Many freelance writers are generalists. As a generalist, you might write about a wide range of topic areas, from automotive to health to personal improvement. As you gain more professional experience and dabble in a diverse range of industries, however, you may start to specialize in a particular vertical, such as education. Education writing can be a personally fulfilling career path. After all, there are few things as rewarding as the inspiration of young minds. Education writing can also be a lucrative career choice, although it may take a little while to become established in this field.
Types of Freelance Education Writers
Education writing can mean different things to different people. Here is a look at the three most common types of education writers:
Most people would probably think of education reporting. As an education reporter, you would write about recent news and trends in the education sphere. You might also write profiles of noteworthy teachers. On the other hand, you could also discuss best practices for teachers and classrooms. You might even talk about how recent legislation may affect schools. Education reporters often write with an audience of teachers, administrators, and other union members in mind. However, they may occasionally direct pieces toward an audience of parents. Education reporters do not typically write with an audience of students in mind. In fact, some education reporters specialize in higher education and academia. Others might prefer private, public, or charter schools.
As you sort through the job listings available from Writers Work, look for another type of education writer: communication officer. Communication officers or communication associates are often full-time employees of schools, school districts, or universities. However, some of these roles may be filled by freelancers. Communication officers are similar to marketers and public relations specialists. They develop materials that present the school in the best possible light to the community, parents, and other key stakeholders. They might publicize the new enrichment programs available at the school, for instance. Communication officers might also write about the district’s recent rankings or student test scores.
A third type of freelance education writing is curriculum development. Curriculum specialists are vastly different from education reporters and communication officers. In fact, some people consider them to be in their own separate category. As the job title implies, a curriculum specialist develops lesson plans and educational activities for use within the classroom. These professionals tend to specialize by subject matter and grade level.
Qualifications of Freelance Education Writers
The qualifications you’ll need to become a freelance education writer depend on the specific type of work you’re looking for. If you want to become a curriculum specialist, you’ll need teaching experience. It’s very difficult to break into this specialty without spending some time in front of a chalkboard. However, you might find work with a degree in education, even if you lack experience.
The good news is that it’s far easier to break into education reporting. It’s helpful to have an academic background in education, but not necessary. Start by filling out your portfolio with well-written, published pieces in any vertical. Then, write a few articles in the education vertical. You can use those to prove your skills to potential clients. Look through the job listings for education writing opportunities, and check the submissions page for relevant magazines that accept submissions.
Once you gain a few years of experience as an education reporter, you might want to narrow your focus. Opportunities for communication officers in school districts can be quite lucrative. Plus, your experience as an education reporter may help you land that type of job. Communication officers are often expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree, even if they work in a freelance capacity. They’re also typically expected to have related work experience.
Work Responsibilities of Freelance Education Writers
Now, let’s talk about the day-to-day details of being a freelance education writer. A freelance education reporter might receive article requests from clients they’ve worked with for a long time. Or, they may need to pitch their own ideas to the publication—or both. Part of the freelancer’s day is spent hunting down new work and invoicing clients. Other daily responsibilities might include the following:
- Checking up on the latest education news and trends
- Finding relevant experts to interview for an article
- Preparing for and conducting interviews
- Researching relevant statistics and fact-checking information
- Writing the article, and then editing and proofreading it
Some of the topics that an education reporter might cover could include:
- School violence
- School bullying
- Curriculum changes
- Teaching trends and techniques
- Teacher profiles
- Special needs
The daily work of a communications officer is focused on meeting one goal: to make the school or school district look good. A communications officer may be responsible for:
- Planning and executing a strategic communications plan
- Serving as public relations counsel to the superintendent
- Attending meetings and presenting plans
- Developing written materials for the school, including information about policies, procedures, and educational programs
The job of a curriculum specialist is far more focused. These professionals prepare teacher guides, lesson plans, educational activities, and questions and answers.
Quick Tips for Professional Success
Breaking into the education writing vertical requires persistence and hard work. Don’t get discouraged if you’re stuck writing for plumbers and pest control companies at first. After all, you’re still gaining valuable work experience that will make you a better writer. To encourage your success as an education writer, you should closely follow the news in this field. Regularly visit industry websites, read relevant magazines and other publications, and subscribe to relevant newsletters. Here are a few resources to check out:
You can also fuel your professional success by networking. Look for industry conventions and association meetings that you could attend. Consider joining an online group or forum, or start your own education-oriented blog. And of course, don’t forget to check the job listings every day!
In addition to staying abreast of the latest news in the education sector, you can polish your writing skills by taking advantage of the resources at Writers Work. These include our University Library and our blog. Not a member yet? Join today and get access to hundreds of new writing jobs, updated daily!