How to Become an Editor – Ultimate Guide

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Do you love reading books, publications, magazines, or articles that help you stay informed or entertained? Then you might have a calling for an editing career.

I spent years as a freelance editor for various niches, and I can attest that it’s impossible to do overnight. You need to take some steps to get a job as an editor and even to become an editor without a degree. It’s possible, but it takes work. Here are my tips!

Becoming an Editor

Building an editor career path can take years, and you will need some level of expertise for it. Earning a degree in a related niche, taking on internships, freelancing editing and writing, establishing a daily writing routine, and taking additional courses can put you on the right career path.

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What Qualifications Do I Need to Become an Editor?

For freelance editing, most don’t bother with qualifications, just experience. But you need qualifications to learn how to become a professional editor and gain a house position.

Personally, I took a couple of online workshops and courses to test my skill level and determine what areas I needed to work on. 

Editors are usually journalism, communications, or English graduates. However, that is not always mandatory. Your passion for reading might be of higher value to some employees.

Internships for magazines, newspapers, and publishing houses can also work and may boost your application. Reading and writing skills are fundamental. However, you should also have interpersonal skills. Being an editor means you’ll be working with many authors and writers. You should be able to justify your edits professionally.

There is much room to grow as an editor based on your career goals. Look into certification programs, book editing internships, or join a community of editors to stay on top of online job offers.

How Long Does It Take to Become an Editor?

Usually between four and six years to become an editor. Those who want to earn graduate degrees must add another year or two to their time commitment to finish their studies.

You might, as an alternative, enhance your talents as an editor while expanding your professional portfolio. Gain job experience as you go and increase your odds of landing a job with higher-paying clients.

Do Editors Make Good Money?

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According to estimates provided by the BLS for 2020, the average annual compensation for book editor positions was $63,400. Those who earned less than $33,629 fell into the lowest 10 percent range. In comparison, professional and accomplished editors who earned around $126,800 fell into the top 10 percent area, indicating that there was quite a slight variation in salaries.

How Many Hours Do Editors Work?

Being an editor is usually a full-time job and requires working about 40 hours per week. However, this depends on the type of editing in question.

For example, if you are a freelance web editor that works on a gig-based schedule, you can put in as many hours as you want (as long you have good time management skills and discipline). If you are a book editor hired by a publishing house, you’ll likely have to work full eight-hour days, five days per week.

Are Editors in Demand?

From now to 2030, it is anticipated that the employment of editors will increase by 5 percent. This is slower than the average growth projection for all occupations. Despite the slow rise in employment, it is anticipated that there will be an average of 11,200 openings for editors per year during the next decade.

What Exactly Does an Editor Do?

Part of your editing job is ensuring text is error-free and on par with specific guidelines. They do so by revising, correcting, and formatting text for different purposes, such as website articles, book publishing, academic papers, newspapers, magazines, technical documentation, etc.

Types of Editing You Can Do

Academic Editing

In addition to enhancing the formatting and language of your work, academic editing is a professional and thorough service that helps enhance, streamline, and highlight arguments and ideas while reducing repeated material.

An academic paper editor is knowledgeable in their chosen area of research and possesses a high level of professional editing expertise. Their familiarity with the peculiarities of the academic world, a keen eye for detail, and excellent command of the English language will guarantee a good academic editing job.

Web Editing

This is where I started! I landed a freelance gig editing sales copy for Amazon product listings. It was tedious but simple and helped me get a feel for the job.

Web editors are in charge of content published on the internet. A web editor may work for a single company or a website marketing company that handles the content management for multiple websites simultaneously.

Either way, they are responsible for updating and maintaining the website’s content. The work you do as a web editor for a given business may seem very different from the next. Still, most of the duties you are responsible for will be similar.

Technical Editing

Reviewing technical papers such as user manuals, instructions, or reports, is an essential part of the editing process for technical documents.

Producing technical documentation for end users or industry specialists is common in many industries, including information technology, science, healthcare, and engineering. Technical editors collaborate with technical content writers to ensure that the final product is easy to understand and free of errors.

