How to Become a Proofreader: Education & Certification Requirements

Jan 23, 2022

Find out how to become a proofreader. Read about the degree requirements, internships, skills, and advanced opportunities that can help you enter and succeed in your proofreading career.

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How to Become a Proofreader: Essential Info

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; experience can sometimes be substituted
Degree Field English or journalism
Experience 1-3 years of experience proofreading
Key Skills Ability to work independently; attention to detail; excellent oral and written communication skills; familiarity with Mac and PC-based word processing and spreadsheet software, Adobe Acrobat Professional, QuarkXpress, and Adobe InDesign
Salary $41,140 (2020 median for all proofreaders and copy markers)
Outlook 5% (2020-2030 projection for all editors)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine

Proofreaders: Job Description

Before learning how to get a job as a proofreader, you need to know what one does for a living. Proofreaders are responsible for correcting errors found in written documents. This involves reading documents for format, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Proofreaders often compare the content against research or references to confirm accuracy. They may also be responsible for examining page elements, specifications, spacing or dimensions of an editorial project.

Proofreading jobs can be performed either in-house or online. In-house proofreaders must be physically present at a business or corporation in order to carry out the duties of their job. Online proofreaders, in contrast, can work remotely. They receive documents to proofread electronically via email or another online service. They work from home, and then send their work back to the source once they are done. This allows a more flexible working environment.

Proofreading requirements in order to have a successful career include a skill set that includes the ability to work independently, attention to detail and excellent oral and written communication skills, as well as familiarity with word processing and other editorial software. Some employers prefer proofreaders with knowledge of specific editorial styles, like Associated Press or Chicago Manual of Style, so it's important to learn various styles during college. Keep in mind that this is a competitive field, and it can be stressful due to tight deadlines. Earning potential can also vary greatly by employer and publication, but overall, the median yearly salary for proofreaders and copy markers was $41,140 as of May 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS projects a 5% decline in careers for editors and proofreaders during the decade from 2020 to 2030.

Are you interested in pursuing this career? Let's take a look at what steps you might take to become a proofreader.

How to Get Started in Proofreading

Are you curious about how to be a proofreader? There are four steps, three necessary and one optional, that you can take to become a proofreader. The steps below will show you how to become an online proofreader or an in-house proofreader.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in English or Journalism

Employers generally prefer to hire proofreaders with a bachelor's degree in English or journalism, which are available at many accredited colleges and universities. These bachelor's degree programs typically take four years to complete and they include coursework in English literature, advanced composition and grammar, speech, communications, linguistics and creative writing.

Completing a degree program in English or journalism can help you become a proofreader.

Here's a tip for success: Become familiar with editorial software commonly used by proofreaders, such as Microsoft Word, QuarkXpress, Adobe Acrobat, and InDesign. You may also need familiarity with both Macs and PCs, so take time to become acquainted with each type of computer.

Nevertheless, it is not necessary to have a degree in order to become a proofreader. If you are confident in your reading, grammar, and editing skills, you can consider trying to get a job without first studying English or journalism. A good place to start when thinking about how to become a proofreader without a degree is by reaching out to places where you would like to work. Some may have internship opportunities that you can apply for. An internship would help you get the proofreading experience necessary to apply for a job without a college degree.

Step 2: Pursue an Editorial Internship

After obtaining a degree, how do you become a professional proofreader? While entry-level employment may be obtained without experience, employers generally prefer to hire proofreaders with prior experience in proofreading or writing. An internship, either during or after college, is highly beneficial for this reason. Editorial internships provide hands-on experience in writing, proofreading, and other editorial roles with local publications. It may be beneficial to seek an internship within the industry you aim to work, such as politics if you intend to work for a political publication or technology if you intend to proofread technical writing. You may be able to acquire employment with the company you intern for, or you may have to pursue outside employment upon completion of an internship.

Step 3: Advance Your Proofreading Career

After gaining experience, proofreaders may choose to apply for employment in higher-level positions, such as head proofreader, copy editor, and associate editor. Such positions generally involve overseeing other editorial employees and establishing goals and deadlines to ensure the timely completion of editorial projects. Many advanced proofreading positions require extensive experience as a proofreader or advanced education.

Becoming a proofreader requires a bachelor's degree related to English or communications as well as practical experience in the field. With demonstrated expertise and experience, these professionals may advance to head proofreader, copy editor and associate editor roles.

Proofreader Subspecialties:

Proofreaders can also specialize in certain fields, becoming experts at reading a very specific type of text. Some subspecialties within proofreading include:

  • Advertising: These proofreaders are experts at reviewing text or other forms of advertisements before they are released.
  • Blogs: These proofreaders review blogs before publication.
  • Book Publishing: This specialty focuses on proofreading books before they are published.
  • Legal Work: These proofreaders review legal documents like contracts.
  • Websites: These proofreaders review new websites or updates that are made to existing websites.

Advanced Degree Options for Proofreaders:

Proofreader education is not limited to Bachelor's degrees in English or journalism. You could also choose to pursue a Master's degree in one of these fields. Proofreaders with a Master's degree will often have more success advancing their career than those without an advanced degree.

Step 4 (Optional): Obtain a Proofreading Certificate

It is not necessary to have a formal certificate in order to land a job as a proofreader. However, certified proofreaders may be more desirable applicants, especially large firms like book publishing companies. Several services including the Publishing Training Centre and the Proofreading Academy offer proofreading certification options. Once you gain a certificate, you may be able to advance your career more quickly, and you will become a more competitive applicant for proofreading jobs. The certifications generally consist of a test that assesses your proofreading abilities.

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