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Writers don't necessarily need a formal education, but most successful writers have a bachelor's degree in English or journalism or a related field. There are two main ways to become a magazine writer. One way is to be hired on as an in-house or staff writer for a particular magazine on a permanent basis. Most employers in this case require at least some education, and experience writing for school or community newspapers or websites may be helpful as well. The other way to become a magazine writer is to work as a freelance writer, which often involves submitting individual articles for consideration.
Some magazines only publish articles written by their in-house writers. These writers often come into the office and work a fairly typical schedule. In-house writers may be responsible for coming up with their own topics or an editor at the magazine may assign particular topics. These positions can be rather hard to obtain, as there are many skilled writers competing for a small number of in-house jobs.
Although requirements vary, there are some basic credentials that many employers like to see in their writers. For example, writing samples are almost always required. Degrees in literature, history, or journalism may also be helpful. Many editors like to see that their writers have an interest in the subject matter covered by the magazine as well. For example, a legal magazine may prefer that the writers have law degrees, paralegal degrees, or have work experience in the legal arena.
A freelance writer may also become a magazine writer, but often follow a slightly different path. A freelance writer will rarely work at the magazine office. In fact, she often can work from nearly any location where she can plug in her computer and find access to the Internet.
To become a magazine writer, a freelance writer may start out by sending query letters to magazine editors. A query letter is written by the writer to inform the editor of her idea. If the editor likes the idea proposed by the writer, the editor may request a manuscript of the article. If the editor likes the manuscript, chances are good that the article will appear in the magazine. Most people trying to become a magazine writer must suffer through many rejected query letters and manuscripts before an article is actually published.
In many cases, once a writer successfully publishes a few articles with a particular magazine, the editor may ask her to write specific articles without going through the long submission process. For example, an editor may know that the writer has a strong knowledge of computers, based on her previously published articles. As a result, the editor may ask the writer directly to write an article on a new computer program. In most cases, if the article is not published, the writer will still get paid or will receive a kill fee.
Some tips to become a magazine writer include reading the submission guidelines of the magazine. Some magazines have specific guidelines that must be followed. For example, some editors only want query letters or manuscripts sent via e-mail, while others prefer that hard copies are sent via mail. In addition, it is important to make sure the query letter or manuscript is addressed to the correct person, whether it is sent by e-mail or postal service.