Education vs. Experience: Knowing the balance…

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 editing world started before college. My father, a Biochemistry Professor, had a grad student who asked me to examine one of her papers; it was my first academic editing experience. I was very flattered, given my age, that she 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. However, I did not consider it something I would ever do for a living. As a teenager, I had no confidence in the editing that I did of my work. I assumed that since I struggled to edit my papers, I was probably doing a piss poor job of editing the work of others. Many years later, I found out that my editing of other people’s papers was nearly flawless. Upon finding that out, I realized that there is a fundamental difference between editing your work and editing someone else’s.

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 papers, 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, my experience weighs much heavier than my specific editing education. For Freelance Editors, that works well, given that you tend to get most jobs in the freelance world based upon your reputation, skill, and word of mouth (networking). How many years you spent at a college or university studying to become an editor becomes less critical very quickly. 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. Thus most editing jobs with professional publishing companies require a BA/BS in Journalism, Communication, or English to get in the door.

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.

That, however, is a post for the future; otherwise, we’d be here all day.


Galen

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