Technical Copy Editor Careers: Salary & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career in technical copyediting? Get real job descriptions and salary information to see if becoming a technical copy editor is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Technical Copy Editor

Technical copy editors prepare scientific and technical information for publication. Read these pros and cons to see if this well-paying but demanding work is right for you.

Pros of a Career in Copyediting
Telecommunication offers great flexibility for some editors*
Favorable opportunities for technologically proficient, digitally literate editors*
Meaningful work: prevent inaccurate information from reaching the public*
Advances in technology make for flexible working arrangements*

Cons of a Career as a Copy Editor
High pressure production schedules*
Production deadlines can mean long hours*
Juggling multiple projects simultaneously can cause chronic fatigue and stress*
Negative job growth (-5% for all editors in the years 2014-2024 as of May 2014)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Duties

Technical copy editors prepare scientific and technical materials for publication in print or on the Web. These can include computer program, engineering and technical documents,; product reports; manuals; articles; and training materials for consumers and specialized professionals. Technical editors are usually employed by computer software, engineering, financial, medical or manufacturing companies. In addition to checking for errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation, technical copy editors prevent inaccurate information from reaching the public by verifying dates, facts and statistics against standard reference sources.

As information architects, technical editors organize material according to importance, length and tone. They can also participate in the design and production process, especially for those resources that are published on the Web. Technical editors can be employed on either a staff or a freelance basis, handling multiple projects and working according to a production schedule.

Career Prospects and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for editors are expected to decline by a rate of 5 percent from 2014 to 2024. Editors who are proficient in the use of electronic and digital tools and online media will enjoy the most opportunities. In 2014, the BLS reported that the median wage for editors, including technical editors, was $54,890. Insurance brokerages, securities brokerage, and software publishers are three of the top-paying industries for editors, indicating strong wages for technical copy editors specifically.

Education and Training Requirements

Most editors usually begin their careers as writers, and the minimum requirement necessary for entering the writing and editorial field is a bachelor's degree. Some schools offer undergraduate degrees in technical writing and communication. Coursework can include studies in calculus, statistics, computer science and Web design. Certificate programs that focus solely on technical writing and editing are also available. Technical copy editors must be digitally literate and comfortable working with computers and other communication equipment. Along with the mental and physical stamina needed to work in this fast-paced and demanding environment, technical copy editors should have:

  • A strong command of the English language
  • Experience with desktop publishing and graphic design software
  • The ability to think critically and make sound editorial judgments
  • Excellent time-management skills
  • The ability to lead and work as a member of a team

Job Postings From Real Employers

Most employers prefer candidates with an undergraduate degree in English or technical communications as well as a few years of experience in the field. Projects and assignments can vary, from a company newsletter to a 500-page textbook! The following examples will give you an idea of what kinds of projects you might be asked to do and the educational and professional background you will need to get the job done.

  • An engineering laboratory in Washington is advertising for a technical editor with a bachelor's degree in English, technical communication or a related area, or equivalent work history and 3-5 years experience in the field. The candidate will be responsible for writing product reliability reports and an electronic newsletter and collaborating with technical writers and others to produce written materials.
  • A national security and technology agency in Virginia is looking for a technical editor to organize and edit a variety of technical documents, including engineering, technology, policy, strategic planning and training resources. In addition to excellent analytical abilities and attention to detail, candidates should have a bachelor's degree in English or communications, be proficient in Microsoft Office and have a minimum of 2-4 years experience as a technical writer.
  • A corporation in Texas is seeking a candidate to edit a wide variety of publications, including articles, books, course materials, help files, manuals, website content and advertising materials. Candidates will need to have a bachelor's degree in English or technical writing and communications, two years experience, a familiarity with mathematical symbols and the ability to edit a textbook.

How to Remain Competitive

The growing number of online publications and services are driving the need for editors with multimedia and Web-based experience. To avoid becoming a technological dinosaur in a highly competitive field, technical copy editors must adapt to working with increasingly complex information and information software. One way they can do this is by pursuing a master's degree in technical communications.

Graduate level programs in technical communications are available on-site and online at a number of colleges and universities. Through traditional class work and distance learning, students can earn a Master of Science in Technical Communication (M.S.), a M.S. in Scientific and Technical Communication or a M.S. in Technical Communication and Information Design. Advanced coursework in communication theory, technical documentation and Web design can provide a structured way for busy professionals to take their skills to the next level. Individual programs can be especially useful for those who are interested in transitioning into management.

Other Career Paths

Technical Project Manager

Technical editors with strong computer, organizational and leadership skills might want to consider a career as an information technology (IT) or technical project manager. Technical project managers work with project teams, clients, vendors and consultants to develop the requirements, budgets and schedules for information technology products. A bachelor's degree in computer science, information science or management information systems is the minimum requirement for obtaining a position in the field, although some employers prefer candidates with a master's degree. The median salary for a level-one technical project manager in 2012 was $74,000, according to

Web and Web Content Editors

Web and content editors work with writers, designers and other information professionals to organize, write, edit and produce interactive content for the Internet. This can include articles, blogs, newsletters and other e-mail communications. A bachelor's degree in communications, journalism or related major is generally required to enter the field. In addition, web editors must understand and have experience with Web-based content management systems, desktop publishing programs, graphic design software, basic HTML and social media. In 2012, reported that the median salary for web editors was $59,000.

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