How to Become a

Copy Editor

The complete career guide to be a Copy Editor: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $64,910
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • -5.3%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Creativity Focused
    Career Attribute
  • Dependable Daily Workload
    Career Attribute

Copy editors are wordsmiths and grammarians who are responsible for ensuring published content is clear, accurate, concise, and grammatically correct. Copy editors edit content produced by writers for all forms of publications, including newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs, books, and advertisements.

Recommended Schools

What is a Copy Editor?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in copy editor roles:

  • Edit copy produced by writers to ensure spellings are correct, appropriate tenses and punctuation are used, and publication-standard styles and language are employed
  • Ensure factuality of all content, which may require research, fact-checking, and following up with quotes and cited sources
  • Write compelling headlines and subheadings for long-form content and effective calls-to-action for landing page content and advertisements
  • Ensure published content meets style guide requirements, employs the standard voice for the publication, and caters appropriately to targeted audiences

A Day in the Life

A considerable amount of a copy editor’s time is spent proofreading texts prior to publication. They’ll read through content submitted by writers or authors and make spelling, grammar, and style edits, and they often rewrite portions of text for clarity. In cases where edits are simple, copy editors may just make the changes on their own, but in cases where major rewrites are needed, copy editors may need to provide feedback to the writer and request revisions.

Copy editors also spend a lot of time fact-checking. They ensure names are spelled correctly, titles are accurate, and sources are authoritative, timely, and relevant. Copy editors work with a style guide to make sure all formatting is appropriate for a publication and may also review sample copies of works before publication to ensure that design, formatting, and other elements meet expectations.

While a lot of the work of the copy editor is performed in solitary, most copy editors also work with other individuals and teams in the process of publishing content. They may work closely with writers, assigning work and requesting revisions. They work with designers and printers to ensure published products meet expectations and match predefined styles. They may also work with an overall editorial or content team and may assist with developing an editorial calendar or pitching content ideas.

Typical Work Schedule

In general, copy editors work traditional day-shift schedules, during business hours on weekdays. Overtime may be required at time when major publications are scheduled or last-minute issues are discovered, but required overtime is the exception rather than the rule for this career field.

Projected Job Growth

While demand for copy editors at more traditional publications—newspapers and magazines—has dwindled in recent years, demand for editors for online publications is growing fast as more and more companies turn to publishing content to drive organic search traffic to their digital properties.

Copy Editor Specializations

While the responsibilities for copy editors is fairly consistent across specializations, different areas of focus may have different experience requirements:

  • Newspaper copy editors usually start off by writing for newspapers, and may need some design experience to ensure that printed publications are formatted correctly and effectively.
  • Digital copy editors need to understand the format requirements of web and mobile content and may need to be familiar with SEO to ensure copy is optimized for discovery in search.
  • Book copy editors generally have backgrounds in publishing and may also need design knowledge in order to ensure books are appropriately formatted for printers.
  • Advertisement/eCommerce copy editors are generally expected to have a background in marketing in order to craft influential text that motivates readers to take action.

Career Progression

  • Early Career: Writer, Proofreader, Reporter, Publication Assistant
  • Mid-Career: Copy Editor, Managing Editor, Acquisitions Editor
  • Late Career: Executive Editor, Editorial Director, Chief Marketing Officer

Typical Employers

Many copy editors work for the big four book publishers: Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, and Hachette Livre. Additionally, most newspaper and magazine publishers hire copy editors, as well as major online publications that publish large amounts of digital content.

Recommended Schools

How To Become a Copy Editor

Most copy editors need a bachelor’s degree to secure a job in their field, though the degree pursued will vary depending on the type of publication you want to focus on. Some copy editors pursue degrees in writing in order to focus on perfecting their own writing abilities and to gain significant knowledge of grammar and rhetoric. Those interested in working as copy editors for news publications typically pursue degrees in journalism. Other relevant degrees include marketing and publishing.

After earning a degree, most copy editors will need to gain experience as writers in their area of focus. Newspaper copy editors generally start as journalists and reporters, magazine copy editors generally prove their abilities with a portfolio of published articles, and online publications often promote their writers into copy editor positions when they discover someone able to produce effective content.

Becoming a book copy editor may not require writing experience, but may require relevant internships or working your way up in the company from entry-level positions. Because it’s difficult to showcase your abilities as a copy editor, having powerful writing samples can be an effective way to secure a position, and working as a writer also helps you learn the tools of the trade before stepping into a copy editor role.

Copy Editor Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

Low Range




High Range


How do Copy Editor salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Copy Editor's can make an average annual salary of $64,910, or $31 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $39,690 or $19 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #229 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Copy Editor. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Copy Editors

  • 4.7%   Doctorate
  • 19.3%   Masters
  • 59%   Bachelors
  • 4.3%   Associates
  • 9.1%   College
  • 3.1%   High School
  • 0.5%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Copy Editor job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of -6,200 jobs for a total of 111,000 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a -5.3% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #703 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Copy Editors

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Newspaper publishers 19,400 -6,700 -7%
Self-employed workers 15,900 500 1%
Other information services 6,700 1,000 1%

Want To Be a Copy Editor? Get Started!

Generate your free SmartPlan™ to identify colleges you like, and potential ways to save on a degree or certification program toward your career with courses, offers, and much more!

Enroll Now and Get Started

or Learn More →