If you’re considering becoming a writer, you need to first accept that there is a lot of competition in this industry, and you will need to be on the top of your game to make a good living. This is not designed to put you off, but more to make you aware that those who do become successful have put in the time and learnt the necessary qualifications. Here is a helpful overview of what being a writer actually entails, and what education is needed to become a writer.
What does a writer do?
A writer’s job is to communicate a variety of concepts through the written word. Writers can take on many forms, they can explain concepts with simple straightforward instructions, they can entertain with dramatic or humorous stories in scripts and novels, or even persuade you to purchase a product with a witty copy in advertising.
The great thing about writing is that it’s transferable. All you need is a laptop and internet access, then you can work wherever you desire. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately two-thirds of all writers are self-employed, but there are still many who work in-house for companies and marketing agencies.
What education is needed to become a writer?
A writer’s educational requirements vary on the type of writing they do. Below we will discuss a variety of writing ‘genres’ and techniques along with their corresponding education requirements.
Regardless of what type of professional writer you wish to become, you should develop strong computer skills as most writers do research on the internet as a fundamental part of their work and submit and send their work via email.
To pursue a career in creative writing you will first need to be a creative person. Creative writing can see you writing long fiction novels, witty poems to short stories. Creative writers send their writing to various editors in the hope of publication and remuneration; however, there are opportunities out there for ghost writing.
If you want to freelance with creative writing then technically no educational background is necessary, beyond that of spelling and grammar taught in high school. However, if you want to write creatively for a company, you will need excellent written English skills and you will find it beneficial if you have a bachelor’s degree in creative writing, English or liberal arts. You can also practice your writing by writing every day to perfect the craft, or you could undertake a marketing course available in colleges to help sell your work.
Copywriters use their writing to advertise a product or service and to persuade customers to buy that product or service. If you decide to freelance write then you will usually need some sort of writing experience and be educated to a degree standard. If you are aiming for a fixed position within a company, then those positions usually require a bachelor’s degree in marketing, advertising, business or liberal arts. However, if you have a degree in another subject, a copywriter training course can help you move into this sector.
If you are short on experience, you can write for charities, or community projects to increase your skills. The higher the education and experience, then the higher the career progression. Copywriters can become ‘copy chiefs’ or supervisors who coordinate the work of others.
Technical writers are those who develop technical guides such as quick-start sheets, operations guides or any other style of documentation that is designed to help the general population understand how to use a particular service, machine or product. The education required for this type of writing is typically a bachelor’s degree in English, communications, or of course, technical writing. Some employers may require you to have a major in a ‘technical’ subject such as engineering, medicine or computers or equivalent experience.
Journalists or reporters write stories to explain important events or happenings. This can range from local news, national news or international news. It can also vary depending on genre. For example, fashion journalists will write stories based on trends, runway shows, entertainment news etc, whereas political journalists have a pure focus on an area of politics.
The education required for this type of writing is typically a bachelor’s degree in either communications, English or journalism. However, employers also accept degrees from other areas of study if applicants have related work experience. Remember, communication skills are just as important as writing skills in a journalism role as a high proportion of your writing will come directly from interviews.
Experience is key
To succeed in any role of writing, your experience is just as important as your education. You need to build up a strong portfolio in the style of writing you most enjoy. Experience can be gained through a variety of platforms, including writing for free as a guest blogger on a variety of websites; interning in a local newspaper or magazine; or writing for a non-profit organization.
Regardless of whether you’re just beginning as a writer or you are a professional, you should always be looking for ways to improve your writing skills, find employment and connect with other writers. Professional associations are a great resource for doing this and some brilliant organizations that support writers include The American Society of Journalists and Authors, National Writers Association and Women’s Fiction Writers Association.
More than a degree…
Along with possessing the skills of written English, in today’s world, writers need to have a well-rounded skill set to be successful. This includes impeccable language skills in all forms of grammar, written, reading and word usage, digital media skills including the knowledge of basic HTML, CSS, and search engine optimisation and diligence so that writers can check their work for errors, accuracy and overall quality. These skills can be taught and improved online via online courses.
After reading this, it is probably best to jot down what qualifications and experience you currently hold as a writer. Next, identify what necessary qualifications and skills you will need to hold in order to reach your intended position. After that, it’s a not-so-simple case of matching the two up and filling in any necessary requirements. Just remember, it’s never too late to learn a new skill and going back to college or university, or indeed studying a new qualification in your spare time, should be viewed as a step forward, not a step back.