Bureau of Labor Statistics

Writers and Authors

writers and authors image
Writers and authors develop written content.
Quick Facts: Writers and Authors
2018 Median Pay $62,170 per year
$29.89 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Long-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2018 123,200
Job Outlook, 2018-28 0% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2018-28 -100

Summary

What Writers and Authors Do

Writers and authors develop written content for various types of media.

Work Environment

Writers and authors may work anywhere they have access to a computer. Many writers and authors are self-employed.

How to Become a Writer or Author

A college degree in English, communications, or journalism is generally required for a full-time position as a writer or author. Experience gained through internships or any writing that improves skill, such as blogging, is beneficial.

Pay

The median annual wage for writers and authors was $62,170 in May 2018.

Job Outlook

Employment of writers and authors is projected to show little or no change from 2018 to 2028. Strong competition is expected because many people are attracted to this occupation.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for writers and authors.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of writers and authors with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about writers and authors by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Writers and Authors Do

Writers and authors
Writers and authors perform research in order to give their stories authentic detail.

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

Duties

Writers and authors typically do the following:

  • Choose subjects that interests readers
  • Write fiction or nonfiction scripts, biographies, and other formats
  • Conduct research to get 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 material for publishing

Writers must establish their credibility with editors and readers through clean prose, strong research, and the use of sources and citations. Writers and authors select the material they want to use and then convey the information to readers. With help from editors, they may revise or rewrite sections, searching for the clearest language and phrasing.

Some writers and authors are self-employed or freelancers. They sell their written content to book and magazine publishers; news organizations; advertising agencies; and movie, theater, and television producers. They may be hired to complete specific short-term or recurring assignments, such as writing a newspaper column, contributing to a series of articles in a magazine, or producing an organization’s newsletter.

A number of writers produce material that is published only online, such as for digital news organizations or blogs.

The following are examples of types of writers and authors:

Biographers write a thorough account of a person’s life. They gather information from interviews and research about the person to accurately describe important life events.

Bloggers write posts to a Web log (blog) that may pertain to any topic or a specific field, such as fashion, news, or sports.

Content writers write about any topic of interest, unlike writers who usually specialize in a given field.

Copywriters prepare advertisements to promote the sale of a good or service. They often work with a client to produce written content, such as an advertising slogan.

Novelists write books of fiction, creating characters and plots that may be imaginary or based on real events.

Playwrights write scripts for theatrical productions. They come up with a concept, write lines for actors to say, produce stage direction for actors to follow, and suggest ideas for theatrical set design.

Screenwriters create scripts for movies and television. They may produce original stories, characters, and dialogue, or adapt a book into a movie or television script.

Speechwriters compose orations for business leaders, politicians, and others who must speak in front of an audience. Because speeches are often delivered live, speechwriters must think about audience reaction and rhetorical effect.

Work Environment

writers and authors image
Writers and authors may work in an office or wherever they have access to a computer.

Writers and authors held about 123,200 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of writers and authors were as follows:

Self-employed workers 61%
Professional, scientific, and technical services 11
Information 11
Performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries 3
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 3

Writers and authors may work anywhere they have access to a computer.

Jobs are somewhat concentrated in major media and entertainment markets—California, New York, Texas, and Washington, DC—but improved communications and Internet capabilities allow writers and authors to work from almost anywhere. Some writers and authors prefer to work and travel to meet with publishers and clients and to do research or conduct interviews in person.

Work Schedules

Some writers and authors work part time. Most keep regular office hours, either to stay in contact with sources and editors or to set up a writing routine, but many set their own hours. Others may need to work evenings and weekends to produce something acceptable for an editor or client. Self-employed or freelance writers and authors may face the pressures of juggling multiple projects or continually looking for new work.

How to Become a Writer or Author

writers and authors image
Writers and authors may have to manage multiple assignments simultaneously.

A college degree in English, communications, or journalism is generally required for a salaried position as a writer or author. Experience gained through internships or any writing that improves skill, such as blogging, is beneficial.

Education

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 who have a degree in English, communications, or journalism.

Other Work Experience

Writers and authors can get 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 related experience.

Employers may prefer candidates who are able to create a visual story using tables, charts, infographics, and maps. Knowledge of computer software and editing tools that combine text with graphics, audio, video, and animation may be helpful.

In addition, anyone with Internet access can start a blog and gain writing experience. Some of this writing may lead to paid assignments regardless of education. Writers or authors can come from different backgrounds and experiences.

