Becoming a Magazine Editor: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a magazine editing career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a magazine editor is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Magazine Editor

Magazine editors work for publishing companies that print or distribute magazines. They assign, select and format articles to prepare for publication. Learn more about the pros and cons of the job so you can make an informed career decision.

Pros of a Magazine Editing Career
A bachelor's degree is sufficient for most positions*
Relatively high median salary ($55,000 annually as of May 2014 for all editors)*
Allows you to show your creativity in article selections and magazine layouts*
Leadership position that can give you management experience*
More editing job opportunities are expected at online publications*

Cons of a Magazine Editing Career
Decline in employment (-2% growth between 2012 and 2022 for all editors)*
Might require relocation to a major city*
Competition is keen*
Long work hours, especially before magazine deadlines*
Requires extreme focus and attention to detail while proofreading and fact checking articles*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Outlook

Magazine editors perform many of the same job functions as newspaper and book editors, but the content they help produce differs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a magazine editor's responsibilities include assigning articles to staff writers and reviewing submissions from freelance writers to determine which fit the magazine's needs and would interest readers the most. You may also need to suggest article headlines and captions for photographs. The BLS projected that employment of editors should experience no growth, with a 2% decline between 2012 and 2022.

At a small publication, one editor may handle all of the magazine's management responsibilities, but large publications often have an editor-in-chief, assistant editors, department editors and copy editors, all of whom hold different responsibilities. These varied responsibilities include fact checking articles and correcting them for grammar, spelling, punctuation and style. You may also assign articles to reporters, work with your writers on article revisions and negotiate contracts with freelance writers.

Salary Info

According to the BLS, editors made a median salary of about $55,000 as of May 2014, but that includes salary information for all types of editors. As of 2014, Folio Magazine conducted a survey on the average salaries for magazine editors based on their job titles, responsibilities, the type of magazine they worked for, the size of the company and its location. For instance, the average salary for an editorial director or editor-in-chief working at a consumer magazine was about $92,000 in 2014. Managing and senior editors made considerably less, taking in an average wage of about $73,000 at consumer magazines in 2013.

Education and Training Requirements

A magazine editor is responsible for communicating ideas to readers in a fresh and unique way. According to the BLS, most publications require that magazine editors have a bachelor's degree in communication, journalism or English. During these programs, you'll develop your writing skills and can even take editing-related courses on topics like news writing, magazine design and mass media. If you're interested in working for a specific type of magazine, such as a fashion or travel publication, you should gain experience in that area as well. Upon completion of a degree program, you should be able to:

  • Eloquently express complex and original ideas
  • Report on the news
  • Correct grammar, spelling and punctuation
  • Communicate effectively
  • Conduct extensive research

What Employers Are Looking for

Most employers want an editor who has experience in writing, editing and managing individuals. They want to see proof that you can follow the particular style and tone of the magazine in order to help create a publication that their readers remain interested in. Many employers might expect you to travel. The following job postings for magazine editors can give you an idea of the skills and training that employers looked for as of April 2012:

  • A fishing magazine in Minnesota was interested in hiring a managing editor to assign freelance work, proofread and fact check articles, create an editorial schedule, manage projects and help with magazine layout. The employer preferred someone who had a 4-year degree and five years of combined writing and editing experience. Applicants should also be familiar with sportfishing and agree to travel occasionally for work.
  • A business magazine in Alabama advertised for a magazine editor with experience in writing, editing and publishing Web content. The employer requested someone with a college degree in communications or a related field.
  • A sports car magazine in Florida was in need of a magazine associate editor who had a degree in English, communication or journalism, along with photography skills and a passion for sports cars.
  • An international publishing company wanted to hire a Web editor based in the U.S. to update the online content of one of their publications. The ad mentioned that the editor must write and edit copy, meet regular deadlines and publish blog posts.
  • A news magazine in Kansas posted an ad for a magazine editor who holds a bachelor's degree to edit material, recruit writers and work on multiple projects. Applicants should have good management skills and an interest in the environment.

How to Beat the Competition

According to the BLS, most editors start out as writers, and you can gain this experience by writing for school newspapers as early as high school. During college, you can also take classes specifically related to editing, magazine writing and photography.

Internship Opportunities

You might consider completing an internship, many of which are available through the American Society of Magazine Editors' internship program. Internships at a popular national magazine can be quite competitive, so you may want to also apply to small, local magazines near your home. These internships can give you writing credits and bylines, which can make it easier to get future writing and editing jobs.

Develop Related Skills

As you can see from the job postings, more publications are developing online components and using the Internet to draw in new readers. The ability to use social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, and operate a website can also help you stand out. Other useful skills include being able to:

  • Research and fact find
  • Interview people
  • Manage others in a team environment
  • Multitask to complete publications by deadlines

Other Careers to Consider

Writer

If becoming a magazine editor seems like too much pressure, but you're interested in a similar position, you might consider becoming a writer. You could write for magazines, newspapers or blogs. You might also become a technical writer, which involves producing instruction manuals and other technical documents. Although the employment of writers was expected to only increase 6% between 2010 and 2020, technical writing positions were expected to increase 17%, according to the BLS. Technical writers earned a median salary of almost $65,000 as of May 2011, and other writers earned approximately $56,000 per year. The position requires less managerial experience, but you should still be creative and motivated; a bachelor's degree is required as well.

Public Relations Manager

Maybe you wish to use your writing skills in a career but don't necessarily want to work for a magazine. A public relations manager works to promote a positive public image for his or her clients. They can represent individuals or companies and are responsible for writing articles and giving speeches. The BLS projected that employment of public relations managers would increase 21% between 2010 and 2020, which was much greater than average. These professionals earned a median salary of about $93,000 as of May 2011. To pursue this position, you usually must have a bachelor's degree, preferably in journalism or communications.

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Featured Schools

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts in Communication

What is your highest level of education?

American University

  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Communication
  • Master of Arts in Communication - Political Communication
  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Advertising and Public Relations

What is your highest level of education completed?

Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma: Freelance Writer

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Christian University

  • Communication Studies, B.A.
  • Communication Studies, A.A.

What is your highest level of education completed?

Queens University of Charlotte

  • Master of Arts in Communication - General
  • Master of Arts in Communication - Integrated Digital Strategy Concentration
  • Master of Arts in Communication - Undecided

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education

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