What are editor qualifications? (Plus types and guide)

Updated 25 April 2023

Organisations within the writing, media and communications industry require the services of editors to produce high-quality content. Before publishing manuscripts, editors may restructure, revise and refine the material in accordance with a set of requirements. Learning about an editor's role and exploring the qualifications and skills that are essential to succeed in this field may help you define your chosen area in this profession. In this article, we define an editor's role, discuss the different requirements for this job, explore useful qualifications and skills that may help you progress and provide information relating to three different editor roles.

What are editor qualifications?

Editor qualifications are the credentials, experience and knowledge a candidate typically requires for the role. They may have an academic background in the field. Some editors may also be professional writers with credible publications. Their qualifications may include the credentials they acquired while gaining work experience in editing.

What does an editor do?

Editors are specialists in the communications area. They usually have excellent writing abilities, in-depth knowledge of languages and the skills to assess the quality of manuscripts. Their main objective is to refine manuscripts before publication and ensure that the content appeals to the target audience. They may also review material to ensure that it's in accordance with their client's requirements. Editors generally revise content, evaluate the progress and make the necessary adjustments. Some editors may review the structure and organisation of documents and may also suggest changes. The following are some of the typical responsibilities of an editor:

  • checking a document for typographical, grammatical and punctuation issues

  • partnering with writers to create new topics and themes for content

  • ensuring that writers properly reference the external information they use in their manuscripts

  • ensuring that an article's tone is consistent with a publication's other articles

  • editing content for style consistency within a publication by using similar words or phrases

  • organising information to improve the clarity and flow of a text by, for example, inserting paragraphs and page breaks when necessary

  • approving a manuscript for publication

Related: 10 types of editor roles (with primary duties and salary)

Qualifications for an editor's role

Below are a few qualifications that may be necessary to become a successful editor:

Bachelor's degree in English or a related subject

For an editor's role, employers may seek candidates with credentials in a specific editing area. Certain degree programmes, such as a bachelor's degree in English, creative writing or communications, typically provide specialised training in writing and editing. Courses focusing on media, such as journalism, may also provide foundational training in the skills that editors may require.

Master's degree in creative writing or a related subject

You may acquire further education by undertaking a master's degree in creative writing, journalism or other editing-related fields. Candidates without the necessary qualifications may pursue postgraduate degrees in English or other subjects that include editing. Employers may show an interest in candidates with degrees in other subjects when they correspond with their specific field. For example, a health blog may recruit an editor with a master's degree in health and nutrition.

Professional certifications

Candidates may require additional professional credentials to specialise in certain areas of editing. These certifications may be in subjects such as marketing, electronic publishing or proofreading. Additional training may help editors grow their professional expertise and allow them to obtain senior editing roles. For example, candidates who want to specialise in technical editing may acquire a professional certification in information technology.

Editor skills

An editor's role mainly involves reviewing and improving written material. They usually have excellent language and writing skills. Editors typically require the ability to refine material to ensure it appeals to the target audience. Their role generally includes reviewing all content to ensure that it's error-free before giving their approval. Editors also require the ability to ensure that the content aligns with a publication's tone and scope. Developing these skills may help candidates obtain an editor's position:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills: Editors may interact with various experts daily using different mediums, such as email or the phone. Proper communication skills may ensure that an editor can accept suggestions from the team, deliberate on them and provide clear instructions.

  • Scheduling: Many editors collaborate with several authors simultaneously and usually have a huge workload. These experts typically use scheduling techniques to ensure the timely completion and delivery of projects.

  • Teamwork: In an organisation, an editor may be part of a larger editing team to ensure the production of optimal content. Candidates for editor roles may require the ability to undertake delegated tasks and complete them within the given deadlines.

  • Leadership: An editor may work with and be responsible for guiding other professional editors who may have varying degrees of expertise. Candidates for an editor's role require strong leadership skills to inspire and energise the rest of their team.

Related: What are writing and editing skills and why do they matter?

Additional skills

Due to the complexities of an editor's role, employers may prefer candidates with additional technical capabilities. These may include in-depth knowledge of computer systems, editing tools and word-processing applications. You can acquire or improve your skills by enrolling in courses. The certifications you may obtain typically confirm your proficiency. For example, if you possess website design and coding knowledge, you may easily handle any issues that arise when publishing information on a client's website. These skills may make you a more interesting candidate to employers.

Related: How to write an editor CV (with example and template)

How to become an editor

After acquiring the necessary qualifications, the steps below may help you increase your chances of becoming an editor:

1. Choose a speciality

You may want to become an editor because a specific area of journalism interests you, such as news or column journalism. Consider your knowledge, experience and skills when choosing your speciality. This typically ensures that you can satisfy your clients' requirements and that you can help them achieve their objectives for every publication. Other speciality areas may include legal, magazine, news, web and book editing.

2. Gain work experience

Before accepting an editing job, it may be useful to learn about the writing and publishing industry, as it may help you choose the right field for you. You could apply for an internship with a local newspaper or publishing house to get editing experience. You could also assist in research to gain further knowledge on topics that may interest you. Use the internet to find freelance editor roles. These may include contract work on a one-time basis. Create a portfolio highlighting your experience and expertise that you can present when applying for editor roles.

3. Acquire professional experience

After obtaining the necessary professional experience, you may begin your career as a junior-level or assistant editor. These roles typically allow you to learn about an editor's daily responsibilities. While working in either one of these positions, your task may be to check the accuracy of content, prepare manuscripts for review and develop marketing strategies. These activities may help you improve your analytical and organisational abilities and refine your attention to detail. Organisations that publish online content for internet marketing may have opportunities for junior-level editors to gain experience. They may also offer remote or hybrid-working opportunities.

4. Connect with other specialists

While in your current role, you may connect with other industry experts, such as journalists, creative directors and authors. They may give useful insight into current trends within the industry and provide you with ideas and context for some of your tasks. They may also provide you with recommendations or senior-level editor role opportunities to help you advance in your career. You may build relationships by soliciting their feedback or by engaging them in editing-related discussions.

Related: How to become an editor (plus frequently asked questions)

Types of editor positions

Below are a few editor positions that may be of interest to you:

1. Copy editor

National average salary: £25,088 per year

Primary duties: Copy editors typically check written content for errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling and for accuracy and clarity. They may restructure or reformat text to improve its readability and ensure that the content reflects the company's predetermined tone. They may also verify facts and design formats for advertisements in written publications.

Related: How to become a copy editor (with steps and tips)

2. Assistant editor

National average salary: £30,465 per year

Primary duties: An assistant editor typically helps an author during the revision process by editing and creating marketing strategies and planning how to advertise a product. They usually work for organisations such as newspapers or magazines or for online publication agencies and publishing houses. They may also create promotional items, such as postcards or flyers, and guide the authors on their business choices.

Related: Assistant editor job description (including skills)

3. Managing editor

National average salary: £40,923 per year

Primary duties: A managing editor may work for larger enterprises, such as television networks or magazines, and may have a supervisory role. They may oversee other editors, assign tasks, approve story proposals, manage deadlines and handle budgets. They may also teach writers and assist them in submitting their revised manuscripts.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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