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Copy Editor

Copy editors check text before it's published in books, journals and websites.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: Variable average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37 per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set requirements, but many employers prefer you to have a degree. Most subjects are accepted, but a degree in publishing, media or a related subject may give you an advantage. To work in a specialist area, like engineering, you'll need a related degree.

It may help if you have paid or unpaid experience in the publishing industry, gained from:

  • job shadowing
  • editing and proofreading student magazines and websites
  • admin work in a publishing company
  • working as an editorial assistant

You could also:

Some publishing houses run graduate training schemes and internships. The Pearson Internship Programme (PIP UK) is a 3-month paid placement scheme for recent graduates from a BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) background and for graduates with disabilities.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • excellent levels of concentration, accuracy and attention to detail
  • the ability to work under pressure and to tight deadlines
  • tact and diplomacy for working with authors
  • a methodical and well-organised approach
  • IT skills

3. What you'll do

You'll prepare text for publication by checking the author's manuscript (or 'copy'). You'll work on books, journal articles and text for brochures, instruction manuals and online publications.

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • correcting spelling, grammar and punctuation errors
  • checking the length of the text fits in with publisher requirements
  • making sure the text is in the right style
  • making sure the meaning of the text is clear
  • checking that references are quoted correctly and pictures have the right captions
  • checking for legal issues, like libel or breach of copyright
  • talking to the author about queries or revisions

You'll do most of your work on a computer, but you might also work on a hard copy of the manuscript.

4. Salary

As a freelance copy editor, you'll agree your fee with your client. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders suggests minimum hourly rates, but publishers don't have to pay this.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

As an in-house copy editor, you'll usually work normal office hours, Monday to Friday.

Your days may be longer at busy times or when you have tight deadlines.

As a freelance copy editor, you'll usually work from home and will have more freedom to decide your own hours. You'll still need to meet publishing deadlines.

6. Career path and progression

You could become a features writer, chief sub-editor or production editor. Some sub-editors go freelance.

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Last updated: 12 April 2017