Job Duties

Editors sometimes compose original work, but mostly they review, rewrite, and edit the work that has already been created by writers. Their responsibilities are different depending on the type of organization they work for and their position within that organization. They may plan the content of books, technical journals, trade magazines, and other general-interest publications. They may review drafts of work, edit writing, suggest improvements, and develop titles. They also may direct the production of publications. Editors in the book-publishing industry are responsible for reviewing book proposals and deciding if they want to purchase the publications rights from the author.

There are many different types of editors in the magazine and newspaper industry. Assistant editors are responsible for specific subjects, including local news, international news, feature stories, and sports, among others. Executive editors manage assistant editors and usually have authority regarding the final editing decisions. Managing editors make sure the daily operations of the news department run smoothly. Assignment editors divide assignments between reporters. Copy editors review and edit the work of reporters, checking for accuracy, content, grammar, and style. In smaller organizations, a single editor may perform all of these various functions.

Job Skills

Editors should be creative, curious, and have knowledge in a wide array of subjects. They must have a passion for writing and editing, and be able to express themselves clearly, concisely, and creatively. Editors need to have a good sense of ethics and judgment, as they often have to make important decisions regarding the material they publish. Self-motivation and perseverance are also important qualities.


In 2002, editors earned a median annual salary of $41,170. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $24,010, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $76,620.

Training and Education

Editing positions usually require a college degree, typically in communications, journalism, or English, although some employers prefer a broad liberal arts background. For specialized fields, such as fashion, business, or legal editing, applicants should have specific knowledge of the subject. Valuable experience can be gained at high school and college newspapers, literary magazines, community newspapers, and radio and television stations. Internships at magazines, newspapers, and broadcast stations can also be very advantageous. Interns usually write short pieces, conduct research and interviews, and learn about the business.

Editors just starting out in small firms may begin editing material immediately. However, these small organizations can be limited in opportunities for advancement, and they may not have the resources to hire editors full-time. Larger firms usually have a more formal structure. Newly hired employees have designated responsibilities, including researching, fact checking, or copy editing. Promotion to full-scale assignments and more important material sometimes comes slowly.


In 2002, editors held about 130,000 jobs. More than half worked in the various sectors of the information industry.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of editors is expected to increase about as fast as the average due to the increasing demand for these employees from newspapers, periodicals, book publishers, and nonprofit organizations. Opportunities will be best for those with training in a specialized field.

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