Assistant editor job description (including skills)

Updated 9 July 2022

Many successful publishing professionals start their careers as assistant editors. This challenging, fascinating and fast-paced job can be a great way to learn the skills required to become an editor or work in media. If you're interested in publishing as a career, it helps to learn as much as you can about the wide variety of skills used in editing, such as communication and time management. In this article, we provide an assistant editor job description, including the skills and qualifications they require and detail how to become an assistant editor in 12 steps.

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What are companies looking for when posting assistant editor job descriptions?

When posting assistant editor job descriptions, most companies look for creative, detail-orientated and diligent candidates who are passionate about publishing. They possess a number of important skills useful in every aspect of the editorial process. An assistant editor is a vital part of the publishing team, supporting the editor, creating content and proofreading and editing work from a variety of authors. Many assistant editors are the point of contact for authors, writers and journalists the company has commissioned. In general, the job offers you the chance to be part of a dynamic team and further opportunities for career progression.

What does an assistant editor do?

Assistant editors have a range of responsibilities, including commissioning articles, pitching new ideas and writing for their publication. Assistant editors are also expert proofreaders who can pay attention to detail and spot tiny mistakes. They have a central role throughout the entire publication process, from thinking up new concepts to proofreading before publication deadlines. They're also responsible for finding supporting material for articles, like illustrations, plus checking any facts are correct and referenced. Assistant editors are responsible for making sure work meets brand guidelines and suits the style of the publication.

Assistant editors also have a range of administrative duties, supporting the editor-in-chief and liaising with other team members. They also oversee deadlines to complete work on time. Assistant editors can sometimes be responsible for social media activity and content. As a result, they may also generate interest and publicity in upcoming articles or books.

Related: Assistant editor cover letter: tips and examples

What skills does an assistant editor have?

Although assistant editors can have many different responsibilities depending on their level of experience and the nature of their employer, there are some skills that are common to all editing positions. Most importantly, assistant editors require the ability to multitask so they can relay information between authors and editors, both verbally and in writing. If you're interested in working as an assistant editor, try to consider the following skills and how you might develop them:

  • language proficiency

  • the ability to proofread and detect small mistakes

  • attention to detail

  • industry knowledge, allowing you to stay informed of current trends

  • SEO & social media knowledge

  • organisational skills

  • creative skills

  • research skills

  • knowledge of how to fact-check and reference information

Do you need a degree to become an assistant editor?

Most assistant editors have a degree in a subject such as journalism, media studies or English, but there are also opportunities to obtain this position without a degree. An editorial assistant is usually an entry-level position, so applicants technically only require adequate GCSEs, but any other relevant qualifications and experiences may help you secure the job. Most publishing companies look for assistant editors with prior experience of working in a media organisation so that they can demonstrate an understanding of the publication process.

If you do opt to study for a degree, you may have the opportunity to gain valuable work experience as part of your course. Search prospectuses and course programmes to see if your desired degree contains this sort of professional-based element. Degree programmes are also a good opportunity to develop your writing skills and get regular feedback on your writing.

How to become an assistant editor

If you're interested in becoming an assistant editor, consider these 12 steps:

1. Practise proof-reading

One of the main parts of an assistant editor's job is checking other writers' work for accuracy. You can practise checking for correct grammar, punctuation and style with your own work and other content you read. It's also a good idea to take notes and make suggestions, which is an important part of an assistant editor's job.

2. Develop your written communication skills

Editorial assistants are strong communicators who are confident writing in a range of different styles. Developing your written communication skills is crucial for this role, so try writing in different styles for different audiences. This could include online book reviews, writing emails or publishing your own blog.

Related: 9 writing techniques to fit any task

3. Become familiar with editing software and content management systems

In a world where publishing is becoming more digital than ever before, being able to use a range of different editing tools can be a great advantage. Most of these tools are readily available on the Internet, with free tutorials and guides to mastering them. It's important for potential assistant editors to be proficient with a number of publishing tools as different companies may use different ones.

4. Study a related subject

Many candidates who want to go into publishing take an undergraduate degree in English, creative writing, journalism or media studies, but there isn't a set degree requirement in many assistant editor job descriptions. Studying a subject like this gives you a broad knowledge base. It could also lead to potential graduate opportunities and work placements.

5. Build a portfolio

As an assistant editor, an important part of your job is creating content for the company. This can range from writing emails to authors or articles for the company blog. Take any opportunities you can to get your work published online and build up a portfolio of written content. You could create an online portfolio with links or produce a paper version, depending on the preferences of the hiring company. It's also a good idea to try and get your work published in well-known and respected publications.

6. Read as much as possible

Assistant editors read a variety of different sources, both for research and to check for accuracy. Developing your reading and critical thinking skills can allow you to offer more insights to a potential editor. Familiarise yourself with as many writing styles and conventions as possible to know what works for different genres.

7. Grow your network

In the publishing and media industries, contacts are incredibly valuable. Try to grow your professional network online and in-person through networking events or publishing seminars. You may be responsible for commissioning work from different authors or journalists, so building strong relationships across the industry is important.

Related: Useful networking questions to ask at an event

8. Look for learning opportunities

There may also be opportunities to complete an apprenticeship or training programme to become an assistant editor. These programmes are usually taught by professionals with extensive industry experience and can be great learning opportunities. Other courses, such as journalism programmes, typing courses, social media studies and online marketing training, can also be useful.

9. Find a mentor

If you're passionate about the publishing industry and looking for advice, finding a mentor can be a great way to build your skills. Your mentor can signpost you to any potential opportunities and provide feedback about your work. There are several mentorship programmes you may apply for, or you could contact a publishing professional directly to ask if they might consider mentoring you.

10. Say yes to work opportunities

When hiring an assistant editor, most recruiters look for experience in a media or publishing role, whether voluntary or paid. Potential editorial assistants could volunteer their time for a charitable organisation or cause they're passionate about. It's also a good idea to say yes to new opportunities where you can practise your editorial skills, meet new contacts and gain important references.

11. Work on project management skills

Project management is an essential skill for editorial assistants. They're responsible for the successful organisation of various projects, all occurring at the same time. Therefore, learning to manage deadlines, prioritise tasks and focus on key project elements are vital skills. This means it's crucial that candidates can demonstrate interpersonal skills, time management and organisation.

Related: Project management skills and how to improve them

12. Join a professional association

Several publishing organisations offer training opportunities, networking events and professional certifications, which can greatly benefit potential assistant editors. These organisations include The Publishers Association, Professional Publishers Association and the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading. Try to research what each institution offers in advance to ensure you get the most out of your membership.

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Assistant editor job prospects

Assistant editors may also find work as editorial assistants or publishing assistants. There are opportunities for assistant editors in many large publications, in addition to smaller organisations and online content publishers. There are increasing opportunities for assistant editors to work remotely. Many have a hybrid role where they alternate between working from home and in an office. Being an assistant editor allows you to begin a career in journalism, publishing or working in the media, with opportunities to move up quickly to an editorial position.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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