Carolina VonKampen

Editor. Reader. Writer.

Why I Enrolled in the University of Chicago’s Editing Certificate Program

If you asked me what my plans for professional development were three weeks ago, I would have told you that I planned on reading some books about editing, following along with #ACESchat on Twitters, reading up on specific publishing-related topics online, attending ACES: The Society for Editing and Sigma Tau Delta conferences, and viewing ACES webinars.

My plans changed with one night of internet browsing that ended up on the University of Chicago’s Editing Certificate program webpage. After a few days of leaving the application half filled out, I applied for the certificate program on a Wednesday, was accepted on Friday, and was bumped from waitlist to class roster that following Tuesday—for a class that started the day before. Short story short, I’m now enrolled in an editing certificate program!

What is the University of Chicago’s Editing Certificate program?

The University of Chicago’s Editing Certificate program is a focused sequence of courses designed to help current editing professionals build skills and knowledge for career advancement. The classes are noncredit (but they’re graded), and the program can be completed online, although there are in-person classes available in Chicago.

During the program, I’ll take four required classes that cover Chicago style, manuscript editing, and editing electronically, as well as at least one additional elective—possibly Introduction to Acquisition Editing, Copyright for Publishing Professionals, or Introduction to Developmental Editing. In addition to these core courses focused on manuscript editing, I’ll have the opportunity to learn about the emerging technologies and marketing tools that publishing professionals use.

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) 17th edition is the main textbook for the classes, so I’ll leave the program with a thorough understanding of what’s in CMOS and when to use it. The first core class, Basic Manuscript Editing, consists of reading chapters of CMOS and completing quizzes and self-graded assignments about those chapters. Each week, there’s a synchronous video session where we meet as a class, hear our instructor discuss the chapters we covered, and ask questions about the readings and assignments.

Why now?

I’ve been aware of this program for half a year. Ever since I saw it on the list of editing programs that are discounted for ACES members, I’ve wanted to do it. When I heard a presenter at ACES 2018 talk about how the program was key in her career as a book editor, I knew it would be a fantastic professional development opportunity for me. I didn’t think I’d enroll in the program by July, though!

But the timing was optimal: I’ve been out of school for a year and am ready to head back to classes with the right attitude (something I lacked senior year). We’re in a position to pay for the classes. More importantly, I need to learn about manuscript editing and Chicago style to be the best editor I can be. I’ve worked on a handful of book projects throughout the past year, both for my full-time job and as a freelancer, so it only makes sense for me to learn the skills necessary for future book projects.

Most of my knowledge of Chicago style and book editing thus far has been self-taught, as I haven’t been formally trained or taken classes about either subject. The formal editing training and classes that I have had mostly focused on AP style and online content, from a Journalistic Editing class in college to on-the-job training editing online content to journalism-focused ACES webinars. And it’s those classes and training that convinced me that completing similar training and classes on CMOS and book editing would be so useful. Self-training and hands-on experience is very valuable, of course, but going through the CMOS chapter by chapter, doing exercises and quizzes about the content, and learning from publishing professionals will help me further my professional development.

Even one week into the first class of the editing certificate program, I’m feeling more confident about my handle on Chicago style and book editing, and I’m excited to learn and grow as an editor.

Have questions about the editing certificate program? Learn more about the program here, or ask me in the comments below.

6 Comments

  1. Is this certificate program appropriate for people who are looking to make a start in the editing world or only for people who already have experience?

    • carolinavonkampen

      June 14, 2019 at 12:50 pm

      It’s for both! The basic manuscript editing class is a great intro to editing if you’re just starting out; it’s also great if you’re switching to book editing from another editing- or writing-adjacent career.

  2. Hi Carolina, thank you for sharing this! Did you take this course entirely online? How was your experience with the synchronous video sessions? I live in Boston and can’t afford to move to Chicago for a certificate program, but I’m also not sure about enrolling in an online program. How was your experience? Any insight on this is much appreciated!

    • carolinavonkampen

      August 25, 2019 at 11:08 am

      Hi Christy! I took some classes online and some classes in-person to mix it up. I really liked the variety of taking some courses over a few weeks online and then getting the bulk of the in-person classes done in 2-3 days. Each in-person class is only 2-3 days so you may be able to just travel to Chicago for the weekend if you want to take an in-person class—that’s what I did, and several others from the in-person classes were from out of town as well.

      The synchronous sessions worked well. Some instructors want you to participate and talk, while others want you to just listen in. I definitely got a bit bored at times during the online video sessions, but overall it’s more convenient and affordable than traveling to Chicago. The instructors were always available during the week to answer questions as you work on homework. The amount of homework per week though can be tough to finish if you have a full-time job and family commitments, but it’s doable.

      Let me know if you have any more questions!

      • Thanks so much for your thorough response, Carolina! It’s very helpful. Would you say it was worth it to get an editing certificate? How was your experience overall in the program?

        I just recently graduated and am finishing up an editorial internship. For a few months now, I’ve been applying for editorial assistant jobs and internships, but have had little luck in landing anything. It’s been discouraging, and I wonder if it’s because I have no accreditation. Would love your input on this!

        • carolinavonkampen

          September 1, 2019 at 9:38 pm

          Yes, for me it was definitely worth getting the editing certificate. Initially, I thought that just having a certificate on my resume would be the benefit, but the content in the classes and the opportunity to learn from seasoned editors exceeded my expectations. I learned so much and feel much more confident in my editing now.

          As far as it being relevant to editorial assistant jobs, I’m not sure how much it would make you stand out, since at that level the emphasis is less on actual editing skills and more on administrative work. An editing certificate might help? If you can swing it, though, I’d do another editorial internship or two and try to leverage your connections for an entry-level job. It’s hard breaking in; that’s part of the reason I went with freelance editing instead of pursuing a career in book publishing (that, and, I don’t live in NYC!).

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