Writer and Editor

Job Descriptions

Man typing on laptop.
••• J Shepherd/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Writers and editors are responsible for producing the content we read in newspapers, books, magazines, and online, as well as what we hear when we watch a movie, television show, radio program, podcast, and commercial. Some people who work in this field even put together the documentation that comes with the products we buy.

Writers and authors create content for print and online media, television, movies, and radio. Technical writers specialize in producing materials such as instruction manuals and documentation for computers, hardware, household appliances, consumer electronics, and cars. Editors evaluate and select content for publication in print media and online. They also assign topics to writers.

Quick Facts

  • Writers and authors earn a median annual salary of $61,820; technical writers earn $70,930 per year; editors' make $58,770 annually (2017).
  • 131,200 people are employed as writers and authors, 52,400 as technical writers, and 127,400 as editors (2016).
  • Some writers and editors work in offices while others work remotely from their homes or other locations like coffee shops and libraries.
  • The job outlook, a prediction of employment growth by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is expected to be excellent for technical writers, good for writers and authors, and mediocre for editors between 2016 and 2026. Editors will see little or no change. Employment of writers and authors will grow as fast as the average for all occupations. Technical writers will fare best with job growth that the BLS predicts will be faster than the average.

    A Day in a Writer's or Editor's Life

    A writer may spend their time:

    • creating original works such as prose, poetry, song lyrics, or plays
    • proposing topics about which to write or receiving assignments
    • gathering information about the topic
    • selecting and organizing the material he or she has gathered
    • using the written word to express ideas and convey information;
    • revising or rewriting articles or scripts
    • preparing advertising copy
    • selling one's work to publishers, advertising agencies, public relations firms, and publication enterprises

    An editor's job can include:

    • reviewing, rewriting, and editing the work of writers
    • planning the content of books, journals, and magazines
    • deciding what material will appeal to readers
    • reviewing and correcting drafts of books and articles
    • offering comments to improve the work
    • suggesting possible titles
    • overseeing the production of publications
    • reviewing book proposals and deciding whether to buy the publication rights

    How to Become a Writer or Editor

    If you want to become a writer or editor, it is essential that you can express yourself well in writing. You must be creative in order to come up with ideas for material. Self-motivation, curiosity, and excellent judgment are also necessary. Editors need the ability to guide others.

    Although a college degree isn't technically required, many employers prefer to hire writers and editors who have one. Many prefer job candidates who have majored in communications, English, or journalism. Sometimes a liberal arts degree will suffice.

    Writers and editors who specialize in a particular subject may need a degree in that area of study. This is particularly true for technical writers. Unpaid experience, such as that gained through internships and writing for school newspapers, is invaluable.

    Entry-level writers and editors usually start off doing research, fact-checking, and copy editing. Those who work for smaller employers may have the opportunity to begin writing and editing earlier in their careers.

    Is This Career a Good Fit?

    When you spend every day doing something, it better be a good match for your interests, personality type, and work-related values. If it is not, the chances of being satisfied with your career are slim. These are the traits writers and authors, technical writers, and editors need:

    Writers and Authors:

    Technical Writers

    Editors:

    Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,  O*NET Online (visited August 8, 2018).