How to Become an Editor

If you want to become an editor, you’ll find that the first thing you’ll need to decide is what sort of editor you want to be, and editing what sort of material.

There are many different types of editorial role:

  • News editor
  • Copy editor
  • Web content editor
  • Book editor

That’s just a few. There are some jobs which have editorial functions, but aren’t even called editorial jobs.

To become an editor, there’s a learning curve, as well as education and training. This role requires experience and knowing how to handle the situations which these types of editing involve. It’s a problem solving job in many ways, and it’s also a form of quality control.

Education and Training

Editors typically have a range of qualifications:

  • Degree in journalism or literature
  • Proven competence in publishing and communications
  • News media or agency experience
  • Research skills

In training, editors are usually given a range of fundamental roles, building the range of practical experience required. In news media, for example, a new trainee editor will conduct fact checking on articles, edit drafts, and carry out research.

These are very basic roles, and in the actual editing work, there are more skills requirements which are far more demanding:

  • Subject expertise: The editor is usually a specialist in the field of publication in many forms of publishing, like online content, magazines, professional publications, etc. The expertise is essential, because of the nature of the content. It’s also extremely important when dealing with writers who are themselves experts, to ensure good communication.
  • Writing skills: Most editors are in fact writers. Editors often redraft materials directly, not because they want to, but because they must. Deadlines may not allow for return to the writer, so an in-house rewrite is the working option.
  • People skills: Editors are also reviewers, trainers, mentors, counselors, and in some cases critics. They must be able to function in all these roles, and employers usually demand to see evidence of experience working with journalists and writers. Publishers build a stable of commercial writers, and need editors who can work with them productively.
  • Judgment: Editors have to make the right calls in the commercial field. They decide what’s published. They control the practical aspects of publishing, and decide what, how, and why the publication content is created, formatted and sold. This is a critical commercial role, and it’s the main issue in editorial job responsibilities.

Tips for Becoming an Editor

This is a career path which can be fascinating, but there’s some hard work involved, too. To get the best out of your editorial career, there are a few fundamental options which will simplify and enhance your training and development:

  • Choose an area of editing which includes your favorite subjects.
  • Do not allow yourself to get bogged down in dead end, repetitive, learn-nothing roles.
  • When looking for jobs, writing quality is a sure sign of the publisher’s quality.
  • Big name publishers are always useful as career experience, and can give you excellent credentials in the industry.
  • Stay focused on your own goals in the editorial role.
  • Don’t get lost in the verbal and procedural minutiae, it's stressful. Remember you're an editor, not an accountant.