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At a Glance

  • Write things from captions to novels to speeches
  • Some work for others, while many work on a free-lance basis
  • Usually revise work several times
  • Often work alone
  • May have flexible schedules
  • Have at least a bachelor's degree

Career summary

Writers use words to express thoughts and interpret information.

Writers can be divided into two general groups. One group works for employers or clients and writes items about specific topics for them. Another group writes about what interests them and hopes to find buyers for their work.

All writers follow the same basic steps to produce a written product. Writers gather information about their topics. For some articles, writers interpret the meaning of complex events or information.

Writers of books, short stories, and other creative items also gather information. They develop plot, character, the environment, and other aspects of the story.

Writers often revise their work so that the information makes sense and is written clearly. They may have other writers read their work and give them feedback. Many writers have editors read and comment on their work.

There are many different types of writers:

Related careers

This career is part of the Arts, Audio/Visual Technology, and Communications cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to writers.

Common work activities

Writers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, writers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Writers frequently:

It is important for writers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for writers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Writers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a writer, you typically need to:

Education after high school

There are several ways to prepare for this occupation. One way is to complete a bachelor's degree in communications, journalism, or English. Another approach is to get a liberal arts degree. In general, liberal arts programs teach you how to write. Thus, you can major in English, psychology, sociology, or several other areas. You gain knowledge of that area and you learn to write.

Work experience

You can develop writing skills in many ways. For example, you can prepare for this field by working on a school newspaper or yearbook. Any writing experience is valuable, paid or not. Many students work as interns while they are in high school or college to get experience. You should keep examples of your work in a portfolio.

On-the-job training

Beginning writers often start with smaller firms or do routine tasks at first. You often begin by doing research or proofreading for experienced writers. You write routine pieces to gain experience. Later, you get more control over your work and tougher writing assignments. Training typically lasts at least one year.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

Many writers are self-employed. If you want to run your own business some day, you should consider taking these courses as well:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Most employers prefer to hire writers who have at least a bachelor's degree. Some employers prefer applicants who majored in English, communications, or journalism. Employers who specialize in a certain area, such as science or legal issues, require applicants to have additional experience or study in that area.

Employers look for writers who can express ideas clearly and logically. They also look for creative, knowledgeable, and self-motivated workers who can meet deadlines.

Generally, proven writing ability is the most important qualification, regardless of educational background. Employers also look for writers who have had materials published. Experience writing college research papers is a good way to prepare for nonfiction freelance writing. It helps writers learn to do research and meet writing deadlines. Personal presentation is very important. The qualities that are attractive to employers include dependability, availability, neatness, experience, knowledge of specific background information, enthusiasm for the subject matter, and other special skills.


Individuals should learn to operate a digital camera. Selling written work, especially non-fiction, is sometimes easier when photographs are included. This tends to be true for lower and medium-pay markets. Top magazines usually do not rely on writers to provide photos or graphics.

Individuals are encouraged to write daily and read a wide variety of materials, including writer's magazines. It is also important to analyze what you read to find out what makes a piece of writing good or poor. Related course work may help improve writing skills; however, constant practice is most important for developing style and ability.

Knowing how to market your work is important. Find out what the demand is for the type of materials you wish to write. Try to recognize trends and styles in what is published. This can help when marketing your work. Enrolling in local writing courses and workshops will improve writing skills and teach the latest needs of the market.

Developing an area of expertise can be very helpful. Many freelance writers belong to support groups where they can receive feedback on their work. Serving on community boards or volunteering in community groups can be a good way to make contact with businesses or local government that may need freelance writing services.

Travel writing is very competitive. Since many popular travel destinations have already been covered in great detail, be prepared to visit countries or regions that are not as well known. This may mean going to places where language barriers can be an issue. Many travel writers are college students who work during their summer break. Writers who get payment in advance need to remember that this money must cover all their travel expenses. Experienced writers recommend having a fair amount of money saved before you take on travel assignments.

#Added travel writing comments 3/6/07 from Career Opportunities News, Jan/Feb 2007, p. 6, CJ.

Costs to workers

Writers need reference books and basic supplies such as paper, a computer, and printer. Most subscribe to magazines and journals. Writers may wish to join a professional association, which may have annual dues, or they may attend writer's conferences.

