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Career profile Copy Editor

Also known as Copy Editor, Copyholder, Editorial Assistant, News Copy Editor, Proofer, Proofreader, Typesetter

Copy Editor

Also known as Copy Editor, Copyholder, Editorial Assistant

Interests Profile
  • Conventional
  • Artistic
  • Social
Pay Range
$26,340 - $65,840 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Writing
  • Speaking
Knowledge Areas
  • Communications and Media
  • Computers and Electronics
  • Administrative
Core tasks
  • Mark copy to indicate and correct errors in type, arrangement, grammar, punctuation, or spelling, using standard printers' marks.
  • Read corrected copies or proofs to ensure that all corrections have been made.
  • Correct or record omissions, errors, or inconsistencies found.
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What does a Copy Editor do?

Copy Editors read transcript or proof type setup to detect and mark for correction any grammatical, typographical, or compositional errors.

In addition, Copy Editors

  • excludes workers whose primary duty is editing copy,
  • includes proofreaders of braille.

What kind of tasks does a Copy Editor perform regularly?

Copy Editors are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Mark copy to indicate and correct errors in type, arrangement, grammar, punctuation, or spelling, using standard printers' marks.
  • Read corrected copies or proofs to ensure that all corrections have been made.
  • Correct or record omissions, errors, or inconsistencies found.
  • Compare information or figures on one record against same data on other records, or with original copy, to detect errors.
  • Route proofs with marked corrections to authors, editors, typists, or typesetters for correction or reprinting.
  • Consult reference books or secure aid of readers to check references with rules of grammar and composition.
  • Consult with authors and editors regarding manuscript changes and suggestions.
  • Archive documents, conduct research, and read copy, using the internet and various computer programs.
  • Write original content, such as headlines, cutlines, captions, and cover copy.

The above responsibilities are specific to Copy Editors. More generally, Copy Editors are involved in several broader types of activities:

Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Working with Computers
Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
Processing Information
Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.

What is a Copy Editor salary?

The median salary for a Copy Editor is $41,140, and the average salary is $44,670. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Copy Editor salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Copy Editors earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Copy Editors earn less than $26,340 per year, 25% earn less than $32,020, 75% earn less than $55,380, and 90% earn less than $65,840.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Copy Editors is expected to change by 5.1%, and there should be roughly 1,100 open positions for Copy Editors every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$26,340 - $65,840
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Copy Editors?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Copy Editor are usually higher in their Conventional interests.

Copy Editors typically have very strong Conventional interests. Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Copy Editor tend to value Relationships, Achievement, and Recognition.

Most importantly, Copy Editors strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Copy Editors moderately value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Lastly, Copy Editors moderately value Recognition. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Copy Editors must consistently demonstrate qualities such as attention to detail, dependability, and integrity.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Copy Editors, ranked by importance:

Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.

What education and training do Copy Editors need?

Many Copy Editors will have a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Copy Editors usually need several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training.

Educational degrees among Copy Editors

  • 0.7% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 17.8% completed high school or secondary school
  • 13.3% completed some college coursework
  • 5.8% earned a Associate's degree
  • 43.9% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 17.0% earned a Master's degree
  • 1.5% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Copy Editors

Copy Editors may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as communications and media, computers and electronics, or administrative knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Copy Editors might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Communications and Media
Knowledge of media production, communication, and dissemination techniques and methods. This includes alternative ways to inform and entertain via written, oral, and visual media.
Computers and Electronics
Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
Knowledge of administrative and office procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and workplace terminology.
Administration and Management
Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.

Important Abilities needed by Copy Editors

Copy Editors must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Copy Editors need abilities such as written comprehension, near vision, and oral comprehension in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Copy Editors, ranked by their relative importance.

Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Near Vision
The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Written Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.

Critical Skills needed by Copy Editors

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Copy Editors frequently use skills like reading comprehension, writing, and speaking to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Copy Editors, ranked by their relative importance.

Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.