Beth Granter

Freelance digital consultant for charities

Career advice: so you want to be a web editor?

I just had an email from someone asking for some career advice so I thought I’d share the answer here.  Not that I think I know a lot about these things but I do have some thoughts on the matter…

The question was about if you have prior editorial experience but no online web editing experience, whether it was worth doing an MA in electronic publishing.  Here’s my reply…

My new job is being a digital project manager and social media marketer at Twentyfirst.  But I think I can still try and answer your questions… and actually now I work in the private sector I can probably offer better advice.

I did an MA in digital media.  That helped me get an internship on the webteam at Sussex, because they only accept graduates, and my undergrad degree was irrelevant (Biology).  However, it didn’t teach me hardly any practical things and was pure theory.  It was supposed to be practical but the amount they taught me practically could be learnt in about a week of learning on the job or doing a week’s voluntary work at a web firm.  I don’t know how practical the MA you are thinking of doing is, but if you’re simply interested in getting a job in the field of web editing, I certainly don’t think an MA is necessary at all.  I don’t want to discourage you though because you might really enjoy it – I enjoyed mine even though it didn’t teach me anything I use in my work, and my current boss doesn’t care whether I had it or not. If you want to go on to be an academic and do a PhD, you will need an MA as you know, but I think just working in a support role in a university or public sector organisation, they would appreciate work experience more than an MA.  Doing the internship on the web team taught me a huge amount and was a great opportunity.  You could offer to be an intern at a private firm for a small fee to start off with, in return for training.

If you want practical skills, I would suggest taking an entry level web editing job in the public sector where they are likely to send you on lots of relevant intensive training courses, which would teach you a lot more than an MA.

Actually I have just looked at the MA you’re talking about and it does sound a lot more practical than the MA I did.  However it sounds like lots of PHP and mySQL (database, backend coding stuff) and unless you want to be a web programmer/developer you don’t need to know that stuff, and it’s pretty difficult.  If you just want to do front end layout stuff (HTML and CSS) and be more in control of copy and content, I think on the job learning would be better.  It might be a good idea to start yourself off with setting up your own website (that’s how I learnt HTML) – just buy a cheap domain name for a few pounds per year (should be able to find one for about £10 a year) and install a wordpress blog.  That’s a pretty standard content management system and if you get used to that, and maybe edit the template a bit to practice CSS, you will be ready to apply for low level web editing jobs.  There are endless online guides for how to do all these things and teaching yourself is really the best way to start.

Then, given all your prior experience in terms of publishing, once you’ve got the hang of the technical aspects, you should be able to move to a more senior web editor quite quickly.

Well that’s what I reckon.

2 responses to “Career advice: so you want to be a web editor?”

  1. Hi Beth,

    From my own experiences I would agree – some of the most exciting things about the web and digital media are the participatory nature of it. If you want to create something, you can and most people do.

    If there is much to be learnt about digital media that can’t be learnt by doing, then there’s something wrong with the web!

    But yes, university provides lots of secondary learning experiences – so it’s worth doing if you have the time and money required.


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