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Careers Centre


Sector Overview

Publishing offers careers in a dynamic, fast-moving industry, with great opportunities in a huge variety of roles. The majority of the large book-publishing houses are based in the South, with Oxford and Edinburgh being significant regional centres. Smaller publishers exist in many locations within the UK.

The ‘Big Five’ publishers in the UK – Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster make up a significant portion of the market, although there are many small companies with small staff numbers.

Publishing is a popular and competitive industry and you will need a genuine love of books, and the right combination of skills and experience to succeed.


Types of publishing

Book publishing falls into three broad areas:


Consumer publishing is very varied – eg novels, non-fiction, cookery, children’s books, celebrity biographies, travel books, self-help, and graphic novels.  An increasing amount of consumer publishing is happening in the digital space, such as ebooks, apps and games.


Educational publishing supports anyone learning anything - key areas include producing textbooks and revision guides for schools, online platforms and learning tools.

Academic & professional

This area includes: academic texts, mostly sold to individuals; monographs, journals and other digital products, mostly sold directly to libraries. STM Publishing falls within this field and stands for ‘Scientific, Technical and Medical’. As the content is technical, having related experience or a relevant scientific or technical background can be useful when working in STM publishing. STM, as well as other elements from this area, serves the ‘professional’ market as well as the academic – consumers are doctors, accountants, and lawyers, for example, as well as those studying.

For information about newspaper and magazine publishing, visit the Careers Centre journalism web page.


Current trends



Within the three areas above, roles are generally divided into editorial, design and production, marketing (sales and publicity), distribution, the handling of contracts and rights, and administration (which includes the finance and IT functions). Opportunities are numerous and include:

Job role descriptions can be found on:

Publishing attributes/skills profile

 Key attributes/skills needed for the roleWhere you could develop these skills or attributes
Strong organisational skills and an ability to prioritise and adapt to varying workloads. This is most likely to be developed and evidenced through your academic studies and work experience.
A high degree of literacy and strong basic writing skills, with an excellent attention to detail and an analytical approach when working with data.
Strong written and verbal communication skills are essential, as are innovative problem solving skills.
Ability to work under pressure and to deadlines.
Excellent time management skills.

CAPOD regularly runs courses covering these skills within its Professional Skills Curriculum.

Using the University’s subscription to the Microsoft IT Academy can help to develop your skills with programmes such as Excel

Taking on positions of responsibility in student-run societies or writing for student publications, raising funds and organising events for your school, halls, a charity, drama or sports group

Strong listening skills are essential.
Good interpersonal skills, be personable, presentable and relate well to people.

Other key attributes/skills demanded for the role: do you possess them?

  • Roles are generally divided into editorial, design and production, marketing (sales and publicity), distribution, the handling of contracts and rights, and administration (which includes the finance and IT functions).


Networks - why and how to use them

Why are networks important?

Networking is particularly important and can help you succeed with your applications. If you have been in contact with someone working for the organisation then you have extra information to back up your case for why they should employ you.

Use social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (many organisations have their own page) to connect with organisations.

Where alumni work now

Recent St Andrews graduates have gone on to work for Arcadian Lifestyle Publishing, Turquoise Morning Press and Co-ordination Group Publications (CGP), to name but a few organisations. Alumni can make extremely useful contacts, giving you an "edge" with your applications and interviews.

Your networks

There are several ways to make contact with alumni.


How to gain experience/internships

Relevant experience is essential to demonstrate your skills and motivation for a career in publishing. Work experience in the sector constitutes anything from interning or volunteering at publishing houses, carrying out freelance work (submit your projects and articles to publications or manage your own blog), publishing articles for magazines or student newspapers, submitting entries to writing competitions, working in a bookshop to understand the retailers’ position in the market, involve yourself in book and literary festivals (such as the Edinburgh Book Festival) and author events to learn how they operate and to make contacts, do publicity for university societies, develop IT skills through CAPOD courses, etc.

Internships and work experience

Some of the larger companies run internships or work experience,eg

Other relevant resources:


How to get a (graduate) job

A small number of publishers operate a formal graduate training scheme including

Other publishing vacancies

Here are a few publishing companies who do not run graduate schemes, but may have occasional vacancies in publishing:

Job vacancy websites

Recruitment Consultancies

Many publishers use recruitment consultancies to fill both permanent and temporary roles. The ones that specialise in publishing are:


Applications, interviews and assessment centres


Relevant postgraduate study

Although a postgraduate qualification in publishing is not essential to be successful in the industry, it will strengthen your knowledge in the subject and prove to employers that you are serious about a long-term career. However, some employers will favour relevant work experience over further study.

Universities that offer Masters in publishing include:

Search postgraduate courses in publishing


Key UK links and resources

Careers Centre resources


Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:


Related Careers A-Z page



 General publishing careers information


USA resources


The USA job market and recruitment timetables, for both internships and graduate jobs, for sectors of employment often differ from the UK.

The Careers Centre subscribes to the reputable independent USA careers information and vacancy provider Vault. The link below will take you directly to Vault subscription resources which cover this sector. You may find further useful and relevant resources linked from there as well.


Internships in the US - Publishing

This list is by no means exhaustive. It is simply designed to serve as a starting point: