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

university of chicago's editing certificate

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.

16 thoughts on “Why I Enrolled in the University of Chicago’s Editing Certificate Program”

  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?

    1. carolinavonkampen

      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!

    1. 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!

      1. 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!

        1. 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!).

  3. Hi Carolina.

    I came across your post while googling “is a certificate in editing worth it?” I’m 32 and have an MFA in creative writing. While finishing my thesis I interned and a publishing house. I was sure with the degree and internship under my belt I’d be a shoo-in for a gig as an editorial assistant somewhere. Boy, was I wrong! I soon had to go back to retail to make ends meet. Four years later and my resume has stagnated and I was recently laid off due to the virus crisis. I’m currently considering applying to the University of WAs cert in editing. Do you think it’s “worth it”? Do you think it will give me an edge and lead to actual work experience?

    1. This is me, except I have a BA in English Writing Arts with a concentrate in Creative Non Fiction… and I’m 36. I’m a small business owner, and I am tired of a career in writing only being a dream. Life is just passing me by, and I have been searching through all editing programs for a couple of weeks. This one appears to be reasonably priced, comprehensive and reputable. It’s so hard to know what the right choice is here. Thanks for any insight you might have. Michael, I am so sorry you have been laid off… hang in there!

      1. carolinavonkampen

        The right choice will come down to what type of editing you’re hoping to get into. If you’re focused on online writing/editing for magazines, online sites, etc. you’ll want training in AP style. The UC editing certificate is focused on editing books and journal articles that follow Chicago Manual of Style (the standard style guide in book publishing). I found that the UC editing courses taught me a lot about the mechanics of editing books and longer projects and that it taught me how to work with authors and publishers in the industry. The skills it helps you develop are necessary for jumping into freelance book editing. If you’re a writer and don’t have an interest in editing professionally, I’m not sure that it’s the best program for you; I’d look into resources that focus on educating writers about the book publishing industry and the craft of writing. Some good starting points for that would be Print Run Podcast, Publishing Crawl blog, Catapult’s classes https://catapult.co/classes and places like Loft Literary Center’s classes: https://loft.org/classes/about-classes. Luckily, there are a lot of conferences, workshops, etc. being held online for free during the pandemic; for example, Flights of Foundry is a conference geared toward SFF writers that’s free and online this weekend. In addition, try to find some people who you can talk to about your writing, like a critique partner or a close-knit group of writers. If you’re on Facebook, you might check out the groups 88 Cups of Tea or Babes Who Write, as they’re very welcoming and friendly to writers and are a good place to find beta readers and critique partners. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have more questions!

    2. carolinavonkampen

      Hi Michael! I don’t have any experience with the University of Washington’s certificate in editing, so I can only speak to the University of Chicago’s program. I do think the UC editing certificate program is worth it if your goal is to be a freelance editor—I personally learned a lot about editing books, journal articles, and other materials in Chicago Manual of Style. It’s not going to guarantee you a job in a publishing house though; for that, I think your best bet is to get another internship or two and focus on developing your network so that you have “ins” at publishing houses when editorial assistant jobs come up. A deep knowledge of manuscript editing will give you an edge but it isn’t enough to get internships/editorial assistant jobs; those also require a good understanding of the publishing industry and the willingness to do the “boring” work like writing book descriptions, answering phones, and other office tasks. You might want to look into the Denver Publishing Institute or the Columbia Publishing Institute, as those programs are more geared toward placing you in a publishing job and helping you meet people who can help you expand your network.

  4. Alyssa C Dearborn

    Hello! I am a writer who’s been looking to begin a career in editing, so I’ve been trying to find as much information on this program as possible. I already have my BA in English, so the program sounded great for my current education level. I was curious about how the application process went for you. Like, are there any GPA requirements or anything else? Thanks for the help!