Legal Editing

When editing legal documents, the editor must have a keen eye for detail and double-check all dates and data to ensure they are correct. The legal editor will flag inaccuracies before publishing a document. They will either send the part back to the writer for corrections or rewrite the section themselves.

Legal editors are also responsible for making broad, overarching decisions regarding the most effective general themes, formatting points, and creative directions. There are also some legal editors whose responsibilities include administering the social media profiles of law firms.

Book Editing

I think book editors are superheroes, and it’s not a position that just anyone can do. You need to be a fast reader and absorb what you’re reading while scouting for errors. 

A book editor is your second pair of eyes when proofreading a manuscript. Every editor’s role is to help improve your book and transform it into a finished product of the highest quality.

However, there are numerous types of editors, each specializing in a particular aspect of books. Working for book publishers can be very rewarding. Also, see my roundup of the best software for book editing.

Types of Editors

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Before getting started as an editor, you must understand the different editor jobs available.

Line Editor

Line editing is treated as a distinct editing phase even if it is related to copyediting in a very close way. This type of editing is called “line editing” because experienced editors read through your text “line by line.”

They pay special attention to the word choice, the impact of your writing, and the polish you supply to guarantee that your work is precise.

Line editors will point out wording that sounds overused and offers ways to modify sentences that run too long. They emphasize clarity and will simplify your work to ensure that the intended idea is conveyed in a way that is not unnecessarily complicated.


The primary concerns of a copy editor are typically correcting grammar and word choice and improving the work as a whole. Engage copy editing services, for instance.

They will ensure that the active voice is used rather than the passive voice in your document and that it does not contain unnecessarily long or complex phrases.

Suppose you engage a copy editing service for academic editing. In that case, they will additionally evaluate your work to check that it adheres to the citation style correctly and that references are included in the document. A copy editor’s primary responsibility is to guarantee that a piece’s voice and style are consistent throughout and suitable for the intended readers.

Developmental Editor

The first stage of editing that a manuscript will typically go through is called developmental editing. Research and academic papers, books, and articles are all suitable subjects for the editing processes described here. The content of a document is examined in great detail during the developmental editing process.

A thorough editing process will consider the bigger picture and pose issues such as “does the paper or book make sense?”

Suppose you use a substantial editing service to do this form of editing. In that case, the editor will typically leave notes for you to consider and make recommendations for significant changes. The editor may choose to remove portions or make suggestions for the addition of further information.

Mechanical Editor

The responsibility of ensuring correct punctuation, grammar, spelling, and proper formatting falls on the shoulders of the mechanical editor.

If you are looking for academic editing, the stage of making sure that your paper corresponds entirely to the style guide that your paper is written in is the step that is referred to as mechanical editing.

Your paper will be carefully examined by mechanical editors who check for correct grammar, capitalization, and abbreviation across the entire document. It is not uncommon for copy editing services to also provide mechanical editing in addition to copy editing.

How to Get Into Editing

If you think anyone can be an editor, you’d simultaneously be right and wrong. Anyone with ambition and a love for reading and grammar can become an editor.

At the same time, editing is not for everyone because it takes a lot of patience, even with entry-level positions. These are helpful tips for those who want to take on editing.

Read a Lot

Every good editor reads a lot. Why? Because it helps develop vocabulary. You begin to have a way with words when you read a lot.

And here’s a very important tip: it’s perfectly okay to put away a book without finishing it if you don’t like it/it doesn’t interest you. As an editor, you might not have that luxury later on.

Write a Lot

Now that you’re reading a lot, it’s time to put what you’ve learned to practice by actually writing. There are plenty of tips to teach you how to be a better writer, and you can use your work to practice your editing and proofreading skills.

Earn Your Degree

Consider earning a degree in English if you want to gain the abilities necessary for book editing. Training in composing, revising, and publishing are all skills that may be gained from studying majors such as communications and journalism.

