Facts on How to Be a Magazine Editor

by Rudy Miller

If you have the vision of an artist and the common sense of a bookkeeper, you might have what it takes to become a magazine editor. It’s not easy to land this job. There are limited positions available, and it takes years of writing before you’ll even be considered for an editor position. Great editors employ impeccable language skills, build eye-catching layouts and work with people as well as they do with words.

Study Hard

You’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree to become a magazine editor, probably in communications, English or journalism, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Specialty publications, such as sports or automotive magazines, require expertise in those fields. A master’s degree gives you an advantage over other candidates of similar ability and experience. Columbia, Syracuse and Northwestern universities have reputable graduate programs in journalism. Your degree will help you enter the field, most likely as a freelancer or staff writer building experience to become an editor. "Modern Luxury," for example, will only consider candidates with seven years' experience for its job as group deputy editor for its magazines.

Write, Write Again

The best thing you can do to further your career as a magazine editor is to write often. You’ll need excellent writing skills to make it in the field, according to the website Becomeopedia. You will want to develop a portfolio of your best published clips to land your first writing job, so write for school publications, gain internships to help build your clip file and inquire about freelancing for publications where you might want to work full-time. The British website Prospects recommends writing your own blog if you have a hard time getting published otherwise.

Do It All

Editors need to be creative to come up with fresh story pitches to keep readers interested. They need to prioritize which story belongs on the cover and oversee the magazine layout, according to the British website Prospects. Not only must they assure copy is mistake-free, but they must work to bring out the potential in the writing staff. They also need to keep an eye out for qualified freelancers, edit and potentially reject their stories, and oversee the process by which freelancers are paid. The best editors balance the imagination of a writer with the practical skills of a manager.

Going Digital

The job market for editors is expected to remain stable from 2010 to 2020 according to the BLS, so you’ll have to hustle to secure one of a number of limited posts. The growth sector in this industry is online. Many magazines have online editions. "Newsweek" ended an 80-year print run and became a solely online magazine in 2013. You’ll need computer proficiency to succeed in this industry, and you might have an easier time breaking in if you are willing to see your finished product on a digital tablet rather than on paper.

Getting Paid

"Folio" magazine publishes industry salary surveys of editors at consumer-targeted magazines. According to "Folio," the average senior or managing editor at a magazine earned $58,700 per year in 2008 and $61,600 in 2012. Executive editors earned $67,100 in 2008 and $77,300 in 2012. The average magazine editor-in-chief earned $85,400 in 2008 and $89,100 in 2012. The BLS lists the average editor salary at $62,440 for 2012, although that figure includes book, newspaper and directory editors along with magazine editors.

About the Author

Rudy Miller has been writing professionally since 1996. Miller is a digital team leader for lehighvalleylive.com, a local news website and content provider to the Express-Times newspaper in Easton, Pa. Miller holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Miami.

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