What Every New Editor Should Know about Editing Certificate Programs

By Miranda Lukatch on Monday, October 5, 2020

Are you thinking of going for an editing certificate? Before doing so, I recommend that you find out what local publishers in your area respect in terms of programs, and consider whether you want to work in-house or independently. In my area, the publishers only have heard of the University of Chicago's Graham School, and a certificate from another program does not mean anything to them. Also, many publishers have not heard of the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) courses. If working in-house for publishers is your goal, this could be a problem for you in terms of marketing. However, if working freelance is your goal, then things depend on how well you do on editing tests. Bear in mind that freelancers are given limited chances, or sometimes even only one chance, to test for a given publisher. Plan accordingly, and don't go out for your dream job before you are sure you are ready.

On the other hand, the EFA programs are fine and less pricey and have many of the same instructors as the well-respected (by freelancers) programs at Berkeley and UC San Diego. The instructor I had said that she offers the same level of feedback that she would in the more expensive programs. Also, if you're looking at programs, check out the University of Washington, which offers scholarships. If you’re a college or graduate student, you can also compete for scholarships from ACES: The Society for Editing.

Taking an EFA course with a UC San Diego or Berkeley instructor can also give you an idea of who you would want to teach you in the more expensive programs. I always want to know something about my instructors before I enroll in the program—about their teaching style, personality, qualifications, etc. I interviewed every professor I ever had in college as an undergrad and reviewed their syllabuses, all before taking each of their courses. It pays off! Education is always an investment. You don't want to waste your money on somebody who is going to be incompatible with you. At least, that's my perspective. Also, it helps to know going into courses what the workload is going to be like, so you know how you're going to have to manage your time. But for a lot of the certificate programs, you can't find out this information unless you find alumni on social media, through professional organizations, etc. You could possibly contact each program administrator to put you in touch with alumni, but then you would probably only be speaking to people who found the particular program helpful.

Other relatively low-risk options financially for training are the certificates that ACES offers. Although previously aimed at journalists and also formerly very expensive, ACES now offers the Poynter-ACES Certificate in Editing and the Poynter ACES Certificate in Accurate, Audience-Focused Editing. These cost $150.00 each and are taught by highly respected editors.

With both the EFA and ACES, it's also possible to build your own curriculum to suit your own business needs and weaknesses as an editor using the various webinars, recorded webinars and online boot camps, etc. Check out their websites for more information.

Make no mistake, it pays to do your homework about the costs of various programs, both in terms of dollars and time. (Don't forget the cost of books and any upgrades you may have to make to your technology set up if you are doing online courses). I have a spreadsheet that I have compiled on this subject, which I am working on updating and will eventually be able to share with anyone who asks. Simply send me a connection request on LinkedIn with a note saying why you want to be connections (mention the spreadsheet), and I'd be happy to send it to you. I am an American working in American English, but I do have some information on Canadian and British programs, although it is by no means a comprehensive thing. If there is enough demand, I can add the pros, cons, and costs (in time and money) of other international programs to the spreadsheet as well. Just let me know in the comments!

You might also check to see what professional organizations offer discounts to the program you want. Chicago Women in Publishing offers a 10% discount off each course to the Graham School. It's not a huge savings, but it could help. I've recently heard, but not confirmed, that the other major editing organizations offer this too. You don't have to be a woman or a person in the Chicago area to join CWIP. We have affiliate memberships for people who are more than 75 miles from Chicago that afford the same benefits as the regular professional memberships, including the Graham School discount.

Do you have suggestions for new editors regarding certificate programs? If so, please leave a comment! And if you found this article useful, please share with your professional network! Thank you!

An independent editor, Miranda Lukatch has experience in copyediting and substantive editing. She has worked on books, journal articles, and other materials for scholarly and general audiences and is transitioning into editing fiction, memoir, and children’s literature. Also an author, she has plans for her own memoir, several children’s books, and a nonfiction work about Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton.

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