An academic editor generally works on a full-time or freelance basis with academic publishers, professors, or students to edit and proofread research papers, dissertations, scholarly book manuscripts, or other education-related publications. Most academic editors have advanced degrees in one or more academic disciplines and have strong writing/editing skills. Another important qualification for becoming an academic editor is an thorough understanding of academic standards including citation requirements. An alternate career path, perhaps of a part-time nature, may be for an academic editor to work for an online writing service.
The professional expertise to thoroughly review and correct all forms of academic content prior to publication is an important quality for an academic editor to have. In short, an academic editor must be an expert "wordsmith." Many publications, for example, also require manuscripts to be formatted in certain way, up to and including a specific font and spacing. An academic editor must also be an expert in the citation format for a particular discipline. The requirements for footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies can be different depending on the field of study and the publication.
Among other places of employment, an academic editor may choose to work with a university press, for an individual professor, or with a think tank. Academic editors can work in-house for academic publishers to oversee the editing, formatting, and proofreading of scholarly works. Some professors contract with freelance academic editors to review written work for grammar, spelling, style, or fact-checking before formally submitting their articles or book manuscripts to academic publishers. An academic editor can also work with experts at a public policy think tank or private research foundation to review the text in upcoming publications, either online or in print.
Technological advancements in the 21st century have allowed for a broadening of opportunities for academic editors through online writing companies. These companies offer editing and formatting services of various kinds to students. This work often allows an editor to work flexible hours, earn additional income, and help students who may be struggling with their coursework.
The diverse academic editing field does not necessarily have a uniform educational requirement. In the United States, however, many academic editors have earned a Master's degree or Doctorate in English along with perhaps a specialty in another field in the humanities or in the social or hard sciences. These degree programs can provide sufficient opportunities to strengthen editing skills. Many academic editors have a teaching background as well experience as published authors themselves.