for proofreading, copy-editing, copywriting

Qualifications – what is relevant?

I have recently been casting my net again, as I have some spare capacity that I would like to fill. However, I have been surprised by the number of companies, seeking proofreaders, who appear to have no idea about relevant qualifications.

Take, for example, an advert that insists that the applicant *must* have a degree, preferably a masters or PhD, in English. Another insisted that to be able to work on references in a thesis, the proofreader must have a PhD. No other qualifications or training are mentioned in either advert. This shows a lack of understanding of what a proofreader is, and is worryingly common. A qualified proofreader may or may not have a degree in English, and this may or may not be a post-graduate degree; but what they do have is membership of a recognised professional organisation that includes evidence of industry-specific training and qualifications, continuing professional development and a suitable level of experience according to the membership level they have reached.

No other qualifications or training are mentioned in either advert

There is a parallel in accountancy. You may have an MSc in Finance but that doesn’t make you an accountant. Several years of further, professional training is required under a recognised institute AND relevant experience before you can call yourself one. If you don’t have a degree there are other ways in but naturally, these take longer as the grounding isn’t there and a degree of almost any kind shows an ability to learn that can be applied in other scenarios. Many years ago I worked at a military facility and at a social event an officer’s wife dismissed my position as finance manager, in an upper-class drawl, as something she could do as she ‘did the mess accounts’. Right.

It is the same for proofreading and editing. I met a university lecturer in finance who told me he could of course step right into my job, and he had ‘missed a trick’ by not doing so. I can do first aid, but it doesn’t make me a surgeon or a paramedic. Who do you want to see when you break a leg?

What they did call upon was my qualifications in proofreading

On the other hand, there is the online agency that will only consider you as a proofreader in subjects if you have a degree in that subject. Really? So I can only work in the areas covered by my degree? I have successfully copy-edited fourteen STEM books over the last couple of years for a leading academic publisher and none of them called upon the syllabus of my masters in finance. What they did call upon was my qualifications and experience in proofreading and editing, and an ability/skill to know when something needs to be checked. But my application to this online agency is restricted to one subject area – not one that is known for high use of editing and proofreading skills.

The search for a new client or two continues.


Gill Pavey

MSc (Finance), ACMA, GCMA, Dip. Proofreading

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2 Responses to Qualifications – what is relevant?

    • Thank you Nora, and thanks for taking the trouble to comment. A good way to explore this is to look at, or join one of the professional organisations which you can do even at a ‘starter’ level. In the UK (and they also accept members outside the UK) this is the SfEP ( and in Ireland it is AFEPI ( There is a lot of support and a wide range of training opportunities. If you let me know where you are, if not in the UK or Ireland, I can ask my colleagues for details of other organisations. Everyone is very friendly and helpful.
      Good luck!

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