How do I Become a Dissertation Editor?

Vicki Hogue-Davies
Vicki Hogue-Davies
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Dissertation editors edit and proofread the scholarly treatises of doctoral candidates. Dissertation editors work for universities or academic editing service companies or are self-employed. To become a dissertation editor requires a strong command of written language and the ability to correct errors in structure, grammar, spelling, punctuation and more. Expert knowledge of format styles used in scholarly writing is also necessary. Style manuals that are commonly used in preparing dissertations include Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA), Turabian and others; individual school departments sometimes have their own style guides, so being able to come up to speed quickly on unique styles also is important.

The educational background necessary to become a dissertation editor can vary. If you want to become a dissertation editor at a university, a minimum of a bachelor's degree in English or another language or in a particular field of study almost certainly will be required, and more advanced education often will be preferred. Some teaching, academic publishing or research experience might be required as well. Working for an academic editing service probably will require at least a bachelor's degree and strong editing skills that are proved through testing. Academic editing companies might require some background as an instructor or academic writer.

If you want to become a self-employed dissertation editor, you won't necessarily need a college degree as long as you have strong writing and editing skills, but a college degree can help you gain knowledge and appear more professional to potential clients. After you are familiar with academic style guides, you can advertise at universities in your area that have doctoral programs and in student publications. If you have strong professional editing experience but are just starting out in dissertation editing, prepare a list of references and a portfolio of your editing work. If you have no professional editing experience but have the appropriate skills, consider offering your dissertation editing services at reduced rates to attract clients until you have gained solid experience. You also can build a website that advertises your editing services and will help you gain customers from a wider geographic area.

The ability to use computers and editing software is important if you want to become a dissertation editor. Flexibility in using editing methods also can be needed. Some people might prefer to have their dissertations edited the old-fashioned way: on paper with a pen or pencil. Strong organizational skills and attention to detail are very important if you want to become a dissertation editor. Good communication skills to explain recommended editing changes in a clear and professional way also are important.

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