by editors. Often, a writer may be promoted to an editorial position. They both are found in many career areas, including publishing, broadcasting, journalism, science, medicine, industry and education. There is abundant work for qualified writers and editors. Writers and editors work as employees, freelancers or on a contract basis with employers. They may work in an office, over the Internet via computer, or at a home office. Some writers work in busy, noisy rooms filled with other writers, while others prefer the solitude of working at home or in their own private office.
Writer and editor salaries are about the same, averaging around $54,000 per year. Some areas, such as advertising, may offer higher paying jobs. It is more difficult working on a freelance basis to bring income up to equivalent pay. Technical writers receive the highest pay, but they are also expected to be experts in their field of knowledge. As with any occupation, salary increases with experience and time on the job. In 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that median wages for those in the careers of writing and editing were $25.91 per hour, or $53,900 annually.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Writers, authors, editors, technical writers and freelance writers enjoy this interesting and diverse career. Traditional jobs are found in publishing, with jobs as fiction or non-fiction writers, reporters, copy writers, newsletter writers, broadcast journalism writers, researchers and support personnel for media programs. Modern jobs are found online as Internet writers who work with computers, blogs, web content providers, graphics, page layout programs, multi-media software, sound and video production.
Editors work with writers, set specifications and deadlines, review, rewrite and critique writing projects. They must have superior language skills and product knowledge. Writers and editors may work on a per job basis, per story, per word, or on a contract arrangement. They may experience some problems such as computer fatigue, burnout, back pain, eyestrain, stress, and other physical discomfort. Both careers involve necessary motivation skills, knowledge of subject matter, ethics, and an ability to communicate effectively with others. Technical writers must take technical subjects and transform them into information that is understandable by non-technical people. Writers should assemble a good portfolio of samples to show when seeking employment. Those who work online must be familiar with electronic publishing, sound, video and graphics. Editors must use tact to guide others and have good judgment in publishing materials.
The job outlook for employment as a writer or editor is as good as any other career. According to statistics from the United States Board of Labor Statistics, there are about 340,000 writer and editor jobs currently held. Roughly a third of those are self-employed persons, and about half the jobs are in the areas of information, advertising or educational services. Freelance writing is an opportunity pursued by many women who need to remain at home with children but still require job income.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
Educational pursuits for becoming a professional writer or editor may begin with special courses in writing, communication and style/grammar. Basic high school graduation may be enough to enter this field as an assistant or other entry-level positions. Having a college degree in English, Journalism, Communications, Desktop Publishing, Graphics or Broadcasting is a better way to begin this career path. Technical writers are expected to have expert level knowledge about their particular specialty. This may originate with a college degree in a science, medicine, engineering, broadcasting or other fields. Supporting studies for those technical degrees would include communications, English, composition and writing courses.
Some writers may achieve success by beginning as an assistant or intern in a business area. For example, many broadcast stations will hire summer interns who learn basics on the job under a mentor or supervisor. The interns may later receive a job offer from the station where they interned and learned the basics. An excellent knowledge of the English language, spelling, grammar and composition is essential for anyone who wants to be a professional writer or editor.
Writers and Editors may study for certification in special areas, such as computer or electronic publishing, copyediting, web publishing and others through college and online course completion. There is no certification required to become a writer or editor, but supporting coursework will always look good on the resume and may be a door opener or advantage when seeking work.
There are many professional associations for writers and editors, including a number of specialty organizations. Here are a few examples of organizations for writers and editors:
- National Association of Independent Writers & Editors (NAIWE)
- Authors Guild
- Mystery Writers of America
- National Writers Association
- Poetry Society of America
- Romance Writers of America
- Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
- Western Writers of America
- Writers Guild of America