43 Magazine Editor Job Description, Career as a Magazine Editor, Salary, Employment

Magazine Editor Job Description, Career as a Magazine Editor, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: College

Salary: Median—$43,620 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

In general, magazines fall into two categories: business and professional and those intended for the general public. A magazine’s success depends largely on the work of its editors.

There are different kinds of editors on a magazine, and their specific duties vary. On large magazines, the executive editor or editor in chief sees that the company’s editorial policy is carried out. This job is primarily administrative, but the whole magazine—text, pictures, captions, and headings—is the final responsibility of the editor in chief. On most magazines the chief editor also expresses the magazine’s point of view through editorials, which are short essays on subjects of current reader interest.


Magazine editor working at computer Most large publications hire managing editors to take charge of getting each issue out on time. These editors look after the day-to-day work of selecting articles, arranging copy, and supervising other editors. Sometimes they are put in charge of a bureau or branch office in another location such as New York or California.

The editorial staff on a magazine may include senior editors, associate editors, assistant editors, and editorial assistants. These editors may have different job titles, but their basic responsibility is selecting and editing articles or stories for each issue of the magazine.

In general, editors do not write articles. Instead, they form and shape the content of an article, which is usually written by staff writers or freelancers. Editors revise articles and may write headlines and captions and review page proofs. They must also be sure that the articles are the right length. If a story is too long, for instance, it must be cut very carefully to fit the space available. In addition, editors plan the artwork, illustrations, and photos that go with each story. They work closely with the art and production departments to prepare and approve page layouts that carry out the magazine’s visual or graphic style. To help them, editors have editorial assistants who may answer letters, do research, or screen manuscripts that arrive at the magazine. When the editor finishes with an article, it goes to a copy editor, who reviews, corrects, and tweaks the article to fit the magazine’s style.

On smaller magazines, which have smaller staffs, the executive or chief editor may perform a variety of editorial tasks, such as writing, editing, and copyediting, besides supervising the staff and keeping the magazine on schedule. In a small company each staff member has multiple jobs.

Editors discuss and review the schedule for an upcoming publication. (Photograph by Kelly A. Quin. Thomson Gale. Reproduced by permission.)

Education and Training Requirements

Most magazine editors have a college degree in either English or journalism. Some have a master’s degree. Other college majors are acceptable—especially for technical or special-interest magazines—although courses in English and journalism are also necessary. A strong background in liberal arts is preferred. Those who want to be editors should have a broad range of knowledge and keep up with current events.

Advanced computer skills and a good sense of language and grammar are necessary in the field of magazine editing. High school and college experience in journalism can help a prospective candidate land a job. Any specialized knowledge can be useful in getting a start with a magazine in a specific field. In most cases training for magazine editors is informal and occurs on the job.

Getting the Job

Magazine editors generally enter the field as copy editors or editorial assistants. Some people get jobs as magazine editors after spending time as editorial workers for small newspapers. Others become magazine editors after working in the field in which the magazine specializes. For instance, an engineer may become an editor for a professional engineering magazine.

College placement offices sometimes help graduates find entry-level editorial positions. Two helpful tools in finding magazines in various fields—the Literary Market Place (LMP) and the Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media—can be found at most medium- to large-sized public libraries. In addition, Internet job sites and the classified sections of newspapers and trade magazines such as Publishers Weekly list job openings.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Experience and talent are the most important qualities in determining advancement. The employment outlook for magazine editors is good. There will always be stiff competition for jobs on popular and national magazines. With the rise of online publications, however, there are growing opportunities on the Internet.

Working Conditions

The editorial offices of magazines can be very busy places. The pressures of the job are great, and tension increases with the approach of each deadline. Magazine editors work with many different kinds of people and must coordinate the efforts of writers, photographers, and other editors. The job also carries responsibility—not just to the magazine but also to the reading public. Each fact must be carefully checked before publication.

Editors usually work a forty-hour week; however, as deadlines approach or during very busy times, overtime and weekend work are often required.

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary considerably in the field of magazine editing. The editor’s job level and experience and the type and location of the magazine all affect wages. Several surveys conducted in 2004 indicate that magazine editors earned a median yearly income of $43,620. Managing and executive editors earned much more.

Where to Go for More Information

American Business Media
675 Third Ave.
New York, NY 10017-5704
(212) 661-6360

City and Regional Magazine Association
4929 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 428
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(323) 937-5514

Magazine Publishers of America
810 Seventh Ave., 24th Fl.
New York, NY 10019
(212) 872-3700

Benefits for magazine editors vary with each magazine. They may include paid vacations, medical coverage, and various retirement plans.

Additional topics

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