Job Duties

Writers, also known as authors, create original works of fiction and nonfiction that are published in many different types of publications, including books, magazines, trade journals, online publications, company newsletters, radio and television broadcasts, motion pictures, and advertisements. Writers typically use personal computers, desktop or electronic publishing systems, scanners, and other electronic communications equipment. Some write material that is published directly on the Internet, through electronic newspapers and magazines and other types of electronic publications.

There are a number of different writing specializations. Writers who specialize in nonfiction need to gain credibility with their audiences by applying sound research and appropriate sources and citations. Poets, novelists, playwrights, lyricists, and screenwriters create original prose, poems, plays, and song lyrics that are either commissioned or written for hire. Newsletter writers create informational publications that are distributed to association members, corporate employees, organizational clients, or the public. Many writers work on a freelance basis, selling their services and work to various types of clients.

Job Skills

Writers should be creative, curious, and have knowledge in a wide array of subjects. They must have a passion for writing, and be able to express themselves clearly, concisely, and creatively. Writers 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, writers earned a median annual salary of $42,790. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $21,320, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $85,140.

Training and Education

Writing 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 writing, 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.

Writers just starting out in small firms may begin writing material immediately. However, these small organizations can be limited in opportunities for advancement, and they may not have the resources to hire writers full-time. For this reason, many writers freelance with small organizations on a project-by-project basis. 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, writers held about 139,000 jobs. More than half worked in the various sectors of the information industry.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of writers 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.

For more information on a career as a writer, please see our directory of schools offering Media Training