5 Fantastic Careers for PhDs Who Love to Read

Pop quiz! Complete this sentence: “She is a voracious [BLANK].”

Did you say “reader”? Of course you did! Somehow, the words “voracious” and “reader” have become wedded in our cultural-linguistic conscience. Turns out, a lot of people, particularly among academic circles, love to read and describe themselves as—ahem—voracious readers.

And why not? After all, reading is a skill. One of the best skills an educated person can develop.

As you know, having good reading skills means more than simply being literate. It means you dissect a text, scrawl furiously in the margins, and bloody the pages with highlighter. It means shelling out hundreds of dollars for books just to stop yourself from ruining the library copies over and over again.

Of course, most professional resumes don’t include a line for “academic reading skills” or “expert reader” or anything. No job description (as far as we know) asks for “excellent reading skills.” Rarely do people talk about “reading careers” or “jobs reading books.”

But rest assured, careers for people who love to read do exist.

So, are you the kind of academic who just loves reading above all else? Is your home office a labyrinth of stacked books? Would you be that guy from The Twilight Zone who, after witnessing nuclear armageddon, thinks only that, finally, “there’s time enough at last” to read?

Then this article is for you. Hold on to your spectacles.

1. Acquisition Editor

Acquisition editors are the gatekeepers of the publishing industry.

As an acquisition editor, you’ll work at a publisher or literary agency and decide what does and does not get accepted. You’ll schmooze with literary agents and authors. Your mission will be to hunt down the next bestseller.

Be aware that this job requires more than just a love to read. There’s a lot of market research involved in being an acquisition editor. You’ll have to study the literary market and anticipate the next hot new trends and fads. You’ll have to pursue literary agents and do quite a bit of people-wrangling to get the right authors signed with your publishing house.

Steps to get this job:

  • Acquisition editors generally work pretty high up in the publishing house ladder. If you want to pursue this career path, plan to start small.
  • Consider working as a copywriter or assistant editor at a publisher and slowly working your way up the ranks.
  • In your spare time, run a blog or Twitter handle dedicated to reviewing new books. Connect with local editors on LinkedIn and get your name out there.

2. Content Editor/Copyeditor

(We promise not all these have “editor” in the title.)

Both of these jobs involve writing and editing written materials aimed at promoting a business, organization, or brand. You sift through copy and content, clean it up, shape it to fit the brand, and make it read as eloquently as possible.

Whereas acquisition editors work chiefly in the publishing industry, content editors and copyeditors work everywhere.

What’s the difference between content and copy? Typically, content refers to blog posts, ebooks, and other (relatively) long-form writing. Copy includes website landing pages, product descriptions, ad taglines, personal bios, etc.

Unless stated otherwise, copy and content are both assumed to be digital. Most editor jobs will ask you to work with both.

Every organization has a website, and every website needs copy and content. Suffice it to say that you’ll be reading a LOT as a content editor or copyeditor. A genuine love to read is definitely a prerequisite for this kind of work.

Steps to get this job:

  • Complete your dissertation (and brag constantly about completing a 500-page writing project).
  • Do as much writing work as you possibly can. Write blogs. Write web pages. Do proofreading and copyediting. Amass a diverse collection of writing samples that you can whip out at a moment’s notice.
  • Get some experience with WordPress, Druple, Magento, and other content management systems.

3. High School Teacher

Obviously, this should be seen as a teaching career first and foremost. But don’t forget that teachers (especially English and history teachers at the high-school level) get to do TONS of reading.

Remember all those books you were assigned in tenth-grade English but never read? Well, now’s your chance! Finally, you can read Pride and Prejudice and Brave New World! After all, if they’re assigned in class, reading and talking about books will literally be your job.

If you’re nervous about teaching high school kids, we promise that working with them isn’t that different from the college freshman you’re used to. Sure, they’re a bit younger and may be harder to manage or get interested in the material. But they’re also more excitable, more easily entertained (once you figure out how), and often exhibit the kind of enthusiasm that students from your old 101 survey course sorely lacked.

And some of them genuinely do love to read just like you.

Steps to get this job:

  • Get as much teaching experience as you can during grad school, both at your home department and at local schools or community colleges.
  • Educate yourself on instructional design theory. Even if you don’t end up using it in your teaching, it’ll help you talk intelligently during the interview.
  • Be prepared to obtain some additional credentials, whether a teaching certification or a Master of Education (M.Ed.).

4. Meter Reader

Just kidding.

4. Managing Editor

Another editor role?! Yeah, sorry about that. But we promise this one is different!

Managing editors primarily work at scholarly journals. They provide strategic direction, planning, and production coordination of journal articles.

As a managing editor, it’ll be your job to run a tight ship and keep all the authors, referees, and proofreaders on schedule. You’ll oversee web and social media content while planning events, conferences, case competitions, and so forth.

You don’t necessarily have to be an expert in the journal’s academic field to be a managing editor. After all, the referees will be the ones reading the submissions and deciding what gets accepted.

However, you should be prepared to do lots of reading and immerse yourself in the academic field of the journal. Like acquisition editors, managing editors must do more than simply love reading. They must keep up with trends in the field and verify the quality of all accepted manuscripts before publication.

But if you love to read solely about a single, complex body of literature, managing a journal may be for you.

Steps to get this job:

  • Complete your degree. While it’s by no means necessary, having a PhD—even in an unrelated field—will get you noticed among academic journals or presses looking for managing editors.
  • Get some experience managing projects, especially involving small groups of people.
  • If you see a posting for a managing editor position, learn as much as you possibly can about the journal, its field, and its scholarly mission. The more you can talk about those things during the interview, the better.

5. Lawyer

Yes, we know. Pursuing a law career involves a whole lot of (pretty expensive) education on top of the half-decade or more you spent doing your PhD.

But, nevertheless, lots of PhDs go that route! And we’d be remiss not to mention that lots of lawyers spend a lot of time reading.

Now, the reading can be dry, to say the least: case files, statute books, law textbooks that could double as paving slabs. There’s a reason the term “legalese” not only exists but is defined by the dictionary.

But hey, if you love to read that kind of dry, technical material, go for it! A lot of people genuinely love deciphering a legal document, uncovering its hidden meaning, and wielding that hidden knowledge to their advantage in court.

Steps to get this job:

  • Go to law school. That, surely, is a topic for another day.

Conclusion

Lots of career paths out there involve copious amounts of reading, even if few of them specifically list that in the job description.

Make no mistake: your ability to read, your love of reading, is highly valuable. It’s a skill that you should cultivate at every opportunity. Employers may not specifically ask for “reading skills,” but they will appreciate the kind of research, writing, and critical thinking skills one develops across a professional life devoted to reading.

And you know what? If being a meter reader really is your dream job, more power to ya.

Looking for more suggestions? Please check out our series of posts on careers for PhDs beyond the academy! Whether you love research, writing, teaching, or anything else, there’s a career waiting for you.

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