Publisher Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
The salary for careers in the publishing industry can vary depending on the job specialty, but most positions have a base salary ranging from about $40,000-$49,000. Is this worth the education and training requirements? Read real job postings and learn the truth about the career outlook for various publishing positions to decide if working in this field is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Publisher Career

If you're seeking a career in publishing, you may be responsible for the creative elements, marketing efforts or client relation aspects of developing a publication. Here is a list of pros and cons that can help you determine whether or not a publisher career is suitable for you:

Pros of a Publisher Career
Wide array of opportunities in various departments in the publishing realm*
Online media likely to create more job demand*
Can work on various types of publications (books, journals, magazines, newspapers, etc.)*
Good earning potential for most positions (highest-paid senior publishers earned more than $204K in 2015)***

Cons of a Publisher Career
Job can be demanding and stressful*
Usually required to meet tight deadlines*
May need to work long hours to meet publication goals*
Minimal job growth and employment decline for some positions (such as art directors, editors and desktop publishers)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Job postings from November and December 2012, ***PayScale.com

Career Info

Publisher careers can include positions like associate and senior publisher, chief editor, art director or desktop publisher. A senior publisher can be the owner and operator of a publishing company or someone hired to oversee the publication efforts on behalf of the owner. In this position, you would be responsible for overseeing all publication activities, which may involve determining the budget, allocating funds, selecting target markets and managing the editing, marketing and sales process. As an associate publisher, your duties may involve managing advertising sales activities, coordinating promotional events and supervising regional sales staff and managers.

Chief editors typically consult with publishers to develop the editorial vision for publications. These professionals are usually responsible for supervising editorial and production staff members, setting deadlines and deciding what content to publish.

As a desktop publisher, you would use computer software to create graphic texts and images, design page layouts and edit graphics for online or print publications. Those who are responsible for overseeing page layouts and deciding what graphics or artwork to use are called art directors. Some other duties you may have as an art director include determining the overall visual style for publications, developing timelines for creative departments and meeting with clients to get approval for designs.

Job Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected little or no change in employment for art directors (3%) in the publishing industry from 2012-2022. During this time, desktop publishers and editors were expected to have a 5% and 2% decline in employment, respectively. According to PayScale.com, the salary range for senior publishers was about $57,000-$204,000 and approximately $41,000-$144,000 for associate publishers, as of July 2015. The BLS reports that editors earned a median salary of about $55,000 as of May 2014, while art directors made a median of roughly $86,000 per year. Desktop publishers earned a median salary of about $38,000 during the same period.

What Are the Education Requirements?

According to the BLS and some job postings, a bachelor's degree is usually the minimum education required for positions in the publishing industry. Some common majors include communication, journalism, fine arts and graphic arts. To work in this field, you typically need to have strong creative, computer, time management and writing skills. For senior-level or managerial positions, such as those of art directors, associate publishers and chief editors, you usually need 3-5 years of relevant work experience. If your job involves using graphic images to create publishing materials, you generally need experience with design and editing software. One of the most common software programs used in this field is Adobe Creative Suite, which includes Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Many job postings revealed that maintaining relationships with clients and creating marketing plans are common practices among publishing professionals. Job postings also showed that employers are looking for candidates with skills in interactive media and online publishing. The job postings below can give you some insight into what employers looked for during November and December 2012:

  • A major science and health information company in Philadelphia, PA, wants to hire a publisher for its journal publication. Job duties include managing day-to-day publishing operations, negotiating contracts with editors and maintaining relationships with stakeholders. The candidate must have experience in medical or scientific publishing, a bachelor's or master's degree and knowledge of financial planning and analysis.
  • A book publishing company in New York City wants to hire an associate publisher to oversee the logistics for three publications. The candidate will serve as the primary contact for the sales department, communicate with authors and agents, coordinate marketing plans and approve catalogs.
  • A publishing company in Nashville, TN, is looking for an editor-in-chief with a bachelor's degree and at least five years of experience. Job duties include developing the vision for print and online publications, working with other departments to create marketing plans and establishing syndication for publications.
  • A San Diego, CA, insurance company is seeking a desktop publisher to create layouts and templates, edit and format materials and prepare documents for delivery. The candidate must have at least three years of related work experience, Adobe Creative Suite skills and a bachelor's degree in communications, English or a related discipline. The employer is offering $17,000-$18,000 annually.
  • A Washington, DC, media company is looking for an art director to maintain relationships with clients, develop new business and maintain a cohesive visual design for publications. The candidate must have experience in interactive, mobile and Web design, Adobe Creative Suite, HTML and CSS programming. The employer is offering an annual salary of $70,000-$90,000.

How to Stand Out

You can gain a competitive advantage in this career field by earning a master's degree related to your specialty. Programs you may consider include a Master of Science in Publishing with a concentration in digital and print media, a Master of Arts in Writing and Publishing or a Master of Visual Communication Design. You may also consider completing a graduate certificate program in one of these areas to improve your job prospects.

Joining a professional association may help you stand out as well. Organizations such as the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the American Society of Magazine Editors offer benefits that can help you stay up-to-date on the publishing industry. Some of the benefits you may receive include access to industry reports, webinars and networking events.

Alternate Career Paths

Graphic Designer

For a career that also involves creating visual designs that can be used for publications, consider becoming a graphic designer. In this position, you may work with art directors to create design concepts using hand sketches or computer graphics. You select colors, images and texts to convey the desired message and recommend design strategies to clients. To become a graphic designer, you usually need to complete a bachelor's program in graphic design or a related field. According to the BLS, the number of employed graphic designers was expected to increase 13% from 2010-2020. The BLS reported that graphic designers earned a median salary of about $44,000 as of May 2011.

Writer

If you enjoy using words to express thoughts, educate readers or entertain audiences, then consider becoming a writer. You can specialize in writing ad copy, scripts, books or newspaper articles. With enough experience, some writers eventually become editors. The BLS found that salaried writers usually need a bachelor's degree in order to work in the field. As of May 2011, writers earned a median salary of approximately $56,000. In the 2010-2020 decade, these professionals were expected to see slower-than-average employment growth of six percent.

Popular Schools

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    1. Johns Hopkins University

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Featured Schools

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts 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

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Grand Canyon University

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

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Full Sail University

  • Master of Fine Arts - Creative Writing
  • M.S. - New Media Journalism
  • BS - Media Communications (Campus)
  • BS - Sportscasting (Campus)

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Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Communication

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Colorado Christian University

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

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Penn Foster

  • Career Diploma - Freelance Writer

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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

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