Becoming a Writer Careers & Salary Outlook

What Is a Writer?


A writer is an expert in the use of words. They use words to create ways to communicate ideas, information, and specific types of messages. The field of writing once was confined to tools like pen, paper, and typewriters, now flourishes on the Internet, electronic media, and has a global impact. Writing careers exist in nearly every type of activity because writers are essential to communications. Writers use words to communicate ideas. They work in many types of media including books, magazines and print media, blogs, and the Internet. Writers can work with words, words, and images, and words combined with other types of media such as streaming video.

Writers work in many familiar situations such as advertising, magazines, and newspapers. Writers provide digital content for the trillions of pages of Internet webpages. These communications include E-Commerce, online advertising, and messaging. Writers also produce scripts, plays, screenplays for movies.

Humanities & Art Career Paths


Steps to Becoming a Writer


Steps to Take:


  • Step 1: Complete a Basic Education

  • Step 2: Complete a Writing Education/Bachelor’s

  • Step 3: Find Areas of Interest

  • Step 4: Get Experience

  • Step 5: Get A Job

  • Step 6: Get a Master’s Degree

There is no specific method for becoming a writer; successful writers have come from an unlimited range of backgrounds, personal histories, and educational backgrounds. Writer jobs typically require some level of education. Most employers will ask for a bachelor's degree in a writing-related field such as English Literature. Employers seeking to fill higher paying and demanding positions typically ask for significant relevant experience and a master's degree.

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Step 1: Complete Basic Education

To be employed by others, a writer would typically have to get a minimum level of education such as a high school diploma or equivalent. One of the unique features of a writing career is that self-taught individuals have succeeded as writers too. In the area of formal education, aspiring writers get significant benefits and skills from courses in English, writing, grammar, and reading. Many students begin their writing careers as journalists for school publications like school newspapers, newsletters, and yearbooks.

A basic attribute of good writers is reading. By consuming large amounts of meaningful writing, writers learn by personal experience the impact of written words. Writing is in some ways the ability to transfer an experience; writers help people visualize and understand things, including new and unfamiliar subjects.

Step 2: Complete a Writing Education/Bachelor’s

A writing education can be formal and obtained in an accredited school, college, or university. Writing education could also be practical and obtained in roles that help develop writing skills, knowledge, and abilities. Formal education after high school usually consists of an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in a writing-based field. Many aspiring writers study literature, English, or social studies. Writers can benefit from a wide range of major and minor fields if they have a solid basis in writing, composition, and literature.

Writers need to demonstrate their skill, knowledge, and any specialization that they have. One common device is the writer’s portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of the writer’s works that can illustrate their writing ability and subject knowledge. The portfolio can demonstrate depth in a few subjects, or the writer’s style displayed across a wide range of topics.

Step 3: Find Areas of Interest

Writing is not a confining field; nearly every kind of artistic, commercial, or social activity involves writing and written communications. When beginning a writing career, it may be useful to start in some areas that hold interest. Motivation comes with high interest, and writers can benefit from work that helps develop and refine writing skills. Writing can follow other interests such as hobbies, sports, technology, and gaming.

Step 4: Get Experience

Writing jobs can be competitive, and employers would look to education, writing samples, portfolios, and experience when making a selection. Internships, cooperative assignments, and similar placements can help a writer get experience. Training programs, vocational schools, colleges, and universities often help students get internships and provide academic credit for them. In some fields like healthcare, international trade, or business internships can help you develop valuable contacts, a body of specific experience in a field, and on the job education and training.

Step 5: Get a Job

With education or a degree and some level of experience, writers can compete for jobs. Full-time writing positions exist in nearly every type of business, industry, and commercial operation. Public employers like state, local, and federal governments hire writers to manage the tremendous amount of content needed for public functions. Writer’s today have many options in the ‘gig economy’, because writing work is portable and easily outsourced by a wide range of individuals, businesses, and organizations. Many writers are self-employed consultants that work online and in their geographic areas handling many types of writing work. They can take advantage of online employment and the vast demand for online content and advertising.

Creative writers that wish to publish works such as poetry, novels, and non-fiction works must engage publishers and sell their work. Some writers hire literary agents to make a market for their work and find publishing deals. However, creative writers don’t necessarily control their outcomes, and the process can be filled with temporary setbacks. Today, authors have a myriad of options for self-publishing provided by large Internet publishing and book sales platforms.

