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If you're interested in pursuing a career in publishing, you're in the right place.

Read below for information about the sector, hot topics, how to get work experience and information on the employers and roles you might want to start thinking about.

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PhD or masters students

In certain areas of specialist or academic publishing, a masters or PhD may be either a requirement or advantageous. See the  Qualifications section for more details.


Exploring the publishing industry

What does the industry consist of?

The Publishers Association divides the publishing industry into three broad categories:

  • consumer – also known as trade publishing, this includes the books you see in bookshops
  • educational – creating interesting and engaging ways to enhance learning
  • academic and professional – producing textbooks, journals and innovative online resources

While digital publishing used to be considered separately, it is becoming increasingly integral to all three categories as publishers branch out into the digital market.

Creative Skillset, the industry skills body for the creative industries, produces an infographic that gives you a useful overview of the industry, which employs almost 200,000 people in the UK, 27% of them in freelance roles.

As publishing is such a popular area of employment, there are several detailed resources offering advice and guidance about careers, including:

While book publishing is a familiar area, there are a number of other formats within the publishing industry, including databases, business media, directories, journals, newsletters, magazines and audio publishing.

What's next in the publishing industry?

Research shows the industry is in good health; having grown by 19% in 2017 (faster than the UK economy as a whole), and now supporting more than 70,000 jobs.

Academic publishing is becoming increasingly important to the sector’s overall performance, generating the majority of the industry’s turnover growth since 2010.

In recent years, the growth of digital technology has fundamentally changed how authors reach us with their content.

The Guardian features an interesting article about how developers are experimenting with technology to publish books with elements that simply wouldn't work in print. For an alternative perspective on multi-channel publishing, take a look at this blog on Ingenta.

Disruptive trends in the publishing industry include the rise of Blinkist, which publishes boiled-down versions of non-fiction books which can be read or listened to in minutes. 


What are the main employers and roles?


Employers in the publishing sector include:

The big five publishing houses

Small independent publishing houses

Academic publishers

Newspapers and magazine publishers

Amina Youssef, an English with Creative Writing Nottingham alumni produced a blog about her work experience at HarperCollins.

Read Amina's blog 



There are many different roles available within the publishing industry, from editing to contracts and rights.

Some key roles are highlighted here, along with useful websites for further research to allow you to explore jobs in the sector more widely. Entry-level routes often have 'assistant' in the job title, e.g. editorial assistant, marketing assistant, production assistant, etc.

The Publishers Association has a useful YouTube video detailing the life of a book, from concept through to final publication, which showcases the various roles involved at each stage.





Some useful websites for further research are:


How can I find work experience and my first job?

Finding a job

The popularity of the publishing industry means that competition for entry-level roles is strong, so relevant experience is important – even if it's only for a short period, e.g. two weeks.

Paid experience can be difficult to find, so many students work voluntarily at first. This isn't a financially viable option for everyone especially as many publishing houses are based in London, but The Spare Room Project may be able to help. This is an organisation which matches interns from outside London with publishers who can offer a spare room. 

There are also other ways to obtain experience that will be interesting to employers and allow you to build a useful network of contacts, for example:

  • Work on a student newspaper or magazine.
  • Produce a departmental student newsletter.
  • Join the Society of Young Publishers.
  • Work in a bookshop to find out what consumers think/want. You can learn how to write copy, what is selling, and what competing publishers are doing. 
  • Attend events that will expose you to the publishing industry. Find out which events the Careers and Employability Service is running.
  • Create a relevant blog.
  • Freelance as a copy editor or proof-reader. Big publishing houses will continue to curate content, and employ an ever-increasing army of freelancers.
  • Consider Creative Access internships.

The Publishers Association provides links to a range of blog posts about working in publishing.

Recruitment processes

Entry-level jobs are usually obtained through networking and word-of-mouth, rather than advertised vacancies. Occasionally, publishers will advertise vacancies on their own websites.

