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Copy editor

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

Annual Salary

£22,000 to £40,000

Average UK salary in 2019 was £30,378
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

37 to 39 a week

You could work: evenings; occasionally

What's it all about?

Day to day tasks

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

Working environment

You could work in an office or from home.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role
  • specialist training courses with professional bodies
  • a graduate training scheme

Many copy editors have a degree. Most subjects are accepted.

A degree in publishing, media, English or a related subject may improve your chances of finding work.

To work in a specialist area, employers will prefer you to have a subject-related degree.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English
  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
For more information

You can work towards this role through an advanced apprenticeship as a publishing assistant.

For more information

You could start as an editorial assistant in a publishing company and build up your experience of proofreading and text editing. This would also allow you to build a portfolio of work, to showcase your skills to potential employers.

Other routes

You could take a proofreading or editing course, like the ones offered by the The Publishing Training Centre or the Society for Editors and Proofreaders.

Some publishing houses run graduate training schemes and internships.

More information

Career tips

Employers will often expect you to have some experience in the publishing industry.

You could get experience in the publishing industry from:job shadowing; editing and proofreading student magazines and websites; admin work in a publishing company

Professional and industry bodies

You could join a professional organisation like The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP).

Further information

The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) and the Publishing Training Centre have further details on training options.

You can also find out more about working in this and other creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.

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

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • knowledge of English language
  • knowledge of media production and communication
  • the ability to read English
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • excellent written communication skills
  • the ability to work well with others
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
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