Best Careers 2011: Film and Video Editor

As one of the 50 Best Careers of 2011, this should have strong growth over the next decade (anyone getting mixed signals???)

  • The rundown:

Film and video editors make movies and TV a joy to watch. Each scene in a film is typically shot multiple times and on several cameras from different angles. An editor selects the most dramatic or entertaining takes and splices them together. Sometimes editors also insert sound effects or music. The best cinematic editors go beyond merely assembling footage and become artists who guide the telling and pace of the story. The hours can be long when you’re working on deadline. But at the end of your project, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy your work with some popcorn and see your name in the credits.

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[See a list of The 50 Best Careers of 2011.]

The outlook:

Expect fierce competition for jobs. Although the number of film editor positions in the United States, which was at 25,500 in 2008, is expected to grow by 3,000 by 2018, the number of individuals hoping for a job in the motion picture and TV industries far outpaces the number of openings. Only the most skilled, persistent, and adept at using technology will land salaried positions or attract enough work to freelance full time.


In 2009, film and video editors earned a median of $50,790 annually, with the top 10 percent earning six-figure salaries. Those who work for the motion picture and video industries are the most highly paid, earning a median of about $69,000 each year. Freelancers may see their earnings fluctuate considerably from year to year. As with many creative fields, pay can be low until you reach a certain plateau and outlast the competition—which can take years.

Upward mobility:

Top jobs include work on major motion pictures or network TV programs, but there are also a lot of jobs at advertising agencies, local TV stations, and film and technical schools. Corporations increasingly need video editors for promotional spots or Web videos. To keep moving ahead, it helps if you’re in New York City or L.A. and know a few insiders—or have the kind of personality that helps you network your way into jobs.

Activity level:

Sporadic. Editors sit for long periods at a computer assembling digital footage, and must be extremely detail-oriented. They also collaborate with film or TV directors to make sure the editing advances the story line. Like a lot of project-based work, slow moments tend to alternate with intense periods of around-the-clock work.

[See a list of the best creative and service careers.]

Stress level:

Moderate. Sometimes editors need to work long or irregular hours to meet production schedules. Deadline pressure is a given.

Education and preparation:

A bachelor’s degree is required for most film and video editing jobs, including coursework in videography and computer technology. Employers usually seek applicants with a good eye for filmmaking, imagination, and creativity, as well as a thorough technical understanding of editing software and cinematography. The real test is your work, however—the next job is likely to come from somebody who was impressed with your last one.

[Find online degree programs in creative services.]

Real advice from real people about how to land a job as a film and video editor:

“Most often, you must be an assistant editor before you become an editor. Your skill set should include Avid and Final Cut Pro, and it helps to know Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects. The editor cuts. The assistant does everything else, from importing dailies to onlining the show. I highly recommend joining the Motion Picture Editors Guild, since 90 percent of the jobs you’ll want to do are union jobs.” —Lori Jane Coleman, co-author of Make the Cut: A Guide to Becoming a Successful Assistant Editor in Film and Video

Suggested job searches: Film and Video Editor jobsVideographer jobsVideo Producer jobs |Animator jobs


About montyedits

San Francisco based film and video editor.
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