    1. carolinavonkampen

      Hi Alyssa, I don’t believe there is a GPA requirement, although you do submit your undergrad transcript to apply for the program. The application process was fairly quick for me—I received a reply within two weeks. In your personal statement and resume, I’d highlight your writing experience and how you plan to use the certificate to transition into editing. I think they just want to know that you’re serious about the program in your application. You can also take one course before you’ve applied for the program, so it might be useful to take the Basic Manuscript Editing course to determine whether it’s a good fit for you, then apply to the program. Hope that helps!

  5. Hello! I’m trying to decide between the UChicago editing certificate and the UC San Diego program. Did you look at UC San Diego by any chance? And how do the Chicago online classes work? Do they use Blackboard?

    I can’t find a lot of firsthand reviews of the Chicago program, so I’m not sure how the two differ. Any opinions or insight you have would be most appreciated! Thanks!

    1. carolinavonkampen

      Hi Laura! I didn’t look closely at UC San Diego because I knew UChicago’s certificate was a better fit for me. UChicago focuses specifically on book publishing and journal editing, heavily rooted in Chicago Manual of Style, and working with authors. This is what I needed as I already had copyediting training in content marketing/journalism. Based on what I’ve read, it looks like UC San Diego has a broader focus in its editing certificate, which would be useful if you’re just getting started in copyediting or if you’re more interested in editing websites, articles, marketing copy and such. (Caveat: most website/marketing materials follow AP style, but San Diego teaches CMOS. So you’d want to make sure you find a course or two in AP style as well.)

      I really enjoyed the UChicago editing certificate program. They use Canvas for online classes, which is similar to Blackboard. The instructor uploads materials to Canvas. You typically have homework (reading and an assignment or two) to complete during the week, and then you talk about the reading and assignment in the synch video session via Zoom. (Mostly you can have your video turned off for these, but they do sometimes call on you or ask you to ask questions.) The live sessions take 1-1/5 hours once a week. Attendance is required for those. But you can do the homework on your own timeframe. The amount of homework varies between classes, but you’ll want to set aside 3-5 hours per week for the the manuscript editing courses and the Editing Electronically course so you can really focus on the materials and absorb it. Some of the electives don’t have as much homework and reading. Hopefully that helps! Let me know if you have more questions (either here or via email!).

  6. Hi Caroline!
    I really enjoyed reading your article. I just graduated from the University of Texas with a bachelor’s degree in American Studies and a minor in Anthropology. I’m really looking to get into the field of publishing and editing and have been looking at the UChicago’s certificate program as well as some others. From your article and comment replies, I’m getting that this program is better suited for those who want to pursue an editing career in nonfiction/more technical writing styles? Is that true? I’m wanting to go more into fiction/magazine publishing and editing…something like Penguin Random House or HarperCollins…do you still recommend this program for that? Or do you think finding something that is more AP based is better? I’m new to this world so I’m not sure which styles are better for fiction book publishing. Your help would be greatly appreciated!

    1. carolinavonkampen

      Hi Abbi! The program teaches Chicago Manual of Style, which is the standard for both fiction and nonfiction book publishing. So if you’re interested in editing fiction, learning Chicago Manual of Style is great! That said, the sample materials used in the manuscript editing courses are mostly nonfiction, but the style, info, and process is still very applicable to fiction editing.

      Having a strong editorial skillset is helpful when looking for jobs in publishing, but having an editing certificate won’t automatically get you a publishing job. You’ll likely want to pick up some editorial internships at publishers or literary agencies to learn about the business side of publishing and learn how to do the admin work. That’s because editorial assistant jobs are more focused on the admin and business side of publishing than actual editing. As an editorial assistant, your main task is doing admin work, although you will also start learning about editing. Internships are also important because they help you build your network of people in publishing (the people who can help you find publishing jobs). You could also volunteer as a reader for a literary magazine to learn more about the lit mag publishing scene and use that experience to build connections and experience to apply for positions at magazines. Hope that helps! Feel free to reply here or email if you have more specific questions.

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