How to become a copy editor: Athena's story

Meet Athena, 22, from Buckinghamshire. She works as a copy editor, editing web pages and magazines for a cancer charity. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

Athena at work, smiling.
"I very much went with my interests and my strengths, and that’s led me on to better opportunities."

What is your job?

I work in the publications team at Lymphoma Action, a charity providing expert information on lymphoma, a type of cancer. It's a small charity, so I work in a small team of four. As an editor, I do a lot of reading, though it is a lot more varied than that. I subtitle videos we produce. I also read and edit our health information to make sure that is it clear, accessible, and understandable, so that people who are affected can understand about different aspects of lymphoma and we can help them.

What are your day-to-day tasks?

I edit and proofread copy (written material). We produce booklets, web pages, and a magazine. I make sure the punctuation and grammar are correct. I ensure the structure is clear and the correct words are used and the phrasing is right. We also have a house style, so I make sure content adheres to that. I liaise with typesetters and printers. I also go out to meet health professionals and those affected by lymphoma – it’s nice to meet the people we write for.

What skills do you need?

I studied English Language and Literature at university. You need to have strong literacy, communication and grammar skills. You also need an eye for detail, so that you notice small things.

Is this the job you always wanted to do?

I went with my strengths. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I did French, Biology, English Literature and English Language at A-level, and it was always a choice between English or Biology. This job combines the two so it’s perfect.

Athena checking copy.
Athena at work, checking copy.

Top tips

  • Sometimes, not knowing what you want to do is quite useful; you are able to look at a number of things that you think might interest you
  • Don’t be afraid of something new
  • Try something you think you might like, and it may turn out to be the perfect job for you
  • Don’t worry too much about what you want to do when you’re older. Go with your love and your strengths, and there will most likely be a job in that area.

What to expect if you want to be a copy editor:

  • Copy editor salary: £25,000 to £40,040 per year
  • Copy editor working hours: 37 to 39 hours per week
  • Typical entry requirements: Many copy editors have a degree. Most subjects are accepted, but it could be a good idea to consider publishing or media. To work in a specialist area, employers will prefer you to have a subject-related degree, for example some science graduates work for science publications. You can also work towards this role through an advanced apprenticeship as a publishing assistant.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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