Writer

Woman writer sitting in a chair and writing in a notebook at a desk with a laptop computer in a home office setting

What you need to know

Overview

Writers and authors develop written content for various types of media, including advertisements; books; magazines; movie, play, and television scripts; and blogs.

What is this career like?

Writers and authors work in an office, at home, or anywhere they have access to a computer. Many writers and authors are self-employed.

Some of the things an author and writer might do:

  • Choose subject matter that interests readers
  • Write fiction or nonfiction through scripts, novels, biographies, and more
  • Conduct research to obtain factual information and authentic detail
  • Write advertising copy for newspapers, magazines, broadcasts, and the Internet
  • Present drafts to editors and clients for feedback
  • Work with editors and clients to shape the material so it can be published
What skills are needed?
  • Adaptability: Writers and authors need to be able to adapt to newer software platforms and programs, including various content management systems (CMS).
  • Creativity: Writers and authors must be able to develop new and interesting plots, characters, or ideas so they can come up with new stories.
  • Critical-thinking skills: Writers and authors must have dual expertise in thinking through or understanding new concepts, and conveying it through writing.
  • Determination: Writers and authors sometimes work on projects that take years to complete. They must demonstrate perseverance and personal drive to meet deadlines.
  • Persuasion: Writers, especially those in advertising, must be able to persuade others to feel a certain way about a good or service.
  • Social perceptiveness: Writers and authors must understand how readers react to certain ideas in order to connect with their audience.
  • Writing skills: Writers and authors must be able to write clearly and effectively in order to convey feeling and emotion and communicate with readers.
What is the pay?

The average pay for authors and writers in the United States ranges from $35,880 to $133,460 as of May 2020.

The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.

What is the career outlook?

Employment of writers and authors is projected to decline 2 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Competition for jobs with newspapers and magazines will be particularly strong because employment in the publishing industry is projected to decline.

Writers and authors who have adapted to online and social media, and who are comfortable writing for and working with a variety of electronic and digital tools, should have an advantage in finding work.

The declining costs of self-publishing and the popularity of electronic books will allow many freelance writers to have their work published.

What education is required?

A bachelor’s degree is typically needed for a full-time job as a writer. Because writing skills are essential in this occupation, many employers prefer candidates with a degree in English, journalism, or communications.

Writers can obtain job experience by working for high school and college newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, advertising and publishing companies, or nonprofit organizations. College theater programs offer playwrights an opportunity to have their work performed. Many magazines and newspapers also have internships for students. Interns may write stories, conduct research and interviews, and gain general publishing experience.

Discover some of the courses you will take pursuing a degree in English/Creative Writing or Journalism.