You'll need creative flair, a well organised approach and extensive work experience to be successful in this competitive field
A magazine features editor is responsible for the content and quality of a publication and ensures that stories are engaging and informative.
Most opportunities are in large publishing companies that produce a range of titles. These include weekly and monthly consumer or lifestyle titles, which are commonly referred to as 'glossy' magazines, as well as a variety of trade publications.
Features editors are also employed by specialist publishers, online media and in-house magazines. Magazine features editors do not always need to have specialist knowledge of the subject they cover, unless the content is highly technical, although an interest in the subject is usually expected.
The role varies according to the size of the publication and the nature of its content, but as a magazine features editor, your responsibilities will typically include:
- overseeing the layout, appearance and content of feature articles
- generating ideas for features with writing staff
- commissioning articles from freelance and in-house writers
- managing writing staff and freelance feature writers
- editing and re-writing articles, some of which may be rejected or returned to the writer for revision
- overseeing artwork, design and photography for the features section of the magazine
- attending photo shoots
- organising meetings with writers and artists to discuss ideas for artwork, layout and features
- negotiating payments with freelance writers
- understanding and complying with media law and industry ethical guidelines
- selecting feature articles for each issue
- sending out briefs to writers, which can include word count, deadline, fee and writing style
- proofreading all pages before going to press
- raising the profile of the magazine
- networking with others at industry events
- assisting other staff to meet their deadlines.
- Starting salaries for features editors vary with the type of magazine and location. The smallest magazines can pay around £15,000, but the typical salary range for others is around £20,000 to £40,000. The largest national publications offer the highest salaries.
- Typical salaries at senior level are around £35,000 to £65,000. The salary will depend on the responsibilities of the role and the size and type of publication.
Salaries vary significantly between different magazines. Salaries are also dependent on the success of particular publications, which can change over time.
It is likely that you will start in a more junior role within a magazine, such as editorial assistant or junior reporter, where salaries will be lower. With experience you may then progress to the features editor role and gain a higher wage.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
A 9am to 5pm day is common, with occasional late nights to meet deadlines. Hours can be longer for weekly publications, but are usually less than those expected by newspapers.
Hours can be flexible and are usually less demanding and more sociable than other editorial positions, particularly those with newspapers.
Part-time opportunities are available, although these are slightly more common with smaller publications. Self-employment is rare, although it may be possible to work as a freelance writer if it does not conflict with your role.
What to expect
- Most work is office based, although networking, particularly at industry events, can be an important part of the job.
- There is an equal gender balance in the occupation, although features editors for men's magazines will usually be male, just as features editors for women's publications tend to be female.
- To help black and ethnic minority students get the training they need the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has set up the George Viner Memorial Fund to address the shortfall of ethnic minorities in the media industry and to broaden diversity.
- There are opportunities throughout the UK, but most are concentrated in London and the South East. Many of the larger national magazines are based in London.
- The dress code is usually smart/casual, although this will vary with each publication.
- The work includes a lot of responsibility and tight deadlines, which can make the job stressful.
- Travel opportunities vary with each employer, but most require only a limited amount of travel. You may be expected to attend industry events, press trips and social events, and this can mean absences from home overnight.
- Overseas travel is not common, but you may travel abroad for research and networking events. This is more common for publications that rely on information from overseas, such as international business or travel magazines.
The profession is open to non-graduates, but most entrants do have degrees or related qualifications.
The role of magazine features editor is not an entry-level position, so you will need previous experience and a certain amount of training, obtained either through a degree or on the job.
Some specialist magazines, such as those in the business or science sectors, do require a degree in a relevant subject.
Postgraduate qualifications are useful, but are not essential.
A postgraduate qualification in journalism is helpful if your undergraduate degree is in an unrelated subject. Employers will be keen to see courses that are accredited by the:
- Professional Publishers Association (PPA)
- National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).
It is possible to take courses and qualifications at colleges and via distance learning.