Large publishing companies may recruit more formally. Penguin Random House runs The Scheme, a 13-month entry-level programme which aims to attract the marketers of tomorrow. The scheme invites applications from a BAME (Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic) community, and/or from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Society of Young Publishers recommends registering with the CV Clearing House.

Social media channels and blogs are also recommended places for finding out about entry-level opportunities and networking with people in the industry.

Don't be put off by a temporary contract, this is a way to build your experience and make useful contacts.


Skills requirements will vary depending on the role, but key skills include excellent spelling and grammar, enthusiasm, flexibility, self-motivation, and good interpersonal and communication skills.

A Creative Skillset infographic, using data collected from employers in the industry, identifies gaps in:

  • sales and marketing skills
  • technical skills
  • business skills
  • leadership and management skills
  • skills in using software packages
  • skills to develop content for multiple platforms

As digital publishing continues to grow, there will be an increasing need for employees with an understanding of different digital platforms and content marketing approaches. Skills in those areas will give you a distinct advantage.

Skill sets are changeable and have changed dramatically in five years. Identifying trends and technical skills are important today, especially in editorial work.

In an online world awash with content, the publisher is arguably even more important, as it has a role as curator. 


Most entrants are graduates, and for the majority of editorial roles, degree subject is not important. However, in areas where specialist knowledge is required, e.g. scientific or engineering-related publications, a relevant qualification will be an advantage.

Relevant experience and appropriate skills are more important than qualifications, and postgraduate-level study is not usually a requirement. However, some postgraduate courses include industry placements which can provide useful networking opportunities and give you the advantage of structured experience.

For students with language skills, these can be an advantage when combined with good commercial awareness and a love of reading. Get a job as a translator, and seek work with a literary agent or publisher. 

You can shadow authors who come to the UK, or do this abroad. One World, for example, have staffers who speak and read Italian, German and Russian. A language is a boon, but you need to know both markets – UK and foreign. They don't always follow each other, so what works in one country, doesn't necessarily work in another.


Vacancy sources

As well as the speculative approach, there are a number of online sources and recruitment agencies advertising publishing jobs, including:

The Guardian

The Bookseller

Atwood Tate Limited

Judy Fisher Associates (LinkedIn) has a useful list of relevant recruitment agencies.

While specialist qualifications are not a requirement, there are a number of well-respected training providers offering a range of courses to suit different needs, including:

The London College of Communication

London School of Publishing

Publishing Training Centre

Finding work experience

As relevant work experience is an expectation across the industry, the majority of employers offer work experience or internship opportunities. For example:

In most cases these employers ask for a CV and covering letter with no particular deadline.

This will also be the case for smaller publishing houses. Prepare a focused CV that demonstrates your commitment to the industry and has no typos in it, and send it speculatively to the organisations that interest you.

Employers expect to be contacted this way.


What to do next at Nottingham?

  • Research the sector. Investigate current trends, develop your opinions about what works and what doesn't, and investigate the roles that interest you.
  • Take a look at our digital industries information for advice on working in an increasingly digital workplace.
  • Get experience and increase your knowledge of the book supply chain by finding work in bookshops.
  • Find out about opportunities with local publications such as LeftLion and Impact Magazine.
  • Use social media to connect with key organisations and individuals in or commenting on publishing and the markets that you’re interested in working with. Their Facebook and Twitter feeds will give you a good insight into their work and current issues affecting the sector.
  • Develop your LinkedIn profile and join groups.
  • Start to build your network as this will really help you find work in this sector.
  • Gain some practical experience through working on student, departmental or University publications.
  • Build your administrative skills by getting a job in an office or volunteering to do the admin for a student society. These skills could help you get a 'foot in the door'.
  • Prepare your CV. Make speculative applications for work experience. Consider how you will finance your experience if it is unpaid. 




Careers and Employability Service

University of Nottingham
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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3680
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