Step 6: Get a Master’s Degree

Advanced degrees can be a big advantage for getting jobs in the fields in which a writer wishes to work. A Master’s Degree in Fine Arts or Master of Arts in English or Literature can provide a career boost and open the door to new opportunities. Advanced degrees are a source of authority in the writing field, and many employers look for this level of qualification.

What does a Writer Do?


Writers express thoughts and ideas in written words. They use an expert command of the language to develop precise presentations that engage the reader. Writers research information, design concepts, and edit their work for maximum impact with a minimum of words. Writers produce a wide range of products including poetry, novels, articles, essays, news information, and book manuscripts. Typical settings for writers include book publishers, newspapers, eCommerce companies, and federal agencies.

Writers come in many types, specializations, and areas of focus. They can be scientific writers that produce knowledge and evidence-based material. They can be copywriters that provide precise information for consumers, the public, and special audiences on behalf of clients like the government or a manufacturer. Writers work across all fields from universities, think-tanks, and scientific research institutions to the military, state, and federal governments or for commercial interests like businesses, manufacturers, and advertising agencies.

Writers must combine research with their superior written expertise and reflect accurate knowledge and information as they create content for their employers and clients. Today, writers often provide content and marketing services for online publication, as the internet spawns a vast amount of written and multimedia content. Some writers specialize in social and political settings like fundraising for charities or political campaigns.

Skills to Acquire


Unique skillsets can help writers start or develop a career. These include hard skills like grammar and composition as well as soft skills like ambition and determination. As with nearly every occupation, the ability to listen and a willingness to learn are vital parts of a successful career.

  • Word Skills
    Grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and speaking are language skills that writers must have to succeed. Writers must communicate clearly and learn to write for the level of understanding of their audience. It does little good to express brilliance that no one can easily understand. In the Internet Age, the habit of rapid reading puts more emphasis on concise, precise, and clear writing.
  • Creativity
    Writers must create by using imagination and skills. Many assignments start with a blank page, and writers must use their imagination to fill the client’s or employer’s wishes. Writers must be insightful thinkers, capable of original expressions. They must generate material for a wide range of use; writers create content for movies, plays, books of prose, novels as well as business and organizational work like blogs, advertising, grant applications, and news articles.
  • Research and Development
    Writers can expand their ranges of opportunity by performing research. Writers can gain knowledge and work in fields otherwise unfamiliar or new to them. Research skills must be precise and efficient, and they are essential tools for the successful writer.
  • Hard Work
    Writers must strive for excellence. Writing is an iterative process, meaning that it takes many efforts or drafts to get an excellent result. Employers, clients, and readers assess them by the quality of their writing products. Successful writers are driven to deliver error-free work that raises the level of understanding for their readers. Particularly when working as freelancers or self-employed consultants, writers must have strong motivation, persistence, and a knack for hard work.
  • Digital Content
    Writers today can find a variety of challenging opportunities providing digital content. Digital media contains trillions of pages of written content. Many businesses plan their sales and marketing around on internet communications on various types of digital platforms. Writers will have business and career advantages if they can work in HTML, CSS, and apply principles of search engine optimization (SEO). Writers have a vast audience for content published on websites that uses established techniques to reach online audiences.
  • Listening and Communications
    Writers work with clients, information sources, editors, and readers. They must work well with other professionals and have native curiosity about nearly everything. Listening is a key to good communications. Attentive listening forms a foundation for meaningful exchanges of views and information.

Alternative Paths


The typical approach for entering a writing career is the bachelor’s degree in a writing-related field. Today, students can pursue a degree online, on-campus, and in a mix of on-campus and distance learning. Students can get an associate degree with a focus on language and writing skills such as rhetoric and composition. A combination of an associate degree and certification in a special or general field of writing can establish a career path.

Many writing fields are specialized and use technical knowledge. Medical writing, technical writing, and grant writing are examples of writing fields that require specialized knowledge. Students, young writers, and experienced writers can benefit from certification and continuing education programs in these writing forms. The American Medical Writers Association provides training, testing, and certification for medical writers. The American Grant Writer’s Association offers information, education, and continuing education in the field of grant writing.

