Put Your Writing Skills to Work

Editor’s note: This post was written by Alan Zilberman, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are countless ways for people to express themselves through the written word. Social media, blogs, comment boards, and even private diaries are a way to flex the writing muscle. Most writers are happy to offer their thoughts for free, but the sheer quantity of media outlets and demand for content creates opportunities in occupations that put writing skills to work.

Writing occupations communicate ideas and concepts through written language. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.

  • Writers and authors compose everything from novels to blog posts. They also write short stories, advertising copy, movie or TV scripts, and plays.
  • Reporters and correspondents, also known as journalists, include workers that write articles for newspapers, magazines, or Internet publications such as online only news services. They may report the news or offer their own opinions.
  • Editors plan, assign, and review everything from newspaper articles to novels. They review writing for syntax, spelling, and “bigger picture” concerns like style and storytelling.

All of these occupations are projected to have job openings in 2024, and all typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry, usually in English, journalism, or communications.

Writing occupation employment, wages, and projected job openings
Occupation 2014 Employment Percent self employed in 2014 Job openings due to growth and replacements,
2014–24
Median annual wage, 2016 Typical education needed for entry

Reporters and correspondents

49,300 14.8% 15,900 $37,820 Bachelor’s degree

Editors

117,200 13.6% 42,500 $57,210 Bachelor’s degree

Writers and authors

136,500 65.7% 26,100 $61,240 Bachelor’s degree

About two-thirds of writers and authors were self-employed in 2014, as were about 1 in 6 editors and reporters and correspondents. Most wage and salary workers in these occupations work in publishing industries, such as magazines, newspapers, or book publishers. People who write and edit for a living can often do so from their homes.

Median annual wages for these occupations ranged from $61,240 for writers and authors, to $57,210 for editors, to $37,820 for reporters and correspondents. (Wages are for May 2016. These wages do not include self-employed workers.) Wages for reporters and correspondents are much higher in metropolitan areas where many publishers are based, such as the New York and Washington, DC, metropolitan areas.

In order to get their work published, a writer or journalist typically proposes an assignment, also known as a “pitch,” to the appropriate editor. Editors are the gatekeepers for the outlets where they work; they read pitches, decide which ones are best for their readers, and approve them accordingly. Editors also take a writer’s initial draft and improve it so it is clearer and more evocative. By researching what editors want, writers can develop a portfolio of their “clips,” which will then increase their chances to build their writing careers. A newer alternative for writers and journalists to get their work published is to self-publish on the Internet, such as in a blog or in an e-book marketplace. If a blog or e-book gains enough attention or popularity, self-published writers could transition into more lucrative writing deals.

Explore all of these occupations and many more in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.