Training

Writers and authors typically gain writing experience through on-the-job training. They may practice and work with more experienced writers and editors before their writing is ready for publication.

Writers may need formal training or experience related to a particular topic that they want to write about.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some associations offer certifications for writers and authors. Certification can show competence and professionalism, making candidates more attractive to employers. For example, the American Grant Writers’ Association (AGWA) offers the Certified Grant Writer® credential.

Certification may increase opportunities for advancement.

Advancement

Writers and authors can get a start by putting their name on their work when writing for small businesses, local newspapers, advertising agencies, and nonprofit organizations. However, opportunities for advancement within these organizations may be limited.

Writers and authors may advance their careers by building a reputation, taking on complex writing assignments, and getting published in prestigious markets and publications. Having published work that has been well received and consistently meeting deadlines are important for advancement.

Many editors begin work as writers. Those who are particularly skilled at identifying stories, correcting writing style, and interacting with writers may be interested in editing jobs.

Important Qualities

Adaptability. Writers and authors need to be able to adapt to updates in software platforms and programs, including various content management systems (CMS).

Creativity. Writers and authors must be able to develop interesting plots, characters, or ideas for new stories.

Critical-thinking skills. Writers and authors must be adept at understanding new concepts that they convey through writing.

Determination. Writers and authors must have drive and persevere to meet deadlines.

Persuasion. Writers, especially those in advertising, must be able to convince others to feel a certain way about a good or service.

Social perceptiveness. Writers and authors must understand how readers react to ideas to connect with their audience.

Writing skills. Writers and authors must be able to write clearly and effectively to convey feeling and emotion and to communicate with readers.

Pay

Writers and Authors

Median annual wages, May 2018

Writers and authors

$62,170

Media and communication workers

$57,530

Total, all occupations

$38,640

 

The median annual wage for writers and authors was $62,170 in May 2018. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,700, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $121,670.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for writers and authors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries $69,430
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 68,430
Professional, scientific, and technical services 62,330
Information 59,580

Some writers and authors work part time. Most keep regular office hours, either to stay in contact with sources and editors or to set up a writing routine, but many set their own hours. Others may need to work evenings and weekends to produce something acceptable for an editor or client. Self-employed or freelance writers and authors may face the pressures of juggling multiple projects or continually looking for new work.

Job Outlook

Writers and Authors

Percent change in employment, projected 2018-28

Total, all occupations

5%

Media and communication workers

4%

Writers and authors

0%

 

Employment of writers and authors is projected to show little or no change from 2018 to 2028.

Online publications and services are growing in number and sophistication, spurring demand for writers and authors with Web and multimedia experience. However, employment of writers and authors in the newspaper and book and periodical publication industries is projected to decline.

Some experienced writers should find work in the public relations departments of corporations and nonprofit organizations. Self-employed or freelance writers and authors may find work with newspaper, magazine, or journal publishers, and some will write books.

Job Prospects

Strong competition is expected for most job openings, given that many people are attracted to this occupation. 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.

Employment projections data for writers and authors, 2018-28

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Writers and authors

SOC Code27-3043
Employment, 2018123,200
Projected Employment, 2028123,000
Percent Change, 2018-280
Numeric Change, 2018-28-100
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of writers and authors.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2018 MEDIAN PAY
Radio and television announcers

Announcers

Announcers present music, news, and sports and may provide commentary or interview guests.

See How to Become One $31,990
Editors

Editors

Editors plan, review, and revise content for publication.

Bachelor's degree $59,480
Public relations managers and specialists

Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

Public relations managers direct the creation of materials that will enhance the public image of their employer or client. Fundraising managers coordinate campaigns that bring in donations for their organization.

Bachelor's degree $114,800
public relations specialists image

Public Relations Specialists

Public relations specialists create and maintain a favorable public image for the organization they represent.

Bachelor's degree $60,000
Reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts

Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts

Reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts inform the public about news and events.

Bachelor's degree $43,490
Technical writers

Technical Writers

Technical writers prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily.

Bachelor's degree $71,850

Contacts for More Info

For more information about writers and authors, visit

American Grant Writers’ Association, Inc.

American Society of Journalists and Authors

Association of Writers & Writing Programs

National Association of Science Writers

Society of Professional Journalists

Writers Guild of America East

Related BLS articles

Career Outlook:

O*NET

Copy Writers

Poets, Lyricists and Creative Writers

Writers and Authors

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Writers and Authors,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/writers-and-authors.htm (visited December 15, 2019).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

Permanently disable mobile site