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Teresa Poole, from UCSD Extension, explains how you can become a copyeditor.

First, please tell me about yourself.

I am the program manager for several certificate programs here at UC San Diego Extension, one of which is copyediting. My role here includes scheduling courses, regulating curriculum, hiring and managing instructors, and advising students. I’ve been in my current job for just over two years.

And how did you land there?

I began working in a different department within UC San Diego Extension about seven years ago and almost immediately took advantage of the free Extension courses offered for employees. I took some creative writing classes, language classes, and even a harmonica class right off the bat, but when I found out we had a Copyediting Certificate that I could complete in nine months, I jumped at the chance to enroll. As I was finishing the certificate, the program manager at the time contacted me to tell me that she was moving out of state and would be leaving her position. She said she’d love it if I applied for her job since I was already familiar with many classes in her portfolio from taking them over the years. I got the job a couple months later and have been here ever since.

Tell me about the copyediting program.

Our online Specialized Certificate in Copyediting provides a solid grounding in the tools and techniques of copyediting and introduces several advanced topics required for a successful career in this field. Every lesson offers practical skills and application of those skills that are immediately transferrable to working in the field of copyediting.

There are four required courses to obtain the certificate and several recommended courses that can benefit someone just starting out in this career. Students can take any of these recommended classes that they think would benefit them since they focus on marketing, business plans, and social media for editors.

UC San Diego is on the academic quarter schedule, so each course is ten weeks long. Students can finish in as little as nine months if they take the first two required courses at the same time, Grammar Lab and Copyediting I, or twelve months if they take one class per quarter. Copyediting I, II, and III must be taken in sequence, and Grammar Lab is a prerequisite for Copyediting II. Students have up to five years to complete the required courses if they need to take time off between each one.

What kind of time commitment does it require?

The courses are asynchronous but not self-paced; students are required to keep up with weekly assignments and submit them by Sunday deadlines. The average student spends three hours online and six hours offline each week per class taken.

Who takes these classes? New graduates? People changing careers?

Based on the last survey of our graduates, most students in the Copyediting Certificate are changing careers or looking to start working from home. We also have many students who are looking to supplement their income by creating a side business in copyediting and are using this certificate to get started.

What kind of job opportunities does the certificate lead to?

The UCSD Extension Copyediting Certificate can definitely equip students to land a job. Our latest survey indicated that about eighty percent of graduates of this program are employed in a related field. This includes many freelancers as well as some people in the publishing industry. I currently also work as a freelance copyeditor in addition to my role here at UCSD and have been able to get jobs by indicating that I’ve taken these classes. I feel confident in marketing myself as well as my ability to edit, and I credit that confidence to this program and its instructors. Since they’re also employed in the copyediting field, they offer a wide variety of experience and advice to students looking for work.

How much can a copyeditor expect to make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average editor made $53,880 or $25.90 per hour in 2012. From what I’ve seen in the couple of years since then, that number is on the rise. Although many publishing houses are downsizing their editing departments, they still need to employ contractors to do the job. This is where freelancers can make money. Freelance copyeditors set their own prices based on an hourly rate or per page and it can vary from $20 per hour if you’re just starting out to $50 per hour for more experienced professionals.

What would say are some unexpected challenges of working as a copyeditor?

Deadlines are often tight and copyeditors can work very late into the night to finish a job. When working with new clients, always ask for a specific deadline and make sure it won’t change. This will allow you to do your best work without worrying about the constraint of a looming deadline.

Any unexpected perks?

For freelance copyeditors or for copyeditors who work onsite at publishing houses or for newspapers or magazines, a big perk is that you’ll always be learning. Copyediting often requires in-depth knowledge of particular subject matter, which makes research a big part of the editing process. You’ll always have the chance to learn about new subjects.

What kind of person would you say is best cut out to be a copyeditor? Any kind of person you think should avoid it?

Anyone who has poor time management skills would not make a good copyeditor. If you’re good at setting small goals and reaching them, and you love the way words fit together, it’s a really fun job.

Can you offer any additional advice for those interested in the copyediting program at UCSD Extension?

If you’d like more information about our Copyediting Certificate here at UC San Diego Extension, we have a free online information session for prospective students. Fall classes begin September 29 and they’re open for enrollment now.

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