Publishing & Editing Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Class Info

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Master's and doctoral degrees in publishing and editing can lead to careers in the publishing field. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Publishing & Editing Master's and PhD Degrees at a Glance

Graduate programs in editing and publishing occasionally have their own program or department, and more often are part of an English department, offering degrees as well as certificates in these specialized areas.

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected an average job growth of 14% for the nation as a whole from 2010-2020, the job outlook for editors was anticipated to see little to no change for the same time period. Desktop publishers were expected to see a rapid decline in job prospects - at a rate of 15% from 2010-2020 - due to an increased availability of easy-to-use publishing software.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in entering or enhancing their careers in the publishing field People interested in studying the publishing field or performing academic research and postsecondary teaching
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Editor ($52,000)*
- Literary agent ($65,000)*
- Writer ($56,000)*
- University English professor ($61,000)*
Time to Completion 1-3 years, full-time 2-4 years after the master's
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 10-15 courses
- Master's thesis or publishing project
- Master's exams
- Possible internship
- Roughly 4-12 courses
- PhD qualifier exams
- Dissertation proposal
- Dissertation
- Possible teaching or internship requirement
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in English, editing or related field Bachelor's degree or Master's degree
Online Availability Yes None found at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's Degree in Publishing and Editing

For those looking to earn a graduate degree related to the business of publishing, professional degrees usually come at the master's level. Though these degrees are often part of English departments, offerings may also be available as a certificate separate from the degree program. A few programs offer degrees specifically in publishing, publishing and writing, editing or publishing studies.

Because of economic pressures on the field, the number of roles for editors is expected to change little or not at all in the years 2010-2020, according to the BLS. While some positions will be opening because of retirements and other normal employment changes, its growth will be well below that of the expected average for all industries.

Pros and Cons


  • These master's programs give specific training for the publishing and editing fields, shortening the amount of on-the-job training necessary.
  • The final projects available in some publishing and editing programs will allow students to develop their portfolios, strengthening their job prospects.
  • Programs offer in-house opportunities and internships that may assist students in developing contacts within the field and developing work experience.


  • These programs prepare students specifically for the publishing field, which will be experiencing below-average growth in the coming years.
  • Commonly, editors are expected to have a bachelor's degree for most positions. Master's degree programs may keep students away from entering the workforce for additional years before they compete for the same entry-level positions.
  • Many programs are associated with English departments, and may have requirements that are not directly applicable to editing and publishing careers.

Courses and Requirements

The coursework required for these master's degrees may have some overlap with writing degrees in some programs. Students will learn about the current methods and approaches of the publishing industry, as well as learning copyediting, design and production, acquisitions, marketing and ethics. Courses may cover such topics as:

  • Magazine production
  • Publishing finance
  • Marketing for publishing
  • Editorial practices
  • Publishing process from acquisitions to distribution
  • Editing and information technology
  • Copyright law

Online Degree and Course Info

Master's-level degree programs are available online. These programs may be offered through English departments, with a specific focus on publishing and career preparation. These programs may be partially or completely online, and may offer a Master of Arts, Master of Science, or Master of Professional Studies degree. Online programs may be a good fit for mid-career professionals, with asynchronous coursework and courses aimed specifically for career-development goals.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

A master's degree in publishing may provide the necessary skills to develop a career in the publishing industry. Additionally, it can provide a chance to interact with and get to know others in the industry, including students, professors and other professionals, whether through internships or other related activities. In programs that offer multiple tracks for different career paths, students may want to choose carefully, based on a number of factors, including projected industry changes, natural talents and possible mentors within the program.

Doctoral Degree in Publishing and Editing

Unlike a master's degree in publishing and editing, doctoral programs are more likely to have an academic focus, preparing students for careers in research and postsecondary teaching. Compared to the master's programs, these programs are reasonably rare, and in many cases they may also be associated with English departments. Also, these programs are more likely to focus on the theory of editing and research verification rather than the practical career skills found in some master's programs.

Pros and Cons


  • A doctorate is generally the degree required to teach at the postsecondary level.
  • A doctoral program that is part of a larger English department may provide postsecondary teaching opportunities outside of the publishing field as well.
  • Doctoral research is an opportunity to advance the entire field of publishing and editing through original research.


  • Earning a doctorate is always a significant commitment of time and energy.
  • Without careful planning, a doctoral program may draw attention away from other career-related efforts.
  • The publishing industry is undergoing rapid change and facing significant pressures, which may affect job opportunities available to you when you have finished the doctoral program.

Courses and Requirements

Required coursework for a PhD program is significantly different from that required for a master's. Additionally, master's-level courses, which would be in addition to PhD requirements, may be required for those who are coming from other fields or who otherwise are not considered to have proper preparation for the PhD program.

In addition to dissertation research, students may study such topics as:

  • Literary theory and practice in editing
  • Annotation theory
  • Forensic bibliography
  • Rhetoric

Online Program Info

At this time, there are no available online PhD programs in publishing and editing. The process of earning a PhD is shaped by the fact that it is an academic pre-professional program, rather than a degree program designed to produce highly trained editors. If no PhD programs focusing on publishing and editing are available near where you live, relocation may be the best option.

Stand Out with This Degree

In order to stand out with this degree, students should choose their research topics carefully, taking into account the contacts, relationships and resources of the department as well as their own career goals and opportunities, for both publication and contributions to the field. Some programs may have relationships with publishing companies, and mentors within the program may help shape research in ways that will prepare candidates to weather the long-term change of the industry.

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