Writers who are self-employed must register with the Washington State Department of Revenue and report all earnings yearly. There is a nominal registration fee and taxes must be paid if annual earnings exceed a certain amount. They also must pay for their own health benefits.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Writers and authors (SOC 27-3043)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $14.65 $22.85 $29.36 $38.86 $49.35
Monthly $2,539 $3,960 $5,088 $6,734 $8,552
Yearly $30,480 $47,530 $61,060 $80,840 $102,640
    Bellingham Hourly $15.75 $16.83 $18.59 $21.45 $23.75
Monthly $2,729 $2,917 $3,222 $3,717 $4,116
Yearly $32,754 $34,992 $38,659 $44,617 $49,402
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $14.45 $19.81 $33.31 $45.89 $56.29
Monthly $2,504 $3,433 $5,773 $7,953 $9,755
Yearly $30,052 $41,199 $69,294 $95,432 $117,094
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $14.73 $25.04 $30.08 $39.39 $50.43
Monthly $2,553 $4,339 $5,213 $6,826 $8,740
Yearly $30,643 $52,072 $62,570 $81,944 $104,910
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
    Vancouver Hourly $19.62 $24.04 $31.82 $40.38 $59.25
Monthly $3,400 $4,166 $5,514 $6,998 $10,268
Yearly $40,796 $50,013 $66,197 $83,987 $123,248
United States Hourly $15.24 $21.58 $29.89 $41.14 $58.49
Monthly $2,641 $3,740 $5,180 $7,130 $10,136
Yearly $31,700 $44,890 $62,170 $85,580 $121,670

(1) Wage estimate is not available.

Wages vary by employer and the writer's reputation. Many writers are self-employed and sell individual articles to magazines. Others work for a commission, or a percentage of the amount a book is sold for. Some writers obtain grants to support the time they devote to their writing. Many writers have another job that supports them, and write in their free time.

Self-employed writers must provide their own benefits. Writers who are not self-employed and work full time may receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Writers and Authors (SOC 27-3043)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 4,941 20.5% 16.1% 666
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 10 30.0% 13.4% 1
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 82 14.6% 8.6% 10
    Benton and Franklin Counties 39 0.0% 15.0% 3
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 343 -29.4% 11.9% 4
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 84 6.0% 15.2% 8
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 56 -1.8% 14.1% 4
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 294 11.2% 14.6% 33
    King County 2,796 32.1% 19.6% 457
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 33 -9.1% 13.8% 2
    Pierce County 75 4.0% 15.2% 7
    Snohomish County 967 9.5% 12.4% 103
    Spokane County 153 49.7% 13.9% 31
United States 123,200 -0.2% 5.2% 12,800

National employment

About 62% of writers are self-employed.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation is expected little to no change. Online publications and services are growing in number, increasing the demand for writers and authors with Web and multimedia experience. However, the demand for writers in the newspaper and book industry is expected to slow.

Job openings will occur as experienced writers leave this occupation. Turnover is high in this field. Many freelance writers leave because they cannot earn enough. However, many people are attracted to the writing field, and competition will be strong.

Other resources

Academy of American Poets (external link)
75 Maiden Lane, Suite 901
New York, NY 10038
American Folklore Society (external link)
American Journalism Review (external link)
American Literature Association (external link)
Artist Trust (external link)
1835 - 12th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122
Asian American Journalists Association (external link)
5 Third Street, Suite 1108
San Francisco, CA 94103
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (external link)
234 Outlet Pointe Boulevard
Columbia, SC 29210
Dow Jones News Fund (external link)
PO Box 300
Princeton, NJ 08543-0300
Editorial Freelancers Association (external link)
266 West 37th Street, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10018
Fiction Writing (external link)
National Association of Science Writers (external link)
PO Box 7905
Berkeley, CA 94707
National Communication Association (external link)
1765 N Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
National Endowment for the Arts (external link)
400 - 7th Street SW
Washington, DC 20506
National Federation of Press Women (external link)
140B Purcellville Gateway Dr. Suite 120
Purcellville, VA 20132
National Writers Union (external link)
256 West 38th Street, Suite 703
New York, NY 10018
Pacific Northwest Writers Association (external link)
1420 NW Gilman Boulevard, Suite 2
PO Box 2717
Issaquah, WA 98027
Pew Center for Civic Journalism (external link)
1615 L St. NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20036
Poets & Writers (external link)
Project for Excellence in Journalism (external link)
1615 L Street NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20036
Showbizjobs.com (external link)
Society for Cinema & Media Studies (external link)
640 Parrington Oval
Wallace Old Science Hall, Room 300
Norman, OK 73019
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (external link)
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Western Washington (external link)
The Writer's Garret (external link)
1250 Majesty Drive
Dallas, TX 75247
Women's and Gender Studies: A Guide to the Collections of The New York Public Library (external link)
Writers Guild of America, West (external link)
7000 West Third Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Writing for Kids (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupations

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational clusters