Politicians, business executives and university presidents among others rely on speechwriters to deliver messages that connect with audiences. Speechwriters research their topics, study the speaker's objectives and audience members' expectations, determine the best audio and visual aids to use and create speeches that make an impact. They also outline topics for speakers to review, and convert speeches to brochures, educational tools or online communications. If you want to be a successful speechwriter, you'll need at least a couple years on-the-job experience working on speeches in the industry in which you're interested. You can expect to earn an above-average salary compared to other occupations.
Salary and Qualifications
Speechwriters earned average annual salaries of $78,000 as of 2013, according to the job website Indeed. This is about 14 percent higher than salaries the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports for writers and authors -- $68,420 annually. A common route for an aspiring speechwriter involves a bachelor's degree in English, communications or journalism; and entry-level work as a speechwriter for at least two years. You may need a master's or Ph.D. degree if you work for a college or university president or dean. You will need thorough knowledge of your industry, be it corporate or political, as well as familiarity with the needs and goals of the executives or officials for whom you work. Obvious essential attributes include creativity, persuasiveness and command of the social graces.
Salary by Region
Average salaries for speechwriters varied significantly by region as of 2013, according to Indeed. In the Midwest, they earned among the lowest average salaries, ranging from $61,000 in South Dakota to $83,000 in Illinois. Those in the Northeast ran from $69,000 to $92,000 per year in Pennsylvania and New York respectively -- representing the region's low and high. If you worked in the West, you earned from $56,000 in Hawaii to $86,000 in California, which were the lowest and highest salaries in the region. In the South, salaries ranged from $66,000 in Louisiana to $92,000 in Mississippi.
Speechwriters generally earn more as they gain experience. But the type of speechwriting -- executive or political -- will help determine pay; as will the level at which you work. Working for a member of the U.S. Senate, for example, is likely to pay more than working for a state official. Likewise, the size of the corporation or university you're a part of will help determine pay. Salaries tend to be higher in New York and California because of higher living costs.
The BLS reports that jobs for writers and authors, including speechwriters, will increase 6 percent throughout the decade, which is slower than the 14 percent average for all jobs. Don't overlook opportunities to become an assistant speechwriter in an entry-level position. It's also helpful to choose a niche as, say, an executive or political speechwriter early on, and use that to guide your career decisions.