Serving as an editor-in-chief is a demanding position in which you are expected to manage staff and make crucial editorial decisions. Though it is rewarding to see editorial product come to fruition, consider everything the job entails. Make sure you review the qualifications and expectations of the job carefully. Working as an editor-in-chief is rarely a 9-to-5 job.
The responsibilities of an editor-in-chief vary based on the publication, usually related to its size and medium. For example, an editor-in-chief at a newspaper may have different responsibilities than one at a magazine or website. Generally, an editor-in-chief is responsible for planning, editing and revising all the content. This includes correcting spelling and grammar, rewriting copy, evaluating stories pitched by your reporters and freelancers and then working with them on polishing their completed submissions, verifying facts, selecting photographs and illustrations, and giving final approvals. The job also carries a variety of administrative and staff management duties. Editors-in-chief often are tasked with the long-term planning for the content that will appear in the publication, attending meetings with other department managers, overseeing a staff that includes editors and reporters, negotiating contracts with freelancers, hiring and managing staff, and overseeing the editorial budget within set operational parameters.
An editor-in-chief rarely works a standard eight-hour business day. The length of an editor-in-chief’s workday usually depends on the frequency of publication. For example, a magazine that publishes once a month or a newspaper that publishes three times a week will have a different production schedule than a weekly news magazine or daily newspaper. The larger the newspaper -- especially if it has an evening press time or a night-shift staff -- the more likely it is that the editor-in-chief will be at the office longer ensuring everything is on track. Meanwhile, smaller publications may have a more standard workday but experience increased hours as production deadlines loom. The discrepancy of hours and production schedule is also reflected in the wide range of pay editors-in-chiefs receive.
Salaries for editors-in-chiefs are generally based on the type of publication, their education and their work experience. Most editors-in-chiefs will have completed a university degree in journalism, communications or English and have worked eight to 10 years before being hired in the positions. For all editors, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found salaries ranged from $29,340 to $104,660 in 2012. The figure includes all manner of editors, including technical editors. However, the mean annual salary for editors working in the newspaper and periodical industry was $62,400. Meanwhile, FolioMag.com’s annual editorial survey found editors-in-chief saw a small increase in their pay in 2012, with the exception of those working at business-to-business publications. The New York area had the highest paid editors-in-chiefs, averaging a salary of $137,200 compared to $87,900 in the rest of the U.S.. The revenue and size of the publication has implications on salary. For example, a small weekly newspaper in a rural community generally pays less than a large daily in an urban center. In many cases, the level of experience and education of the editor-in-chief is also reflected in the salary.
The demand for editors is expected to increase by about 1 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the BLS. The BLS warns competition for jobs will increase because of the decline in the newspaper industry, which is being driven by media mergers, decreased advertising revenue and a shift to online content and media consumption. Editors who are able to move into comfortable working online will have the most success finding employment, the BLS says. FolioMag.com adds candidates should expect job availability and pay to be related to the revenue of the publication. It also warns that editorial staffs are shrinking and a changing media environment means more job duties and a push for candidates able to work with online content.
2016 Salary Information for Editors
Editors earned a median annual salary of $57,210 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, editors earned a 25th percentile salary of $40,480, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $79,490, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 127,400 people were employed in the U.S. as editors.
- Folio - MediaPro Community: The 2012 Editorial Salary Survey
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 - Editors
- American Geophysical Union: Editor-in-Chief - Position Description
- Saint Mary's University - The Journal: Job Description - Editor-in-Chief
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Editors
- Career Trend: Editors
Based in Toronto, J.A. Zander has worked as a full-time journalist since 2004. Zander's work has appeared in Canadian and American magazines, newspapers and websites.