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Choosing a Copyediting Program

After choosing to pursue a copyediting certificate program, I ran into a problem. To be honest, there isn’t a lot out there as far as prominent schools for online certification in editing. Most people would have done coursework in college and might only be looking for courses to refresh their skills. And what few programs I could find had very little reviews online. It is difficult to decide on a good program with so little knowledge of what previous students thought (or if there are previous students at all). So, I dug in and did some research to find the best copyediting program for me.

Criteria

The program I sought had to meet certain needs:

  1. Completely available online
  2. Taught by a trustworthy source, such as a University
  3. End in acquiring a certificate
  4. Affordable

As a stay at home mother to two young children, I knew even a local program would be hard to fit into my schedule. Workshops are great if they are available, but they often don’t end in a certification. There are some other seemingly reputable websites, such as Writer’s Digest, that offer what they claim is a certification course, but I was looking for something very specific to place on my resume.

In the end, I chose between two options: The University of Chicago Graham School or the University of California – San Diego Extension. I’ll break down each program before I get into my own decision and how I arrived there.

The University of Chicago Graham School

The biggest appeal of this school, for me, was the name. Who wouldn’t want to be certified by the University who wrote the quintessential style guide? They offer an Editing Certificate, achievable through five courses, possibly completed in a total of three quarters. But what are these courses, and just what would I be learning?

Courses

Each course is approximately four to six weeks in length. You begin with Basic Manuscript Editing, follow it up with Intermediate then Advanced Manuscript Editing, and finally Editing Electronically. You must also choose one elective, only some of which are available online, that range from grammar to an introduction to medical editing. On their website, it says that the courses have weekly live sessions, either on weekday evenings or Saturday mornings. Outside of these sessions, there are required readings and other assignments. There isn’t a lot of detail in the course descriptions.

Maybe because of these shorter courses–only four to six weeks as opposed to a normal quarter length–you could find yourself having just missed out on a course and waiting a few months for it to roll around again. And many of the electives only seem to be available once per year online. For instance, one of the four electives available online, Essentials of Grammar for Professionals, is only available during the Winter quarter and happens to run from March to April. Basically, determining your courseload and coursework requires a lot of planning before you even register.

Registration and Price

They recommend you apply to the program two months in advance, and this is what they require:

  • Online application
  • Personal statement
  • Resume
  • $40 fee

Tuition ranges from $975, per course, up to $1,125. This means with five classes, you are looking at $5,000, minimum.

There are very few reviews for this program and the continuing studies extension school itself. Their website was sharp-looking, but I had trouble finding the information I needed. When were these online courses beginning? Was I able to start at any time or were there still structured timeframes? Was book editing the only focus, or would there be any lessons given over manuals or articles? I reached out through email, but each email gave the same line, over and over, that was on their website. The third email finally gave me a link to the catalog with actual dates and times for the 2018 courses.

The University of California – San Diego Extension (UCSD)

While not the writers of a style manual, UC-San Diego is a very reputable school. In fact, I found more reviews and comments regarding this certificate program than I did for the Graham School in general. Most people commented that it was challenging, rewarding, and worth their time to achieve. There weren’t many details about the program itself, but I felt confident in pursuing more information since other people had recommended it.

Courses

So what does the coursework look like? There are four required courses that can be completed in nine to twelve months, depending on how you approach them. Each course has a very simple title of Copyediting I, II, and III. Grammar Lab is the fourth course. It can be taken at the same time as Copyediting I but must be done before II. The courses are a normal quarter-length time, approximately ten weeks.

The descriptions of the courses are nice and detailed with a lot of information on what to expect from each. There is no requirement to be online at a particular time, but there are assignments for each week. Work is done through the Blackboard system, and they estimate the amount of work each week to be three hours online and six hours offline.

A great thing they offer is a free informational session which you can take to learn more about their program. It only requires you create an account and register. They also claim to have two elective classes that do not count toward the certificate, Marketing and Digital Skills; however, neither have sessions available, and I read multiple comments that this has been the case for some time.

Registration and Price

While they do not specify a timeframe to apply by, they do suggest applying as soon as possible. Here is what they require:

  • Create an account
  • Online application
  • $60 fee (maybe increasing to $90-95 in February)

Tuition is $495 per course. With only four courses required, you are looking at $2,000, less than half of Graham School.

The Comparison

There were a few factors that I considered in making my final decision.

  1. Name recognition
  2. Course focus
  3. Timeline
  4. Cost

Name Recognition

It’s safe to say that The University of Chicago would appear more illustrious on a resume when it comes to editing. However, there were a couple nagging thoughts. First, it wasn’t just “The University of Chicago,” it was their continuing education school, Graham. Also, how much does the name matter for something like a certificate, especially if all other factors are equal.

Course Focus

Even after repeated requests, the best I could get out of Graham was that it was a certificate “designed to help individuals enter the publishing industry.” They seem to focus solely on manuscript editing while UCSD provided a basic framework for the entire editing industry. Did I want to hedge my bets and narrow my expertise? At this stage, I need to think of reaching as many potential clients as possible, when I can then narrow and refine. And while an online session with classmates and a teacher is a great addition, having to be online at a specific time each week might be hard to meet with my lifestyle.

Timeline

Graham offered a quicker path to starting my business. At least, it appeared that way at first. Both could technically be finished in three quarters, with UCSD taking at most one year. Graham’s scheduling of classes and electives complicated that timeline, making it difficult to determine when I would finish or if I would finish taking the courses I truly wanted.

Cost

I think it’s obvious here. We are talking less than half the price to attend UCSD.

Making My Decision

With all other factors leaning toward UCSD, it came down to name recognition. Was the name of the program on my resume worth that extra cost. No. The people that might care to see that name is just too small a margin to pay double when I am on a budget. Not to mention, that extra $3,000 could be spent on additional certification.

The Copyediting Certificate program at UCSD is the right choice for me. I hope this information helped some of you looking into either of these programs.

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2 Comments

  1. Mindy

    This is so similar to my thought process! Ha! The other thought I had was, “*I* know and would geek out about going to the University of Chicago, but would someone else understand it the same, not in the writing world…?” 🙂 How many hours a week do you work? Have you been freelance editing for awhile before this certification? Your blog is wonderful; so informative and inspiring. Thanks!

    • KyleMarie

      Thank you so much for the compliments!

      I agree completely about others outside the writing community not understanding the prestige of Chicago (and likely some in the community as well). In the end, that can’t be a deciding factor.

      I had done some freelance work before the certification, but nothing formal, and usually for free. Hours can vary wildly depending on how many clients and the type of work. If I have no clients that week, I work on admin and marketing for around 10-20 hours. I should probably be doing more as my business is still in the growth stage. Each editor will tell you differently, but usually it feels like feast or famine in freelance.

      Are you planning to go for the certificate?

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