What Does an Associate Editor Do?

Lily Ruha

An associate editor typically assists a senior editor in tasks such as writing, editing and selecting content for a publication. The exact job description generally depends on the size and nature of the publication. Becoming an associate editor typically involves obtaining an undergraduate degree in journalism, communication or a specialized field that is relevant to the publication. Some employers require a degree and several years of editorial experience. Jobs can be found in a multitude of industries that produce newspapers, magazines, websites and journals.

Becoming an associate editor typically requires obtaining an undergraduate degree in journalism.
Becoming an associate editor typically requires obtaining an undergraduate degree in journalism.

The exact duties of an associate editor depend on the publication. Specific responsibilities typically are outlined in the associate editor's job description. Assisting the senior editor in the day-to-day aspects of the publication, selecting articles and images and devising story angles might be some of the required tasks. If the publication accepts submissions from freelance writers, photographers and videographers, responding to and coordinating their activities might be a requirement of the job.

Associate editors often work for newspapers.
Associate editors often work for newspapers.

Associate editor jobs can be found in any industry, company or organization that publishes documents on a regular basis. A science journal might hire associate editors to work with a team of science editors to review and select high-quality submissions for publishing. Government publications that educate people on local policies and events might hire editors to gather information and decide where to place articles and pictures. Editor positions in mainstream and popular publications typically are more competitive and often require extensive networking.

Depending on the publication, the requirements of an associate editor position typically are a degree in the field and several years of journalism experience. A topic-specific publication might require an advanced degree in a field that is related to that topic. General knowledge publications might hire entry-level individuals who have gained experience in university newspapers or community publications. The ability to interact effectively and possibly manage other staff members might be a job requirement. Many Internet publications also require computer proficiency and knowledge of specific Internet applications.

The traditional path for becoming an associate editor is to obtain a degree in journalism or the language of the publication. Learning the multiple aspects of writing engaging stories or informative articles is an important skill for the job. Solid language and grammar skills are obligatory for this position to adequately communicate thoughts and edit the work of other writers. Courses in a journalism program typically also train an editor to develop sensitivity and sound judgment in predicting how readers will react to published materials.

The exact duties of an associate editor vary depending on the publication.
The exact duties of an associate editor vary depending on the publication.

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Discussion Comments


Something to bear in mind if you want to go for this kind of job is that often it's done more for love than money.

It can be a very difficult job with long hours, particularly right before an issue is supposed to come out. And, given the state of a lot of publishing companies right now, it's not the best paid job in the world either, always depending on who you work for.

I wouldn't go into it unless I was really passionate about journalism, writing and editing and even then I'd think hard about it first.


@clintflint - I don't know, I think all these jobs are changing a lot now. Maybe once you could get an entry level position based on skill alone, but now I think you're going to be competing with a whole lot of people who have skill AND a degree. So not getting a degree could be shooting yourself in the foot to some extent.

Now, I think if the choice was actually between a relevant job and a degree, you should choose the job, but I don't think many young people get that choice these days.


If you're looking to become an associate editor in the fiction business, you're better off going for real experience than trying to get in with a degree or diploma.

Those things won't hurt your chances, but they will very rarely help. Most of the editors I know of seem to be much more interested in where you've worked in the past and what your level of ability is now, than in whether you've got a degree, probably because real editing ability cannot be taught, it has to be learned on the job.

This is slightly different to what an editor of a magazine does, of course, but I think if you manage to get work editing a magazine (particularly one that publishes the genre you're interested in working in) that could give you a sideways route into publishing.

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