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Copy editor

Copy editors make sure writing is clear, consistent, correct and ready to publish in printed and online publications.

Annual Salary

£22,000 to £46,000

Average UK salary in 2022 was £33,200
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

37 to 39 a week

You could work: freelance / self-employed; managing your own hours

Future employment

There will be 2.4% more Copy editor jobs in 2027.

Day to day tasks

As a copy editor, you might:

  • correct spelling, grammar and punctuation errors
  • check the length of the text fits in with publisher requirements
  • make sure the text is in the right style for the intended audience
  • apply a 'house style' to content written by more than one writer
  • make sure the meaning of the text is clear
  • check for legal issues like libel or breach of copyright

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 similar subject may improve your chances of finding work.

You may need subject matter expertise or a specific degree to work in specialist publications, like scientific, medical or technical journals.

Work experience at university

You may find it useful to get work experience during your studies.

Some publishers offer work shadowing, work experience or internship opportunities.

Your university careers service can help you explore your options.

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.

It usually takes a year and 6 months to complete as a mix of learning on the job and in the classroom.

For more information

You could start as an editorial assistant at a publishing company to build up your experience editing and proofreading.

This would also allow you to build a portfolio of your work which you can show to potential employers.

Volunteering and work experience

Charities often look for volunteers to help them write and edit their publications.

You can search volunteering opportunities through The National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Do IT.

Other routes

You could take a proofreading or editing course, like the ones offered by the The Publishing Training Centre or the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).

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 which you can get from:shadowing someone who works in publishing; working on a student magazine or website; doing admin work in a publishing company

Professional and industry bodies

You could join a professional organisation like the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).

Further information

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) 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.

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With experience, you could become a features writer, chief sub editor or production editor.

Many copy editors work freelance.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

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