Career & Salary


Where Might You Work?


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Government agencies employ writers for many types of work. They use copywriters to produce precise instructions and descriptions in rules, regulations, and other similar types of public communications. Government agencies use writers to create documents, texts, and reports.

The corporate sector employs writers as copywriters, technical writers, business communications, and for digital communications. While many companies outsource writing work, some maintain significant corporate staff capability to handle all types of writing and communications. Both for internal and external usage, writers play critical roles in corporate messaging and communications.

Specialty writing companies perform popular services like grant writing, resume writing, translations, and document production. Writing and editing services support many types of public, private, and commercial organizations.

The non-profit sector uses writers in organizational communications. These types of organizations place emphasis on expressing goals, objectives, and programs. Non-profits may use specialties like grant writing and fundraising.

Potential Career Paths


There are many types of writing and a wide range of potential career paths. Writing program graduates can become editors, producers, public relations managers, or print/broadcast journalists. Writing-related occupations also occur in industrial settings, manufacturing, and eCommerce. Some fields like advertising and internet sales rely upon writing and visual content as the core of their business models.

The below-listed items describe some writer and writing-related occupations.

  • Technology may occupy an ideal position of growth for writers. Like most technical fields, the area is a subject under constant growth and change. As new technology evolves and additional applications take hold, writers may find they will work in new fields of writing. For example, blockchain technology has grown from the underpinnings of Bitcoin into a vast new enterprise that may transform traditional ways of doing business and has spawned a large body of work from writers all over the world.
  • Editors oversee the quality of writing; they check for grammar, style, and spelling; editors also examine content closely against the goal and demand precise, concentrated work.
  • Multimedia Arts and Presentation artists that combine with written work with other types of media including art, photography, film, video, and music.
  • Fundraising Professionals work for clients and organizations that must reach an audience and inspire action. Fundraising occurs in for-profit, political, social, and non-profit settings.
  • Producers use writing skills to present concepts to investors and others involved in entertainment and other types of events.
  • Communications coordinators play an important role in managing organizational messaging and information within the organization and with external relations.
  • Public relations professionals use written and spoken words to deliver cogent messaging to designated audiences, including the general public.
  • Reporters and correspondents provide field and other research to develop news and information. They write and sometimes present the news to the public or other types of audiences.
  • Legal writers perform research and writing in the framework of legal issues, trial, litigation, and settlements.

Writing Salaries


OccupationEntry-LevelMid-CareerLate-Career
Writer$44,600$50,500$59,900
Technical Writer$51,400$63,500$73,900
Senior Technical Writer$67,900$74,600$88,500
Grant Writer$44,700$49,700$57,900
Marketing Communications Specialist$47,800$55,000$61,100
Web Content Manager$49,600$59,000$68,800
Communications Coordinator$40,800$47,200$56,300

**Salary info provided by PayScale

Career Outlook


The career outlook for writers is strong and should grow at or slightly above the average pace of occupational growth. The numbers of traditional jobs may remain similar to what it is now, as companies outsource more work. The opportunities, in turn, grow for companies and consultants that occupy the outsourcing writing space. The career outlook also includes increased competition as large numbers of participants enter the field. Writing is an attractive field because it has a nearly boundless set of applications. Advances in technology will benefit authors that seek to self-publish, and the continuing growth of digital content and Internet-based markets for content bodes well for writers that work in this type of writing.

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Advancing from Here


Writers have a limited range for advancement within organizations without some other type of training, unless writing is at the core of what the organization does. Some occupations such as project management rely heavily on writing and communications skills but will also need business acumen. Some businesses specialize in digital content and search engine optimized presentations of information, you might work towards becoming a project manager with some extra SEO training. Ecommerce is a global business that relies upon digital content in writing and writing-related multimedia presentations; with some technical training, you could lead your own ecommerce team. Writers can become top executives in companies that have writing-related work at their core, such as publishing houses.

New and evolving technology will provide sources of jobs and careers for writers. Already, work that appeared only a few years ago has become part of the new standard going forward. These include blockchain technology, privacy regulation, and cybersecurity. Writers that master such fields through research and other exposure will have advantages in these growing areas of demand.