Editorial Assistant Job Description
Editorial assistants provide support to senior and executive editors on a regular basis. They are often hired by magazine and book publishers, and most are employed full-time. Successful editorial assistants should have a background in writing or communications, and advancement opportunities may be available. The role of an editorial assistant is usually considered entry-level by most companies.
Editorial Assistant Duties and Responsibilities
The duties editorial assistants carry out on a daily basis will vary from employer to employer and depend on a myriad of factors. However, most editorial assistants will be responsible for doing the following:
Editorial assistants are responsible for providing direct assistance to editors. They often provide administrative assistance to editors by answering phones, taking messages, running errands, and performing other tasks as needed. They may also accompany editors on business trips and to various conferences.
Fact-checking can consume a significant amount of an editor’s time, and often, editorial assistants will check facts on their behalf. The Internet is the primary tool used to verify the facts in articles and other publications, and editorial assistants notify editors and writers if there is a problem with plagiarism or false information.
Check Grammar and Punctuation
Most editors do not have time to perform basic editing tasks, so they rely on editorial assistants to check the grammar and punctuation of articles prior to their publication. Editorial assistants often use specialized software to achieve this goal, but they will still need to read each article individually.
Writers are an important part of the publishing world, and often, publications hire numerous writers to produce content for them. When there is a problem or an issue needs to be addressed, editorial assistants may reach out to writers in an attempt to resolve them. They may also act as liaisons between writers and senior or executive editors.
Senior and executive editors usually have the last say in regards to content, but they often consult editorial assistants when the time to select writers and stories arrives. Editorial assistants may help by reading various samples or pitches and selecting the ones most likely to receive the approval of the senior editor.
Editorial Assistant Skills and Qualifications
Editorial assistants need to have a strong understanding of the publishing process as well as excellent writing skills. The skills and qualifications needed to become an editorial assistant will vary from place to place, and most individuals need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter the field. Despite this variation in job requirements, most editorial assistants need to possess the following traits and abilities:
- Writing skills – editorial assistants often edit and check the punctuation and grammar of a publication to ensure it is readable. They need to have a strong knowledge of writing mechanics and a diverse vocabulary as well
- Administrative experience – editorial assistants often perform administrative tasks for senior editors. These tasks can range from getting coffee to choosing stories, so assistants should be prepared to provide support in a variety of ways. They may be responsible for providing support to an entire department or multiple individuals
- Publishing knowledge – the publishing industry is extremely complex and diverse, but editorial assistants will need to know the ins and outs of the industry. They should understand the process of selecting content and have a strong understanding of reader expectations. Some companies may require editorial assistants to have prior experience in the publishing field
- Multitasking – editorial assistants are expected to juggle several tasks at once, so they should be comfortable doing so. They also provide editorial support to multiple individuals in a timely and efficient manner
- Communication skills – strong written and verbal communication skills are needed to become an editorial assistant. Individuals in this role are responsible for communicating with writers, other departments, and senior editors, so they should feel comfortable conveying their ideas to others
Editorial Assistant Education and Training
The educational requirements needed to become an editorial assistant may vary from employer to employer, but in general, those attempting to work in this field will need at least a bachelor’s degree. Degrees in journalism, English, creative writing, or communications are the most highly desired, but some individuals may be able to enter the field if they have a degree in a research-heavy field (ex: psychology, political science). To earn a degree, individuals will need to enroll in a university for three to four years and take courses in expository writing, reporting, and research. Most editorial assistants receive some on-the-job training before they are allowed to work alone.
Editorial Assistant Salary and Outlook
According to Glassdoor, the annual median salary for an editorial assistant is $38,675. In terms of earnings, those in the top ten percent earned more than $48,000 yearly, while those in the bottom ten percent earned less than $31,000. Editorial assistants, especially those employed full-time, may receive benefits such as health insurance, vacation days, and paid time-off.
The employment rate for editorial assistants is projected to decline by one percent between 2016 and 2026. This rate is significantly lower than the national average of seven percent for all jobs. This lack of growth is attributed to the rise in online publications and the fact that the editorial field, in general, is exhibiting slow growth.
Ready to become an editorial assistant? Let the following career resources guide you towards your goal.
Editorial Freelancers Association – geared primarily towards freelance editors and editorial assistants, the Editorial Freelancers Association provides professionals with a variety of career resources. The organization’s website features an updated job board, as well as links to educational resources and community chapters.
Common Mistakes Writers Make: Editing and Proofreading – part of the Writing with Excellence series of books, Common Mistakes Writers Make by Eva Marie Everson is a must-have for anyone considering becoming an editorial assistant. It covers the basic rules of grammar, punctuation, and mechanics, as well as more complex rules that even the most experienced writers often forget.
An Insider’s Guide to Publishing – a straightforward yet highly informative read, An Insider’s Guide to Publishing aims to educate writers and editors about the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Written by David Comfort, the book provides practical tips for surviving the competitive publishing industry.
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