Magazine Industry, Careers in

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A variety of careers are available in the magazine industry, from the obvious jobs in editorial and advertising to work in supporting areas such as circulation and marketing. The majority of consumer magazines are published in New York City; however, many career opportunities exist elsewhere, particularly at magazines published for city, state, or regional audiences and at magazines that serve trades and associations.

While staff positions vary from one magazine to the next, most have the same basic staff roles. Editorial functions are carried out by people who work with words and images to create the editorial product. The editor or editor-in-chief is the top editorial position at a magazine and is responsible for directing all content and implementing the mission of the magazine. The editor's right-hand person, the managing editor, is responsible for following the day-to-day operations of a magazine, and the duties of that position include enforcing deadlines, overseeing the quality of the work, managing the editorial staff, and serving as the liaison between writers, artists, and production personnel. The production manager, along with production assistants, work closely with the managing editor to track the progress of each issue, helping the staff meet printing deadlines and making sure that each page is formatted correctly for the printer.

Some magazines also have an executive editor who may fulfill some of the managing editor's duties but who is usually more focused on content issues than on production. The editor and executive editor work with a staff of senior editors and/or section editors as they oversee particular areas of a magazine by planning content, assigning articles, and writing stories. Associate and assistant editors may have similar duties with smaller magazine departments or may assist the senior editor on a magazine's larger sections. Staff writers handle specific story assignments without managerial and planning functions. Entry-level positions in the writing area of the editorial department usually fall under the title of editorial assistant. The duties for a person in this position can be wide ranging and often include basic administrative functions, but they may, in some cases, include short writing assignments.

Once articles are written, copy editors read them to correct errors in fact, grammar, spelling, and punctuation; to eliminate problems in organization, clarity, and style; and to ensure that the piece reflects the content and tone of the mission of a magazine. The copyediting staff, often referred to by the traditional newspaper term "the copy desk," is managed by the copy chief. Entry-level positions on the copyediting staff include proofreaders and fact checkers.

The visual side of the editorial department is supervised by the art director, who works closely with the editors to carry out the unique look of a magazine. The art director makes all assignments to photographers, photo stylists, and illustrators and manages the designers who lay out editorial pages. The more experienced staffers in the art department may carry titles such as senior designer; while the entry-level positions may include staff artist, junior designer, or art assistant.

Many careers are available on the business side of magazines. The top position is generally the publisher, who has usually worked up through the ranks of advertising sales. An advertising sales director manages a team of advertising sales representatives who are responsible for selling space in the magazine to advertisers. These "ad reps" or "sales reps" not only maintain long-standing relationships with current advertisers but must generate business by securing new accounts. Entry-level positions that assist the advertising sales team include advertising sales coordinators, advertising production assistants, and sales assistants.

The advertising sales staff is also supported by people who provide expertise in both business and creativity. The marketing director designs a sales strategy to attract advertisers. The research director gathers information about a magazine's readership to help advertisers better understand and appreciate the audience they will be reaching. The public relations director works to promote a magazine's image among its various constituents—readers, advertisers, and others in the magazine industry. The promotion director prepares sales materials such as board presentations, brochures, and videos that sales representatives use to help sell advertising. The merchandising director develops and implements "value-added" programs to enhance the marketing programs of advertisers. All of these sales support directors employ assistants to help carry out their jobs; the promotion and merchandising directors also manage artists and copywriters to prepare materials related to their work.

Other careers at magazines can be found in the circulation, distribution, technical support, and finance and accounting departments. A new position that is rapidly being included on many staffs is an online editor who oversees the content and design of the website of a magazine.

Many people who supply creative talent for magazines do so as self-employed freelancers, working from their home or private studios. These writers, photographers, photo stylists, artists, and designers may work predominantly for one magazine, which may earn them the title of "contributor" on the masthead, or they may work for a variety of magazines, sometimes specializing in one content area such as food or travel.

People seeking positions in writing and editing for magazines must possess a firm command of the language, which can be developed through college programs in the liberal arts, journalism, and other communication fields. Many section editors and staff writers have education and/or experience working in a secondary area that is related to the editorial content of a magazine (e.g., in politics, fashion, or horticulture). Potential magazine artists should have experience not only in graphic design but in the latest design software and in the prepress and printing processes. College students who are planning on having writing or art careers at magazines are encouraged to seek experience in the media industry, preferably at publications; internships offer valuable training and often provide opportunities for permanent employment after graduation.

Those individuals who plan to pursue a career on the sales side of magazines must be able to persuade effectively. A college degree in business, marketing, advertising, or another communication field is helpful, but many advertising sales representatives begin in an entry-level position and gain the experience they need as they work their way up the ladder. People who are interested in sales and promotion must be able to persevere, accept rejection, and thrive on competition. Strong negotiation and presentation skills are helpful. College students are wise to seek experience in business situations that will help them learn about advertising sales, such as preparing research and presentations and otherwise assisting sales representatives.

Anyone pursuing a career at a magazine, regardless of the position, should be dependable, efficient, and organized in order to meet deadlines. Computer literacy is also a must, as is the ability to communicate effectively, both through writing and speaking. Creativity, the ability to juggle multiple tasks, and a passion for magazines will help ensure a fulfilling career.

See also:Editors; Magazine Industry; Magazine Industry, History of; Magazine Industry, Production Process of; Public Relations, Careers in; Writers.


Daly, Charles P.; Henry, Patrick; and Ryder, Ellen.(1997). The Magazine Publishing Industry. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Goldberg, Jan. (1999). Careers in Journalism, 2nd edition. Lincolnwood, IL: VGM Career Horizons.

Johnson, Sammye, and Prijatel, Patricia. (2000). Magazine Publishing. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group.

Magazine Publishers of America and American Society of Magazine Editors. (1995). Guide to Careers inMagazine Publishing. New York: Magazine Publishers of America and American Society of Magazine Editors.

Mogel, Leonard. (1998). The Magazine: Everything You Need to Know to Make It in the Magazine Business, 4th edition. Pittsburgh, PA: GATF Press.

Tracy Lauder

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Magazine Industry, Careers in

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