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Other than the content, editing science material is similar to any other kind of editing and requires the same fundamental writing, editing and language skills. At least a four-year college or university degree normally is required. The degree can be in the more traditional majors for editors such as journalism or communications, it can be in technical writing and editing, or it can be in a scientific or related field. Many people who perform science editing have advanced degrees in scientific fields. Generally, to become a science editor, you would be either an editor with a background or aptitude for science or an engineer or scientist with strong editing skills.
Science editors work in a variety of industries and can be members of a staff or freelancers. Many work for magazines that focus on science or nature. Others edit articles for general interest publications that sometimes run science-related content.
Publishers of academic and trade books science editors. Many science editors work at scientific journals editing highly technical research articles and for companies producing scientific and technical products. Targeting the publications and companies that produce scientific content is key if you are seeking to become a science editor.
As with other editing positions, becoming a science editor often involves climbing the editorial ladder. An individual at a magazine who is seeking to become a science editor might start out as an editorial assistant or assistant editor and take on progressively more responsibility from there. The prospective science editor also might be a magazine writer or a book writer and work his or her way into a science editor position.
At corporations, science editors can come out of the engineering and scientific ranks or from more traditional editing backgrounds, depending upon the organization. The same holds true at technical journals. The editor might be a doctor in the scientific area or an editor with a strong aptitude for science, depending on the journal and its requirements. In any case, the requisite editing skills and an interest and understanding of scientific subjects are necessary if you want to become a science editor.
Good analytical skills to recognize inconsistencies in text are important for science editors. An ability to understand technical jargon and complex ideas is often necessary. Strong communication skills are beneficial to explain editing changes to often highly educated scientists, engineers and others. Having the focus and patience to review numbers and other data that appear in charts, graphs and listings is helpful.
@Mor - That might work well for a magazine, but if you want to work with, say, a publishing company, I think you're better off trying to get as much editing experience as you can. It would also definitely help to have some kind of science background.
Of course, having papers or articles published will never hurt your chances. But, for the most part I think they are more interested in looking for someone who can work quickly and efficiently and can be trusted to do a good job without constant supervision.
I had a friend whose mother was an editor for a medical magazine, and he said that she often showed him gruesome medical pictures when he was a teenager.
She really enjoyed her job and it always made me consider editing for a science magazine to be a potential career.
Another route you might consider if you have any flair for writing is to write articles for relevant magazines. Research any that seem suitable, research the kinds of articles they might prefer and then send them a pitch.
If they accept it and the subsequent article, pay very close attention to what is changed on it before publication.
I know a couple of people who managed to work their way from freelance journalist to full time editor, simply by demonstrating that they understand the "voice" of the magazine.
You might also want to have a go at being an intern for a science based magazine or website in order to get some experience and possibly a permanent job at the company after it's done.
Unfortunately editing is one of those jobs where it's very difficult to find a job if you don't have experience, but also difficult to get experience if you don't have a job!
I would research the positions at lot, scrub at your CV and cover letters until they are absolutely perfect and keep trying.
I would even try to get related part time jobs all through university or pick a school which offers as a part of the degree some work experience.
Being a science editor can be a fascinating job once you get into it.