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. A myriad of 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.
What Does a Writer Do?
What a writer does 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 on the page. 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, or 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 or web outlets.
What writers do is often complex, as it requires juggling complex ideas, multiple deadlines, and the demands of nuanced research or client preferences. It’s a challenging but rewarding profession that has the ability to reach many readers and create an impact across a spectrum of industries.
Steps for How to Become a Writer
Asking how to become a writer depends on the unique interests and talents of each professional, 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 contract, 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, there are many opportunities to consume written content — from magazines and books to niche online reporting and the text on billboards. 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) notes that the median author and writer salary, as of 2018, is approximately $62,000 per year. 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 report a median annual salary of $69,430. Those in the information sector have a median salary of $59,580.
Future Growth for Writers
According to the BLS, the professional field for writers and authors is growing about as fast as the average for all professions — at a rate of about 8%. However, some jobs within the broader field of writing offer more competitive growth and often a higher writer salary. For example, according to Forbes, the field of technical writing is advancing alongside the increasing prevalence of technology, growing at a rate of 11% since 2012 and adding more than 50,000 jobs to the economy. Furthermore, because two-thirds of writers are self-employed, there are many opportunities to begin a career as a freelancer.
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. Find out more about where an online bachelor’s degree in English can take you and your love of writing.