Sub-editor jobs… did you know?
You can work in print or online as a sub-editor in any publishing sector you care to name, from gaming to film reviews, news services or fashion magazines. You could work in the book publishing industry too!
Your job is to be the vital support of the busy editor. You get to make decisions about the flow of words in copy, and whether the titles have the impact to make someone read more.
Your eagle eyes will also spot the typos that creep into any bit of copy, no matter how well it is written. And those little typos really matter! There’s a huge difference between saying “illegally parked cars will be fined” and “illegally parked cars will be fine”.
DID YOU KNOW? We live in a high-tech world, and even word-wranglers are expected to use software these days. Your CV as a sub-editor for print publications will really stand out if you can build up experience in using publishing software like QuarkXpress and InDesign.
Sub-editor job trends
How much money can you make as a sub-editor?
£20,000 – £60,000 (UK average)
Recent labour market information says you can earn on average between £20,000 and £60,000 a year as a sub-editor in the UK. As an experienced sub-editor you can expect to earn £25,000 – £40,000.
Your starting salary can vary because of factors like level of experience, training, location or the size of the company.
What entry qualifications and training do you need?
School, college and training
A way with words is important in this job, and your level of education is a good way to show you’ve built up your word skills because you truly care about them. You don’t need any formal qualifications to become a sub-editor. However, employers will want to see you really care about words and know how to use them.
Employers will often be thrilled to see you have:
- A degree in English, journalism or media studies
- Work experience as an editorial assistant, reporter or journalist.
If you want to study for a relevant degree, it will help if you have been educated to A-level standard (or the equivalent) and one of your A-level subjects relates to English.
The Professional Publishers Association (PPA) runs accredited industry-recognised qualifications in journalism.
Some writing and editing professionals get started in this career through an apprenticeship. You’ll typically get structured training while you work and earn, and industry-recognised qualifications.
You’ll find all kinds of journalism-related apprenticeships available from a wide variety of providers. These can include journalism, media and marketing apprenticeships. Large providers offer a greater variety of training schemes – for example, the BBC has a digital journalism apprenticeship available.
While at school or college, speak to your careers advisor about useful training and/or courses for you to take and find out more about the types of career routes available.
With time and experience you could become a production editor, chief sub-editor or editor. You could also use your journalism experience to move into PR. You could also take the self-employed route and set up your own publication as a founding editor.
What experience do you need for sub-editor jobs?
Work experience is very useful for this role. Any employer or publication thinking of hiring wants to see that you can write well, have a good eye for grammar and exciting story angles, and ideally have spent some time in a publishing environment.
Seek work shadowing or work placements in the offices of publications. It doesn’t have to be at a national publication – you might be able to get practical insights and work experience at your local paper. It will still be really useful experience and look great on your CV.
Volunteering and extra-curricular activities
Volunteering is a useful way to build up practical work experience if you haven’t done any editing work yet.
Start writing as soon as you can! You might feel shy about showing your work to other people at first, so it’s good to get into the habit of sharing your written work.
Start your own blog. Aim to write well and often about topics you’re passionate about, and aim to grow your audience.
Get involved with the school or college paper to gain editorial experience. These papers can be a great way to further a range of skills, from interviewing people to doing research. You could aim to write (e.g. reviews of local gigs and events) or work as part of the editorial team to create the final product.
What skills do you need for sub-editor jobs?
What life and work skills do you need to make a great picture desk assistant?
Useful skills to highlight and develop in this career include:
- Fantastic written communication skills – you’ll make sure articles flow well, are 100% accurate in terms of facts and grammar/typos, and make people want to read them.
- Good problem solving skills and an enquiring mind – problems you’ll face might include making titles shorter to fit on a page, or checking facts to make sure a publication doesn’t end up in hot water.
- Good organisation skills – you’ll often be working to tight deadlines, so any copy you edit needs to be done on time
- Teamworking skills – you’ll be working as part of a team, supervised by an editor. You’ll work together to understand a publications mission, brand flavour and house style.
- Self-management skills – you will need to work without always being watched by your team leader. You will develop an understanding of when to use your initiative to make editorial decisions yourself and when to ask your editor to clarify something.
Vocational qualifications and work experience will help you build these skills over time.
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What does a sub-editor do?
There is a difference between working in print or online. When you are working in print, you will need to be much more careful about word counts (how many words in an article) and how long the titles are. That’s because a printed feature only has limited space available, but online content doesn’t have the same limitations.
As a print sub-editor, you will become used to working with publishing software like InDesign or QuarkXpress to make sure content fits snugly into page layouts.
As an online sub-editor, you will become used to working in an online Content Management System (CMS), making sure content sits in the right category (e.g. “reviews” or “news”) and ideally links to other pages on the site to keep readers browsing through your publication.
Some typical job responsibilities for both print and online/digital sub-editors include:
- Making sure articles are accurate, read well and don’t break any copyright or libel laws
- Proofreading (making sure articles have no glaring typos or grammar oddities)
- Editing articles to make them shorter or clearer
- Making sure articles follow house style (e.g. your publication might like content to be chatty and conversation rather than serious – and it might prefer All Titles To Have Each Word Capitalized)
- Working closely with editors, reports and journalists, designers and production staff.
Your first steps into sub-editor jobs
Sub-editor jobs are advertised under different job titles. When you’re looking on job boards, look for the following types of job if you’re just starting out:
- Junior sub-editor
- Assistant editor
- Online editor (this can be a junior or senior role)
- Editorial assistant
All these types of job can be a good match for your skills.
Useful organisations and links
So what are you waiting for? Grab your future.