Beginning a career in the publishing industry can be difficult because there seems to be a thousand different paths to go down. But that is really what makes the publishing industry so awesomely unique. In my last semester at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, about to have a degree in English Literature, I had a tough decision to make. I had no idea how to break into the industry. Where would I even start? So, I researched entry points.
I had to decide if I wanted to find an unpaid internship or attend a summer course to earn a publishing certificate. Publishing certificate programs are different than earning a master's degree in publishing. One of the most well known programs is NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute. It is a six-week program held over the summer. The goal of this program is to teach the students about all the different aspects of publishing as well as give many opportunities for networking with other publishing professionals. The NYU website states that in their program, “Students create actual launch plans for new magazine brands and imprints for book publishing houses, and learn from having their projects judged by a panel of senior publishing executives.” The program costs a little over $5,000. Other similar programs exist at Columbia University and the Denver Publishing Institute. The point of these programs is to give you the experience you would need to succeed in a full time job in the publishing industry as well as the networking opportunities to meet the people who can help you get the job. This experience seems ideal; I just lacked the money and time to go and do it.
The other option is to take on an internship for a publishing house or journal where you learn about the industry in a real life setting. Most of these positions are paid little to no money. Some offer academic credit for college students, but what you are really gaining from these positions is experience. Most full time job openings ask that the candidates they are considering have at least one year of experience in a professional publishing environment. Getting hands on, real life experience is one of the best ways to learn. Many of these internships can also lead to full time jobs depending on the situation. And even if it doesn’t, it is still a great way to meet other publishing professionals and network. You can also do multiple part time internships in different positions. You can work on an academic journal, literary journal, trade publisher, or educational publisher. I have had the opportunity to be a part of a few different publications and feel that the internships have given me a well-rounded education in the publishing industry.
Publishing programs and internships are both great ways to gain valuable experience in publishing. They are also things that employers look for on a résumé that would put you above other candidates. Either route you take, you can still end up where you want to be if you are determined.
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