Editorial assistants use their excellent grammar and communication skills to help the editorial team to produce and publish books, magazines, journals and online content

You'll need a great eye for detail, the ability to spot mistakes, commercial awareness of trends in the publishing industry, and excellent time management skills, so that you always hit strict deadlines.

The tasks that you undertake and your level of responsibility will vary depending on the size of the organisation and the type of publication that you are working on.

An editorial assistant role is typically an entry-level job for careers in the editorial industry. Progression to more senior roles such as features editor or commissioning editor may be possible once you've gained the necessary skills and experience.

With the growth of digital publishing there are increasing opportunities to work for online publications, which can involve editing and writing website content and using social media.


You'll often be involved in projects from conception to completion, from receiving copy from authors through to the handover to production staff.

In general you'll need to:

  • support editorial staff in all activities leading to publication, including acting as a personal assistant to commissioning editors and overseeing tasks such as issuing contracts, processing invoices, and dealing with royalties
  • liaise with other in-house teams, writers, photographers, printers, designers and production staff to negotiate and monitor timescales for stages in the publishing process
  • deal with the administration of work commissioned to freelance writers, picture researchers, photographers, stylists and illustrators
  • organise and research projects to tight deadlines
  • summarise written material
  • correct manuscripts
  • obtain rights to use materials from other publications
  • use computers for word processing, desktop publishing and email
  • deal with phone and email queries, e.g. from writers and the public
  • create social media content
  • carry out filing, photocopying and other routine administrative tasks.

In some areas of editorial work (such as an in-house company publication), you may also need to:

  • write articles and reports
  • amend articles
  • collate the work of several authors
  • use specialist electronic publishing packages (QuarkXPress or InDesign).

In online publishing, you may need to:

  • proof, edit and write online content including via social media
  • upload text and images to a website using a content management system
  • compile and distribute newsletters using specific software.

As your expertise develops, you might:

  • assess manuscripts and make recommendations on their publication to senior editorial staff
  • respond to copyright queries from writers and other publishers
  • update and rewrite material
  • use your own specialist knowledge to contribute ideas
  • source freelancers or other authors to produce new materials
  • assist with the art direction and design of publications
  • write your own material.


  • Starting salaries are likely to be in the region of £19,000 to £27,000, and vary according to the size and type of employer.
  • Average salaries in publishing are around £26,500. After several years' experience, senior editor salaries range from £26,000 to £47,000, with higher salaries possible in larger publishing houses.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours are typically 9am to 5pm with some extra hours for overtime, often without payment. Work may involve extra hours as deadlines approach.

Career breaks and part-time or freelance work are possible.

What to expect

  • Work is largely a hybrid mixture of office- and home-based work.
  • When in the office, the working environment and dress code are typically informal, although this depends on the publisher.
  • The most likely areas for freelance work are proofreading, translation, copy-editing, copywriting and styling. For industry-specific support and advice see the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).
  • According to the Publishers Association, women make up around two thirds of the workforce in publishing. Around 17% of the workforce is from an ethnic minority group. The Publishers Association - Diversity & Inclusion and Creative Access schemes aim to encourage and support underrepresented groups into the profession.
  • Most publishing opportunities in the UK are based in and around London, with some positions available in other regions. Oxford also has a strong publishing centre and there are opportunities in other major cities, such as Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol and Cambridge. With the increase in hybrid working it may be possible to be based anywhere in the UK and find editorial work but it’s likely you’ll need to be prepared to travel into the office at an agreed frequency with your employer.
  • Skills gained with UK publishers or on UK postgraduate courses in publishing may also be used overseas.
  • Travel within the working day is uncommon. Overnight absences from home and overseas work or travel may occasionally be required, such as attending conferences or book events, although these are often attended by more senior staff.


Although this occupation doesn't necessarily require a degree or HND, most entrants at editorial level are graduates. The following degree or HND subjects may increase your chances:

  • arts and humanities, in particular English
  • journalism, media or communication studies
  • social, economic or business studies.

Specialist knowledge gained through a degree may be an advantage for some specialist publications.

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not essential but can be useful. Postgraduate courses that include placements and contact with people in publishing provide a good introduction to professional skills and networking.

A pre-entry certificate or postgraduate qualification in journalism may be very useful for entry positions in magazines and trade publications. A short publishing course, not necessarily at postgraduate level, may give you an edge over other applicants.

Search postgraduate courses in publishing.

A second language is useful as some publications, particularly magazines, are printed internationally. You should also have an understanding of the publishing area you wish to enter. Read issues of trade publications such as The Bookseller to increase your knowledge.


You'll need to show:

  • enthusiasm, interpersonal skills, teamwork, self-motivation and flexibility
  • IT, organisational, administrative and secretarial skills, including word processing and research skills
  • a high standard of written and spoken English
  • attention to detail, together with the ability to proofread
  • the ability to stay calm under pressure, work well with others and show initiative
  • creativity, and in some cases digital-editing skills
  • knowledge and experience of social media platforms such as X and TikTok, and an understanding of the ways that AI is changing the industry (from aiding translation and the production of publicity material, to the concerns around copyright infringement and artificially generated content)
  • time management skills, including the ability to keep to tight deadlines
  • commercial awareness of current trends in the publishing industry.

