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Sub-editor Subs

Sub-editors check written content before it’s published in newspapers, magazines and on websites.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £20,000 £60,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • a degree in English, journalism or media studies
  • work experience as a reporter or editorial assistant

Contacts gained during work experience are very important as many vacancies aren't advertised.

You may also find it helpful to take a specific sub-editing course if you already have some experience in a media role. Brighton Journalist Works has an intensive 7-day Certificate in Sub-Editing that can prepare you for the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) sub-editing exam. 

The NCTJ lists several accredited newspaper courses offering Production Journalism as a specialist option of a journalism course. 

The Professional Publishers Association (PPA) also runs accredited industry-recognised qualifications in journalism.

For many sub-editing jobs, you'll also need to be able to use desktop publishing software like QuarkXpress and InDesign.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • excellent English grammar and spelling
  • headline writing skills
  • excellent attention to detail
  • excellent IT skills
  • research skills

3. What you'll do

Your day-to-day duties may include:

  • making sure articles are accurate, read well and do not break libel or copyright laws
  • re-writing articles to make them clearer or shorter
  • making sure articles follow house style
  • writing headlines, captions and short paragraphs which lead into articles, and ‘panels’ which break up the text
  • making sure articles are in the right place on each page
  • using page layout and image editing software
  • sending completed pages to the printers
  • working closely with reporters, editors, designers, production staff and printers

4. Salary

Starter: £20,000

Experienced: £25,000 to £40,000

Highly Experienced: £60,000

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) lists recommended rates for freelance sub-editors.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll need to be flexible about your working hours, as you could have early starts and late finishes to meet deadlines. The period immediately before going to print, which could be daily, weekly or monthly, will be particularly busy.

You'll usually be based in an open-plan office, which is likely to be hectic and noisy most of the time.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you may be able to progress to production editor or chief sub-editor.

You could also use your journalism experience to move into PR or work as a press or communications officer.

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Last updated: 06 April 2017