Written language informs our lives. It influences the way we think, colors how we convey our emotions and allows us to share information. Writers are the masters at communicating through this medium. By applying skills developed both in the classroom and in practical situations, writers share strategic messages, vital information, stories, the latest news, and more.
Those wondering how to become a writer will find it depends on the type of writing in mind. Journalism, for example, requires a different voice, style, and set of research skills than technical writing. Myriad career paths fall under the umbrella of writing, which is one of the benefits of earning an online bachelor’s degree in English. The foundational communication skills students learn by studying the written word can lead to opportunities in many areas, as great writers are important across a variety of environments, from healthcare and tech companies to ad agencies and nonprofits.
Writer Job Description
The job description of a writer differs across industries, companies, and job titles. Many writers are self-directed in their work and spend their time researching, outlining, drafting, and editing. If they choose to freelance, they may select projects based on their interests and abilities. If they write in a more traditional work environment, they may receive assignments from their employers.
Writers revel in creating sentences, finding perfect expressions, and distilling complex ideas into easily understood words. They typically have an affinity for spelling and grammar and knowledge of certain writing style guides, such as the Associated Press or the University of Chicago Press. While this is the work of all writers, what a writer does beyond that varies.
Content writers, for example, work with clients to express a company’s brand voice in the form of articles, blog posts, and social media. Copywriters create content for promotional materials, such as traditional and digital ads, sales pages, and emails. Technical writers create instruction manuals, how-to guides, and informative articles that help people understand how to use equipment, programs, and technology. Journalists develop articles based on research and interviews for newspapers and web outlets.
What writers do is often complex, as it requires juggling complicated ideas, multiple deadlines, and the demands of nuanced research or client preferences. It’s a challenging but rewarding profession that can reach many readers and create an impact across a spectrum of industries.
Steps for How to Become a Writer
Anyone interested in how to become a writer should know that every professional’s individual career path is determined by their unique interests and talents, but there are some common steps that many aspiring writers take, each of which can help lay the foundation for success.
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
One of the most important steps toward becoming a writer is the combination of reading and writing. Earning a bachelor’s degree in English from an accredited university, such as Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in English, offers an excellent opportunity to engage in reading, writing, and the discussion of literature. At the collegiate level, students learn to analyze texts, flex critical reading skills, and express complex ideas within logical frameworks. Through the coursework, students also learn different styles of writing and receive feedback to improve their work. The versatility of this degree allows writers to apply their skills in a multitude of environments.
In the field, writers have opportunities to further develop their skills in the areas of research methods, teamwork, adapting their voice, interviewing, project management, and time management. These skills are essential for any writer, especially those who freelance, since there may be no overarching organization to provide structure. Freelancing offers writers the chance to land contractual, short-term, or per-project employment developing articles, editing texts, creating content, or copywriting. Many writers freelance to earn extra income or to create a diverse portfolio of work.
Another important step writers can take is continuing to read, edit, and practice their craft. In our media-rich world, aspiring writers have many opportunities to consume written content — from magazines and books to niche online reporting. By reading often and exercising their skills, writers stay on top of trends in voice and style and maintain their understanding of the world of words. Some writers even choose to study at the postgraduate level.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median author and writer salary, as of May 2019, is $63,200 per year. Writers in the bottom 10% earned less than $33,660, while the highest 10% of writers earned more than $122,450. The number can vary tremendously based on a writer’s specific responsibilities, the employer, and even the region where he or she works. For example, writers in the performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries have a median annual salary of $70,990. Those in the information sector have a median salary of $60,440.
Future Growth for Writers
Certain jobs within the broader field of writing are growing at a faster pace than others. For example, the field of technical writing is expanding alongside rising demand for technical, scientific, and online support, according to the BLS; the field is projected to grow at a rate of about 8% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the average for all professions.
Demand for writers and authors is higher among online publications than print publications. Furthermore, two-thirds of writers are currently self-employed, and today’s media environment offers many opportunities to begin a career as a freelancer.
Industries for Writers
Those who are skilled in writing are needed across many industries. Mastering the written word sets you apart from other job applicants and colleagues, whether you’re writing a request for proposal, a PowerPoint presentation, or a speech. Becoming a writer could lead to a career in the following industries:
Technical writing is one of the more lucrative ways a professional writer can make a living. Tech writers break down detailed technical information for user manuals, white papers, help files, and case studies, among other deliverables.
Thanks in part to increasing numbers of clinical trials and drugs in development, the global market for medical writing is expected to reach $7.7 billion by 2027, according to Grand View Research. Other healthcare writing positions span the areas of healthcare reform and fitness, nutrition, and wellness.
Explosive growth in online education is creating job opportunities for writers, especially those with backgrounds in teaching and training. The online education market is forecast by Research and Markets to reach $350 billion by 2025, according to Forbes.
The field of business writing is diverse. Writers convey the voice and brand for a company or organization through annual reports, contract proposals, business plans, and speeches. Writing in this realm requires that information is accurate, comprehensive, and presented in an easily digestible format to a variety of audiences. Business writers often work in finance, banking, and real estate.
Web content writing encompasses writing blog posts, infographics, and website pages. Serving as a social media writer involves preparing content for platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Content tailored to internet consumption is guided by search engine optimization (SEO) goals and is meant to quickly capture the reader’s attention.
Beyond the more traditional creative writing positions of playwright, screenwriter, novelist, and songwriter, the growing video game industry is creating opportunities for video game writers to develop and expand a game’s narrative. According to GameDesigning.org, video game writers earn an average of $69,359 per year. Other avenues for entertainment writing include podcasts and radio scripts.
Why Become a Writer?
Writers use words as building blocks to tell stories, share information, develop brands, and instruct students. Few skills are more transferable to any career path than the craft of writing. Honing your writing skills can help prepare you for multiple positions within the field of writing, whether creative, technical, or informational.
Writing is also often listed among the top professions for freelancing. This may be something to consider for individuals interested in being their own boss or for those who prioritize flexibility and variety.
Creating a Career as a Writer
No matter the job title or industry, most writers step into their positions because they’re skilled with — and passionate about — the written word. At Maryville University, aspiring writers can challenge themselves, gain new skills, and engage with writing in its many different forms. Discover more about where Maryville’s online bachelor’s degree in English can take you and your love of writing.
Advertising vs. Public Relations: Career Options for English Majors
How Technological Advancements Will Shape the Future of Journalism
FlexJobs, “10 High-Paying Freelance Jobs”
Forbes, “The Rise of Online Learning”
Forbes, “Why Mastering Writing Skills Can Help Future-Proof Your Career”
GameDesigning.org, The Current Video Game Designer Job Market
Grand View Research, “Medical Writing Market Worth $7.7 Billion by 2027”
Maryville University, Online Bachelor of Arts in English
The New York Times, “How To Become a Writer? Start Writing”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Technical Writers