Suppose you are interested in editing books on specific subjects, such as biology and history. In that case, you may acquire your degree in that field, then minor in an area that focuses on writing. This would prepare you for editing books on those specific subjects.

Gain Experience

You must be wondering how to get editing experience if you’ve never worked as an editor.

Most educational institutions that offer programs in English or journalism make it possible for students to hone their editorial and publishing abilities by participating in literary journals, internships, or even a school paper.

By taking advantage of any opportunity, you can become more familiar with editorial work and strengthen your résumé.

Mainly, internships allow you to network within the publishing houses to which you might subsequently submit a job application. If you have already received your degree, you should investigate online literary magazines because they frequently hire editors to evaluate submissions.

Keep Your Skills Up-to-Date

The writing world is forever changing, and editors need to be in line with that. You must learn about new business trends, stay updated on all the software used in the industry, and learn about changes in Google algorithms and other similar aspects.

For example, if you want to be a web content editor, you should stay up-to-date with Search Engine Optimization changes and requirements.

Build and Maintain Your Network

You will need a network of peers to build an exciting and fruitful career in editing. They could be anything from your teachers to people who have worked in the business for a while.

You can build your network as an editor by joining book clubs, niches, and social platforms, entering writing contests or joining organizations such as EFA (Editorial Freelancers Association).

Hone Your Niche

Always go after what you’re passionate about, and push yourself to learn more about the things that interest you.

Writers and editors for specialized publications, such as technical journals, need specialized knowledge that is narrowly focused on the publication’s subject matter. Working for a publication can boost your credentials.

Editors who are subject matter experts on trending topics command greater pay because of the increased demand for their services.

Climb the Ladder

The steady progress and preparation you’ve been making for a career as an editor is also a climb that should be acknowledged and tracked.

Create a mental image of achieving success as a methodical ascent up the rungs of a ladder. Establish your objectives, work steadily towards accomplishing them, pause for introspection and celebration, and then go with your plans.

Bachelor’s Degree

These days, if you want to pursue a career as an editor, you need a bachelor’s degree, especially if you want to begin working for publishing organizations.

There are no degrees that are specific to editing. Still, many programs focus on writing that can provide you with an excellent foundation for entering the field. Most editors possess a bachelor’s degree, at least, in a field connected to their work if they aspire to work in legal editing.

A bachelor’s degree in a completely unrelated topic can prove helpful. Employers are primarily interested in learning about your work ethic and whether or not you can effectively manage large amounts of text.

Postgraduate Degree

In recent years, there’s been a rise in the number of postgraduate degrees that are particular to the publishing industry from which you can choose. There is a low probability that educational institutions will provide degree programs only devoted to editing. If you are facing difficulties with this, consider getting a master’s degree in creative writing and publishing.

Other Qualifications

In addition to obtaining all that college knowledge, you can still take many courses in writing and editing that offer certificates upon completion. Look for short-term editing programs or proofreading courses.

Apply to Small Freelance Gigs

When you’re on the path to becoming an editor, you can’t underestimate the power of freelancing. Even we writers started somewhere, and small freelance editor gigs are how most people in this field start their career.

If you cannot secure an internship or do not have the financial means to participate in one, you should hunt for short-term work on freelancing websites. Be aware that even if you have a great profile and do a lot of self-marketing, it’s likely you will have to take assignments that don’t truly interest you at first to get started.

Use the Internet to Your Advantage

Consider any sites where you could find these gigs. That includes job-search sites, Upwork, or even Fiverr. Tweeting about job openings and social gatherings is something that managing editors always do.

Set up blogs to showcase your writing and editing skills. Build your website to reveal your portfolio.

Wrap Up

Suppose you like staying informed, reading the works of upcoming authors, or being the first to read an exciting unpublished internet article. In that case, an editing job is perfect for you. It can easily take six years to build a career, but the financial outlook and the connections you make are worth it for those ready for this challenge.

Remember that being a good editor requires a lot of practice, especially reading and writing. Don’t underestimate the power of working on an online platform as you want to grow your network.