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I have lots of questions about a career in editing

Throughout my high school career, I've worked as editor of our school's annual literary arts magazine, and I absolutely love it, and it has influenced my desire to pursue editing as a career. I'm looking into editing more broadly in a book editing sense, or in a magazine sense, but I would only really be interested in art type magazines, most likely. I'm just worried that I will pursue this career and then get out of school not knowing where to go or what to do with my degree, and I feel like with an English degree, I wouldn't have much to fall back on. I'm going to a small state school in Pennsylvania, and know that jobs would not necessarily be available after school there. What locations are best suited for this type of occupation? I also don't necessarily want to sacrifice a life and a family for my career. Is this the type of career I would have to do that with? journalism english editing editor

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Stefania’s Answer

Hi Samantha,

I am marveled at how at such a young age you have a clear vision of your precise passion area. Congratulations to you, most people your age couldn't pinpoint it. You are also wise to recognize that while having a very narrow interest is of incredible value (many people are generalists and knowing how to do one thing very well can be very valuable), but also isolates you and could potentially not be as marketable. I would definitely urge you to consider the wider industry and ask yourself what exactly is it about art/publishing/editing that you enjoy? Which aspects? If you look at the larger picture, you will get a better idea of the skills that you are looking to apply. Is it the creativity? Collaboration? Enhancing work to make it better? Presenting? Which aspects of your job do you enjoy most?

I think any major in English or especially Communications would be a great one. Communications is a broad field that allows you to work in many different industries and doesn't define you to journalism or publishing alone. I would highly recommend looking at internships. Start drafting a list of the companies or publications you like and regularly see if they offer any kind of internships (or even a little unpaid volunteer time or shadowing someone to get a feel for what it's like day in/day out).

I also want to present to you a slightly different scenario. Coming from a non-publishing editorial background, I wanted to share with you that I have not been in the publishing side, however was a senior editor for a marketing and consumer insights company for over a decade. Many firms also now hire content marketing agencies to help populate their blogs, social media sites and general content. Just research "content marketing agencies" to get a feel for the type of requirements and qualifications necessary if that sounds like something interesting to you. You may find something that's a little more creative and aligns with your passion points. For many years, I also worked in a highly energetic, creative editorial space: advertising. Believe it or not, "making an ad" has A LOT of moving parts and there are many positions that align with editorial and art skills. It's a high-energy, super creative environment.

My point is that while publishing seems to be the natural go-to industry when you think "editor" there are many other ways to go about applying your wonderful editorial skills and passion for creative arts in the larger business space. Just poke around and open your options.

Hope that helps. Good luck to you,

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Crystal’s Answer

The world of magazines is now largely online so, outside of New York City or Portland (for smaller/ niche art magazines), location may not be important. What is rather important is that you would only be interested in art magazines. This interest limits your editing opportunities. I suggest you intern or work part-time at the type of magazine or organization that interests you while you are still in college. (Consider summers if such opportunities do not exist near your school.) Learn how the operation works. Perhaps you will find more you enjoy therein.

In my experience, unless you intend to pursue law, medicine, or certain areas in the business world, the specific degree matters less. Your derived skills from school and work matter more. That shared, with an English degree, you can consider work as a: copywriter, technical writer, copyeditor, grant/proposal writer, and or communications manager.

As to the worry about sacrificing your life, the best advice I can share is to find and do the work that you are passionate about. Each day will feel less like a chore and more enjoyable.

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Jill’s Answer

An English degree leaves you open for so many job opportunities, and there are so many options in the publishing industry. Special interest magazines are generally small companies. Look at some of your favorites and maybe send a note to someone there for advice. I started my career in Boston. There are many many opportunities there. It's possible you'll start out concentrating on editing at an art magazine, and find out you'd rather work on design or layout or research. "Try on" some positions and talk to the people who have the job you want. You might even be able to shadow someone for a day.