Education vs. Experience: Knowing the balance…

So, given that I have been editing professionally for over 20 years, I have been asked what my educational background in editing is, more often than I can count. I didn’t come into this academically, however, at least not directly. Instead, my journey into the world of editing started before college when my father, a Biochemistry Professor, had a grad student who asked my opinion on a paper she was writing, it was my first academic editing experience and I was very flattered, given my age, to be asked my opinion. Meanwhile, I often read over English papers for fellow students at school.

Once I moved on to university, I continued the trend of looking over other people’s work, although I did not consider it something I would ever do for a living. This was in part due to having no confidence in the editing that I did of my own work. I assumed that since I struggled to edit my papers, that I was probably doing a piss poor job of editing the work of others. I found out many, many years later that my editing of other people’s papers was nearly flawless and upon finding that out, I realized that there is a fundamental difference between editing your own work and editing someone else’s. <Ah, do you smell future blog post? Why yes, yes you do!>

During my time at university, I studied for a BA in Research Studies: Folklore and Anthropology with minors in Abnormal Psychology and English Literature. I also worked forward by taking several years of Masters Level Anthropology classes. At heart, I found myself to be a Researcher, and in the field of Research I discovered a great need for editing. So, slowly, in between my day jobs, I began editing academic papers. As the years progressed, I also started writing and editing fiction, too. Some years I worked more on fiction, others more on academic, until suddenly in 2008 I realized I had been moonlighting as a freelance editor for well over 15 years. My husband and I talked, and decided we could work out our finances in such a way as to let me retire from my day job and start working full time as a freelancer.

So, for me, my experience weighs much heavier than my specific editing education. For Freelance Editors, that works well, especially given that the truth of the matter is that you get jobs in the freelance world based upon your reputation, skill, and word of mouth (networking), rather than how many years you spent at a college or university studying to become an editor. Working at a large publishing company is a bit different. Often some level of educational background is required, many times with a specific focus. The professional editing world is a very competitive one, and thus most editing jobs with professional publishing companies require at minimum a BA/BS in Journalism, Communication or English just to get in the door.

So, if you have the wherewithal and the necessary discipline and determination, but not the BA/BS in the usual fields of educational study, Freelance Editing is most likely the way to go.

As food for thought, another part of the process, no matter what area your plan to try to break into, Publishing or Freelance, is knowing how to market yourself, but that’s definitely a post for the future, otherwise we’d be here all day.

Galen

An Editor’s Journey

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