How to Become a Writer
Writer Careers & Degrees

A writer prepares written correspondence, content, and copy for a range of clients.

If you enjoy language, reading, and writing, then this is something you might like to consider making your career.

There are many different pathways to become a writer, the one you take will depend on the kind of writer you want to be.

Writing can take you into almost any industry.

There are journalists writing in the media, travel writers exploring the globe, grant writers working for not for profit organizations, and freelance writers working from the comfort of their living room couch.

When you become a writer, you may find the first few years of competition tough, as there are many people who try to enter this field.

The secret is though, that many give up along the way.

As long as you persevere, and build up a strong portfolio, you will be able to make this your career.

Education Requirements to Become a Writer

There is no formal qualification needed to become a writer, however many have a college degree.

Studying journalism, creative writing, and literature will really help your writing skills, as well as make you more attractive to employers.

College is a good time to start working on your portfolio.

Even though your coursework will involve a good amount of writing, volunteering as a writer or editor on your school’s paper or magazine is a good idea.

You can put this on your resume later, and also have some good work for your folio.

There are other ways you can work on your writing from home.

You might like to start a blog, or contribute to websites.

There are many opportunities online to write.

Although they pay little or nothing at all, this is how many writers are now getting their start outside of traditional pathways such as journalism.

Writer Job Description

When you become a writer, you can expect to spend most of your time writing.

There will be long hours in front of a computer screen dedicated to making deadlines.

If you decide to become a freelance writer, you will need to build relationships with clients, and also spend a lot of time marketing yourself.

Here are some of the different types of writing you could specialize in:

Freelance Writer – These writers write feature articles for magazines and websites.

They usually have experience in journalism, or a similar role, before they decide to freelance.
Novelist – A novelist or author writes books for a living.

They may be fiction or non-fiction.

Many will receive an advance form a publishing company which will fund them while they create their masterpiece.
Technical Writer – These writers compile guides and manuals for all kinds of equipments and machinery.

There are good job opportunities in this field.
Grant Writer – A grant writer puts together proposals to gain grants for government departments, organizations, or private companies.

There is currently a lot of work in this field.
Business Writer – A business writer puts together grants, proposals, website content, and a whole range of marketing material for a business.

They may work on a contract basis, or be a full-time employee.
Travel Writer – These lucky writers travel the world writing about all the luxurious places they go on vacation.

Writer Salary and Career Path

To get a start as a writer, you will probably need a related degree.

Starting in an internship as a journalist is a good way to being your career.

Advertising and copywriting agencies will also take on graduates and show them the trade.

Some writers start out as freelancers and never work for a company or agency.

Working as a freelancer you need to put just as much time into marketing yourself and your services as you do actually writing.

The median salary for a writer is $50,000 a year.

The salary you earn will be dependent on the kind of writing you do.

If you’re interested in the written word, and would like to make a living out of it then writing is a good choice of career.

While it can be difficult to get a start, it can also be a very rewarding if it’s something you enjoy.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$73,860
$33K
$46K
$73K
$87K
$122K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$66,990
Alaska$65,630
Arizona$55,500
Arkansas$44,400
California$90,970
Colorado$62,670
Connecticut$82,750
Delaware$63,430
District of Columbia$103,980
Florida$64,070
Georgia$66,820
Hawaii$51,210
Idaho$52,330
Illinois$66,820
Indiana$71,500
Iowa$52,780
Kansas$60,230
Kentucky$55,400
Louisiana$42,080
Maine$72,400
Maryland$74,750
Massachusetts$76,870
Michigan$61,010
Minnesota$65,110
Mississippi$58,470
Missouri$56,860
Montana$53,690
Nebraska$50,570
Nevada$53,800
New Hampshire$60,030
New Jersey$80,690
New Mexico$69,330
New York$91,280
North Carolina$67,560
North Dakota$53,350
Ohio$53,790
Oklahoma$46,860
Oregon$69,070
Pennsylvania$63,140
Rhode Island$67,260
South Carolina$53,430
South Dakota$56,590
Tennessee$50,770
Texas$57,550
Utah$50,630
Vermont$62,480
Virginia$70,740
Washington$68,010
West Virginia$65,260
Wisconsin$60,390
Wyoming$47,670
Puerto Rico$43,770

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $103,980.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $103,980
New York - $91,280
California - $90,970
Connecticut - $82,750
New Jersey - $80,690
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Writers and Authors, OCC Code 27-3043, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a writer do?

Writers are the professionals who work closely with words; they would use the language to evoke various emotions in the readers, hold their interest or educate them.

A writer can be self-employed or work for a company (or client).

There is a wide range of ways in which a writer can make a living – professionals can write blog posts, scripts for movies, write for websites or journals, come up with their own stories, and so on.

Depending on the path that the writer had chosen, his/her main aims and the ways he or she expresses the ideas and information will differ a bit.

A story writer, for example, is someone who writes short fiction stories for magazines (or other employers).

A novelist writes long stories, while a non-fiction writer can write in a specialized field (like technical writers do).

Most of the writers have a targeted audience.

QuestionHow much do writers make?

On average, a writer can make a little more than $62.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to choose this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $32.000 and $122.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the sphere, the location and so on.

Writers that work in the District of Columbia, California, and Connecticut, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level writer can earn around $15.00 per hour, while a top-level professional with plenty of experience can make $58.00 and more per hour.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a writer?

There certainly are writers that can succeed on their talent alone; however, in most cases, aspiring authors have at least a certificate or an undergraduate degree.

A short-term writing certificate program can cost you a few hundred (or thousands) of dollars.

You might want to go for an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in writing, English, communication, journalism or a related field.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

QuestionWhat is the demand for writers?

Between 2016 and 2026, the writer job market is expected to grow by 7.6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is close to the average for all occupations in the United States.

Bear in mind that the majority of businesses and organizations will be focusing on digital content in the near future, so skill in web design and programming can be helpful.

The industry is mainly concentrated in Texas, New York, and California.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a writer?

There is plenty of writing certificate programs; the short-term ones can last only for a few weeks or months, while others might require a year or two of your time.

It will take you 2 years to acquire an associate’s degree, 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree, and 1-2 years to earn a master’s degree.

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