Technical editors proofread, revise, rewrite and edit technical information. They edit research reports, scientific and technical publications, clinical research protocols, learning materials and user manuals, web content and many other articles on scientific, research or technical subjects. These articles may cover a myriad of subjects, such as car engines, computers or breakthroughs in medicine, among many other topics. Technical editors edit material to produce technical publications best suited for their targeted audiences.
Technical editors review the work of technical writers. They review written drafts, offer suggestions to improve the work and propose possible titles. Some editors also write articles, design graphics, create templates, develop training manuals and maintain websites and technical content available online. Because much of their work must conform to strict formatting and editorial guidelines, technical editors collaborate with researchers, subject-matter experts and technical writers to verify the correctness and accuracy of materials prior to publication.
Technical editors possess excellent writing skills and demonstrate mastery of grammar, punctuation and spelling. They express ideas logically, clearly and concisely and can provide guidance and encouragement to others in a tactful way. Editors use their sound judgment and strong sense of ethics when reviewing material and deciding what to publish. They may sometimes work under tight deadlines; the ability to concentrate and work effectively under pressure is essential. Creativity, curiosity and an expanding breadth of knowledge are other attributes common to many technical editors.
Because much of an editor’s work involves writing and editing, many employers look for candidates with a bachelor’s degree in English, communications or journalism. Individuals with other educational backgrounds who demonstrate excellent writing and editing skills may also experience successful careers as technical editors. Editors may require specialized training to acquire knowledge about the field in which they work. For example, editors of technology user manuals may find expertise obtained through using computer systems as helpful when completing editorial duties.
Many editors begin their careers as writers for research organizations, technology companies, educational institutions and government agencies. Individuals experienced in finding stories, recognizing writing talent and collaborating with writers usually aim for careers as editors. These individuals generally advance their careers by establishing a reputation, completing more complex assignments and getting published. Some editors experience success through getting selected for prestigious assignments, while others move to publishing companies with a larger reader base and greater prominence.
The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates editors in the United States average annual wages ranging from $28,430 to $97,360, as of May 2009. The annual mean wage is $50,800 for all editor occupations in the United States, as of May 2009. Editors in the information services sector and those employed by business, professional or political type organizations have the highest average annual mean wages of $59,710 and $61,220, respectively, as of May 2009.