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If you have a keen eye for detail, a passion for language, and a desire to help others communicate effectively, a career as a copy editor might be the perfect fit for you. Editing and proofreading are also ideal work-from-home jobs or side hustles for anyone who is fluent in written English.

So, what training or experience do you need to get started in this profession?

UK copy editing & proofreading qualifications

In the UK, and perhaps most of the world, you don’t need any specific qualifications, degrees or diplomas to embark on this career path. Basically, anyone can call themselves an editor and go out and get clients. But let’s suppose you want to gain confidence in your abilities and offer a really great service as a freelancer or even land a permanent job as a copy editor or proofreader. I’ll outline some training opportunities that I’ve either done myself or that are generally regarded as industry-leading courses. My focus will be on affordability, ease of access (i.e. online courses only) and the ability to get you up to speed relatively quickly. I’ll also only consider courses that don’t require you to have a degree or any previous experience.

Note that while my headline specifies the UK, the courses in this article will also be excellent choices for editors working from the US and from anywhere else in the world. The UK courses tend to focus on UK English, which is also the standard in most parts of the world outside the US. However, US vs UK English differences are minor and the courses will usually highlight these differences.

Are some qualifications more recognised than others?

Before deciding on a course, it’s worth considering what your ambitions are. If you want to land a full-time job and work in-house for a publisher or news agency, you might want to focus on those courses that tend to be recognised by these employers. Well-known UK editor Louise Harnby mentions that her publishing contacts value the CIEP and PTC courses, which I discuss below. But if you’re aiming just to test the waters with editing or to work as a freelancer, the qualification doesn’t matter and you can consider less costly options that still give the required knowledge.

Editing and proofreading training courses

Chartered Institute of Editing Professionals

CIEP editing training home page

The UK’s leading organisation for editing and proofreading is the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP). The institute is focused on training and certifying editors, and they accept members from around the world. If I was just starting out with editing I might choose the CIEP as it offers a very clear study and certification path. I haven’t done any of their courses but I feel confident in recommending them as the CIEP qualifications are widely recognised in the publishing industry.

  • Costs: £500 for all three foundational copy editing courses + membership £126 = £626
  • Pros: Recognised qualification. Tutor support. Assessed tests and assignments.
  • Cons: None I’m aware of
  • Who it’s for: Prospective editors who want a qualification with industry recognition

The Publishing Training Centre

Publisher training centre courses

The Publishing Training Centre (PTC) is an independent charitable foundation established to provide quality training for publishers in the UK and overseas. The proofreading and editing courses are assessed and feedback is offered by experienced tutors. I have not done any PTC courses so can’t give my personal impressions, but I am recommending them because PTC qualifications tend to be recognised by employers, at least in the UK. Start out with the Proofreading course, but you might also need to do the Editing course to broaden your repertoire.

  • Costs: Proofreading £395 + copy editing £495 = £890
  • Pros: Recognised qualification. Tutor support. Assessed tests and assignments.
  • Cons: Looks somewhat costly as you will probably need to do both courses to work as an editor
  • Who it’s for: Prospective editors who want a qualification with industry recognition

Knowadays

Knowadays proofreading and editing course

Knowadays (formerly the Proofreading Academy) is a UK-based education company that offers editing and writing courses. I am listing them here as I have done their Become a Proofreader course and found it to be very detailed and comprehensive. In fact, the course goes beyond what is traditionally known as proofreading and covers what I would call light copy editing, so it offers good value there. I recommend this course if you want to get started with relatively low cost while still having tutor support and assessments.

While Knowadays courses perhaps don’t have quite the same professional recognition as the ones I’ve already discussed, they do have one big advantage – and that’s the offer of freelance work if you pass both the proofreading and the editing courses with distinction. This can be a fantastic way to gain experience as you will be provided with work and will have the guidance of their staff. Their courses are also accredited by Continuing Professional Development (CPD) – a professional body responsible for certifying excellence in professional development

  • Costs: Proofreading course ($499) + Editing course ($499) = $998 (tip: sign up for free sample lessons and they will offer you discounts).
  • Pros: Comprehensive material. Assessed assignments. Tutor support. Offer of freelance work. CPD points.
  • Cons: Not as widely recognised by employers
  • Who it’s for: Prospective editors wanting comprehensive courses with tutor support + the possibility of freelance work.

My Udemy editing course

The Become an Editor and Proofreader course image from Udemy

With all the great training options discussed above, why would I go and create my own online course? The answer is simple – there are many prospective editors out there (perhaps you are one of them) who aren’t sure if editing is for them and are cautious about throwing money at a huge course they might not complete. I’ve condensed the fundamentals of editing and proofreading into a very accessible course that you can easily complete in a week or less. My philosophy is that you don’t need to be a grammar guru to be able to edit – you just need a basic fluency in English and the willingness to get to grips with some of the technical issues to do with grammar, punctuation and editing in electronic documents. We cover all of that in the course and you will have all the knowledge you need to get your first clients. Sign up here.

  • Cost: Between $10 and $20 depending on Udemy promotional deals
  • Pros: Compact starter course. Low cost. Tutor support
  • Cons: No assessment and feedback. Little employer recognition
  • Who it’s for: Anyone wanting a low-investment course to test the waters and gain the essential knowledge needed to start working as a freelance editor and proofreader.

Naturally, there are other training options that I haven’t covered in this article, but this should be enough to get you started.

A final note on qualifications

At the start of this article I said you don’t need a degree or diploma to work as an editor, but if you are looking for a permanent editing job then a degree in languages, communication or journalism in addition to your editing qualifications can certainly be helpful. If you don’t have a degree but still want to land a permanent job, I might suggest you start out by doing a foundational editing course then build a freelance editing business that will enable you to gain experience while doing further courses. In this way you will demonstrate your ability and resourcefulness to potential employers.

If you have any questions, do send me an email and I’ll be happy to respond.

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