Those who aspire to do editorial work usually start as editorial assistants. The position of editorial assistant is both an editorial and an administrative position. For instance, editorial assistants oversee freelance writers to make sure that they’ll be able to submit the commissioned articles on time.
Occasionally, they are also asked to write articles and do basic proofreading on commissioned articles before submitting them to the editor. In book publishing, editorial assistants work directly under specific editors.
In any case, the actual task of the editorial assistant depends on the publication or company that he or she is working for. Editorial assistants working for smaller publications tend to have more responsibilities, sometimes working as both writer and assistant. In larger publications, however, the job roles are very specific, with a greater emphasis on administrative duties.
Salary & benefits
Since they’re the lowest in the editorial hierarchy, editorial assistants get the lowest pay. They can get £15,000 to £20,000 a year, although the specifics vary according to the employer.
Later on, once promoted to a full on editorial role, they can get more than £30,000 a year.
The job is largely office-based. Although it’s essentially a nine-to-five job, overtime work isn’t uncommon; in fact, it’s essentially the norm, especially around deadlines.
Editorial assistants work for as long as it takes to get the job done (most of the time, without additional pay). Of course, this is usually the case for most editorial positions.
Most editorial assistants actually work part-time in other areas of publishing and journalism. Many work as copyreaders and freelance writers on the side, usually outside of their source of employment. Most companies do allow part time work elsewhere, although editorial assistants should get the legal stamp on this.
Although this position may seem financially unrewarding in the short term, it’s one of the best routes to higher editorial positions, and the content of the work is often intellectually stimulating.
Employers don’t really look for specific credentials when hiring editorial assistants, although most editorial assistants have degrees in media studies, journalism, or the arts and humanities.
In general, employers put more importance on experience rather than academic credentials and degrees. However, this depends entirely on the publication.
Niche publications may require certain credentials or background experience. For instance, science-related journals may want applicants with a science-based academic background.
Editorial assistants should have good English skills (both written and spoken) and great editing skills (the position, after all, is a stepping stone towards an editor position). Moreover, great administrative skills are also essential.
Training & progression
Many publications and companies have training programmes for new editorial assistants, who are usually placed on induction periods to help them gain essential skills for the job (as well as to let them learn the ropes of the position). There are, of course, short programmes available that focus on the editorial aspects of the job.
Editorial assistants are usually considered for editor jobs, but they still need to gain more experience in journalism and/or publishing in order to be considered for the position. This is why editorial assistants should try to take on additional editorial/writing work.
Many editorial assistants move on from one company to another to gain different types of editorial experience; this is highly valuable for career promotion.
On the other hand, big companies tend to recruit in-house, so an editorial assistant role is a good way of getting your foot in the door of a prestigious organisation.