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Copywriters

California Occupational Guide Number 163
Interest Area 1
1998


THE JOB

COPYWRITERS write the words used in advertisements for newspapers, radio,
television, magazines, and other media.  Copywriters may also write
publicity releases, promotional or informational booklets, sales promotion
materials, or they may work on merchandising campaigns.  They sometimes write
radio and television commercials or trade journal articles about products or
services.  At times Copywriters may be called upon to edit or rewrite
existing copy.  Copywriters may be assigned to a variety of accounts and must
be versatile enough to adjust to each new product and medium and to vary the
language and tone of each message. 

Agency Copywriters may also work on annual reports, sales brochures, point-
of-purchase materials, instruction manuals and press releases.  Some
broadcasting stations employ Copywriters to prepare advertising material and
station announcements.  No matter the size of the operation, Copywriters
must be knowledgeable about copy writing, art and layout, space and time
buying and selling copy.

In small firms, Copywriters may help co-workers fulfill these functions.
The duties are varied and require thorough knowledge of the agency's
operations.


WORKING CONDITIONS

Most Copywriters in large metropolitan areas are employed by retail stores
or advertising agencies in advertising departments of firms in related
industries. Copywriting, although a creative endeavor, is performed for
business under sometimes unrelenting conditions.  Crises are typical of
advertising production, and pressure is a condition of the job.  In retail
trade, the Copywriter works barely ahead of consecutive release dates, so
that deadlines occur daily.  Last minute revisions are routine, with evening
or weekend work required at times.


EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK

The following information is from the California Projections of Employment
published by the Labor Market Information Division.  These figures represent
the broad occupational group Writers and Editors which includes Copywriters.

Estimated number of workers in 1993            13,520
Estimated number of workers in 2005            18,680
Projected Growth 1993-2005                        38%
Estimated openings due to separations by 2005   3,590

(These figures do not include self-employment or openings due to turnover.)
Employment in this field is anticipated to grow at slightly higher than
average levels through 2005.

California-based advertising agencies have been strengthened by
consolidation with east coast firms.  Branches of national agencies which
also represent western advertisers, are bolstering their staff here. Many
maintain broadcast offices in California. 

As in all desirable fields, beginning opportunities in advertising are
extremely limited, but the search for top creative talent is never ending.
Many openings are with advertisers (including department stores, health care
plans, among others), advertising agencies, media, public relations, and
professional and trade associations.  Advertising and public relations
agencies are also sources for new jobs.  The field, however, is highly
competitive.


WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS

The average wage for Copywriters is about $40,000 per year.  Assistant
Copywriters earn from $27,000 to $35,000 per year. Senior Copywriters can
earn $100,000 per year or more.  Agency Copy Chiefs can earn up to $125,000
annually.  Creative Directors, who supervise the art as well as copy work
and who are responsible for the entire process, earn up to $200,000 a year.

Although the normal workweek is 40 hours, there is considerable overtime.
Compensation for overtime is at time and a half the regular rate.  Peak
hours of work in department stores occur most frequently before holiday
seasons, and in advertising agencies during advertising campaigns.

Profit-sharing plans are becoming increasingly popular in advertising firms.
Most employers offer paid holidays and vacations, retirement benefits,
participation in medical, group life insurance, and hospitalization plans.


ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING

Copywriters should be skilled in visually roughing out ideas and in
developing notable copy.  In addition, Copywriters should possess a working
knowledge of typography and layout.  

Copywriting experience is preferred, particularly in the specialty of the
job opening.  Advertising agencies usually hire only those with three to
five years' experience with an agency of comparable size, and sometimes
require specialized experience in such diverse areas as automobiles and
confectionery.  Retail stores require experience in writing advertising copy
for merchandise such as furniture, appliances, or women's fashions.
Copywriting positions generally require a college degree.  A combination of
liberal arts and appropriate business courses provide a good educational
base.  Some colleges offer degrees in communications; these programs may
include training in writing copy.  Special courses in copywriting and
creative writing are useful, as is familiarity with word processing equipment.

It is important to supplement formal education with actual writing
experience.  Writing for school and community publications is one way to
gain this experience.  Writing news releases or advertisements for school or
community projects are other ways to gain experience.  Well-written essays
and other academic assignments can also be presented as examples of ability.
Advertising agencies that hire inexperienced workers prefer college graduates.


ADVANCEMENT

In a large department store there are several avenues of promotion open to
the Copywriter.  The first step may be Copy Chief or Fashion Coordinator.
Next up the scale is a division manager of fashions or home furnishings, and
ultimately, head of the advertising department.  An agency Copywriter may
advance to Copy Supervisor and then to Copy Chief. Some become Account
Executives.  A promotion may be characterized merely by assignment to more
important accounts, or by a salary increase.  A Copywriter with a high
degree of creative and administrative talent can aspire to head up an agency.


FINDING THE JOB

Opportunities for the inexperienced worker in retail copywriting appear
better in the outlying areas than in metropolitan centers.  Employment in a
small broadcasting studio is another possibility.  Some newspapers hire
beginning Copywriters to work in classified advertising. Most Copywriters
find jobs on their own.  Contact sources are the various trade publications
for job openings and news of account acquisitions, which sometimes signify
agency expansion.  Application is usually made to the advertising department
rather than the employment office.  It is acceptable to write a letter
requesting an appointment for an interview, and to enclose a resume of
education, work experience, and personal data, which should not exceed two
pages.  If the applicant is granted a personal interview, a portfolio of the
creative writing which may include short stories or clippings from a college
paper should be presented.  Good contacts are established by joining the
Junior and Senior Advertising Clubs and attending their meetings.  


ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION

American Association of Advertising Agencies
130 Battery Street, Suite 330
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 291-4999
http://www.commercepark.com/AAAA/

American Marketing Association
250 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 200
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 648-0536
http://www.ama.org

The Association of National Advertisers
41 East 42nd St.
New York, NY 10017 
(212) 697-5950
http://www.ana.net

RELATED OCCUPATIONAL GUIDES

Newspaper Reporters             No. 113
Copy Editors                    No. 268

OCCUPATIONAL CODE REFERENCES

DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th Ed., 1991 )
Columnist/Commentator       131.067-010
Copywriter                  131.067-014
Editorial Writer            131.067-022

OES (Occupational  Employment Statistics) System
Writers and Editors             340020


Source: State of California, Employment Development Department,
        Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group,
        (916) 262-2162.

Note:  This is NOT a job opening.  The purpose of This California Occupational Guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions.   If you are searching for a job, go to:

California Occupational Guides


California Employment Development Department   >>   Labor Market Information   >>   More Occupational Guides