You will need to show:
- an interest in a range of topics
- the ability to multi-task
- attention to detail, combined with an appreciation of the 'bigger picture'
- the ability to think on your feet and respond to events as they happen
- excellent writing skills and the ability to spell and delete jargon
- the ability to understand complex subjects and explain them clearly to readers
- the ability to take constructive criticism.
Magazine journalism, as with journalism generally, is oversubscribed, and competition can be fierce. You can improve your chances by gaining work experience before applying for an entry-level position.
Since work experience is valued over qualifications alone, a candidate with a portfolio of published work will stand a much better chance of employment.
There are plenty of opportunities to get your work published. The student newspaper is a good starting point, as are local newspapers. If you have a hobby, you can submit articles to magazines which serve that interest. It is also possible to self-publish through a website, blog or music fanzine.
Sending off speculative applications for articles is a useful way of getting your work published. It is important to do your research on the magazine you are contacting. Editors will not be impressed if your suggested article demonstrates ignorance about the magazine and its readers.
Although writing experience is crucial, there are other skills that journalists might need. If you can develop these, you will stand a better chance of gaining employment. Knowledge of HTML could be beneficial, particularly as more and more magazine content is going online.
Experience of photography can be useful, and a second language can come in handy for international publications.
Information on how to get into the industry is available from Professional Publishers Association (PPA) - Careers.
The biggest employers in the industry are the large multi-title publishing companies, but opportunities are available with small, independent publishers and in-house magazines.
Online magazines are also becoming an increasingly useful vacancy source.
There are opportunities in many different areas, including:
- newspaper supplements
- online publications
- general consumer magazines
- specialist consumer magazines
- business-to-business or trade magazines
- customer or in-house publications
- directory and data publishing.
Each of these areas can include many different titles. General consumer magazines, for instance, cover interests such as the arts, news, entertainment, health and sport.
To access a detailed list of the UK's magazine publications, see media.info.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Hold the Front Page
- Media Week
- The recruitment pages of publishers' own websites.
Many jobs are not advertised and you will need to use your contacts and networks in the industry. A good way to build up a network is through experience. Alternatively, contact magazine editors directly.
Once in employment, the variety of training opportunities available varies between employers. Some of the bigger companies usually offer staff a range of free training courses.
It is unlikely that smaller publishing houses will be in a position to offer such a package.
The Professional Publishers Association partners with various companies to provide training that focuses on specific skill areas.
Relevant courses are available through the NCTJ. This includes the Diploma in Journalism, which reflects the multimedia environment of modern journalism. It includes the following five core subjects:
- multimedia portfolio
- essential public affairs
- essential media law.
You also need to take two specialist options, which include business of magazines and sub-editing. Further information is available from NCTJ - Diploma in Journalism.
There are other organisations that offer training in journalism, but the NCTJ and the PPA are well received by the industry and guarantee a recognised level of education.
The first experience of journalism you are likely to get is with a student newspaper or with a free local paper or magazine. Some people also begin by publishing their work online, usually with small online magazines.
After gaining experience of writing or working for a publication, the next step is to apply for an entry-level position. These positions include:
- junior writer
- editorial assistant
- proof reader.
For smaller publications, other opportunities, such as press sub-editor, may be available for recent graduates with writing experience.
It can take many years of writing and working for a magazine to be considered for a features editor position, but this can vary with different publishers.
The larger magazines sometimes ask for previous experience as a features editor with a smaller publication, although extensive experience as a features writer, particularly with the magazine in question, is a common route into the role.
Features editors can be promoted into the senior roles of deputy editor or editor; this may take several years or it may be a rapid progression, depending on the size of the publication. Promotion can be more difficult with specialist titles, as it is not always possible to move between different magazine sectors when looking for a senior position.
Niche titles are more vulnerable to market changes, which can also limit the opportunities for promotion. Bottlenecks can occur at the highest level due to a shortage of senior positions.