Work experience

Pre-entry experience is desirable, if not essential, as competition is very strong.

Writing or editing experience is usually expected by employers as it shows your commitment to the industry. To arrange work experience placements, seek advice from people already in publishing and send speculative applications to companies.

Work experience can help you to build up your skills, knowledge and contacts, and give you an understanding of how publishing works. This can include:

  • job shadowing at a magazine or newspaper
  • working in a library or bookshop
  • doing temporary administrative work in a publishing house.

Create your own website or blog to showcase samples of your work and develop an online social media presence, through X, YouTube and LinkedIn for example, to promote yourself and your skills. You can also use these social media platforms to follow companies that interest you.

Work experience opportunities, jobs, relevant news and articles are often posted on a company's social media pages, so make sure you research these regularly and keep up to date.

Make the most of any experience you can gain while you're at university, for example, writing for the student magazine or joining a relevant club or society. This is a great way to build up your skills and experience and demonstrate your interest, while building a network of contacts.

Many large and some smaller publishing houses offer work experience placements, which usually last around two weeks. Some are unpaid, although expenses may be reimbursed. Others are paid at National Minimum Wage or London Living Wage.

The Publishers Association runs an annual Work in Publishing week in the Autumn to give young people and early career professionals an insight into the sector, including events, activity on social media and information content on their website.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.


Publishing is a diverse industry encompassing both large, multinational groups with a varied range of publications and small, independent, specialist companies with a much narrower focus.

Publishing can broadly be divided into six main sectors:

  • books
  • magazines and newspapers
  • academic and professional journals
  • public and not-for-profit publishing
  • directories and databases
  • digital publishing.

Opportunities also exist in organisations that have a publications or publicity department. These organisations range from commercial companies that produce in-house newsletters to smaller charities or not-for-profit organisations that need to communicate with their employees or donors. Working as an editorial assistant in one of these organisations gives you an insight into the publishing process, from initial ideas through to the final product.

Look for job vacancies at:

The Publishers Association has a helpful list of recruitment agencies that focus on publishing.

Publishing is popular with graduates, so jobs often appear in the specialist press or through recruitment agencies rather than in national newspapers, in the hope that the advertisements will attract only a small number of suitable applicants.

Many jobs are not formally advertised and you may be able to get employment through networking or word of mouth. Attending literary festivals, book fairs and other relevant events is an excellent way to meet publishers and make industry contracts, as well as find out about opportunities.

Very few graduate training schemes exist, although some large companies offer such schemes, which attract a large number of applications each year.

Speculative applications have a greater chance of success if you're targeting small to medium sized publishing companies, and if you have already made personal contact with someone in the organisation. Do extensive research to make your application as strong as possible and ensure your applications are word perfect.

When making speculative applications make sure that you outline the skills that you feel you can offer and how you can contribute, for example, the ability to research and collate information, social media skills as well as writing and editing skills, which can all be useful to a potential employer.

Once you've graduated, consider finding a part-time or temporary job - a surprising number of publishing careers start in this way and lead to permanent positions. Posts such as administrative assistants, editorial secretaries, copy editors and other related jobs are often a good stepping stone into publishing.

People are often recruited to trainee positions through contacts (developed through visiting book fairs, work shadowing and talking to people working in publishing), specialist training courses or because they have made direct contact at the right time.

Professional development

Training takes place mainly on the job. Short courses are available, which in smaller organisations may have to be taken in the employee's own time. Larger publishers may have structured training programmes for new entrants or may commission customised training.

For courses which can be studied online throughout the year, take a look at Publishing Training Centre, Publishing Scotland and Publishing Ireland. Topics include:

  • copy-editing
  • electronic and digital publishing
  • IT
  • marketing
  • production and other basic publishing skills, including grammar
  • proofreading
  • rights and contracts.

In-person and online courses for publishing employees and prospective entrants are run by the London School of Publishing.

Training and advice for careers in publishing is available from the Professional Publishers Association (PPA).

Mentoring is available for those looking for their first role in publishing and for those looking to develop their career through the Society of Young Publishers.

Training for professional development is also offered by the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP).

Career prospects

Promotion depends on proving your abilities and developing a reputation within the industry for consistent high-quality work.

It may be advantageous to work as an editorial assistant on several publications to gain specialist experience, for example, in children's or academic titles.

It should then be possible to progress from editorial assistant to a features editor role in magazines, or to development editor, assistant editor, editor, project editor and ultimately on to senior commissioning editor and other managerial positions in publishing.

Competition for promotion from one level to another can be intense. Larger firms may have scope for you to progress within the organisation, but in smaller firms promotion may mean applying elsewhere once you've acquired basic skills and experience.

Editors often become freelancers, especially if working from home suits family or other commitments. Freelance work has many benefits, such as:

  • reducing the need for travel
  • working to your own timetable
  • having a varied working life.

However, freelance rates vary and many benefits are forfeited, including holiday pay, sick pay, pensions and maternity cover. Some freelance work, such as proofreading roles, is also under threat from increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence tools.

Freelance work attracts high competition and you'll need previous experience and contacts in the publishing industry to be successful.

Publishing is growing in the Middle and Far East. If you're an experienced editor, you might consider working overseas.

How would you rate this page?

On a scale where 1 is dislike and 5 is like

success feedback

Thank you for rating the page