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What is a Film Editor?

A film editor works with the raw footage of a film, cutting and placing footage together to create the final sequence of the finished film. A talented film editor is able to make the transition from one scene to the next very natural, so the audience doesn’t even register it as they’re invested in the television show, commercial, movie, etc. In some instances, the film editor is responsible for more than just editing the film; they may handle some music, sound and visual effects. They work very closely with the director of the film or project, as well as other department heads, to help realize the collective vision of a project.

Because the technology in the film industry is always changing, a film editor needs to stay up to date with the tools and software available. Film editors also need a strong background in film or broadcasting, and computer courses can also be incredibly helpful, since most applications and tools are computer-based these days.

Work Environment

Most film editors will work in studios, typically in an area where they have access to multiple computers and editing equipment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 28,100 film and video editors employed in the US in 2012, and about 24% of editors were self employed. Self-employed editors often do freelance work for smaller budget films, commercials and other projects. Freelancing allows professionals to set their own schedules, although they often work based on a project’s deadline.

Freelancing comes with risks, including some difficulty finding steady work and steady pay. The good news is that there are numerous industries hiring film editors full time, including the industry with the largest employment of editors, the motion picture and video industry. This particular industry was responsible for 10% of employed film editors in 2012.

Education Requirements

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends that individuals interested in a film editing career obtain at least a bachelor’s degree in a broadcasting or film-related field. Numerous colleges and universities offer courses in film editing. Film editors may benefit from taking courses that will beef up their portfolio, such as courses teaching music, sound and visual effects. Although many film editors will eventually specialize in a specific type of software that they prefer, it’s best to be familiar with various types. This will make the professional well-rounded, and make their resume more impressive to potential employers.


Film editing can be a very lucrative career, but like most other careers, the salary of an editor will be dependent upon many variables. The BLS reports that the median annual wage for film and video editors was $51,300 in May of 2012. The top 10% of earners brought home more than $119,000. Typically, those living in an area with a more film-friendly culture will earn more money and have more job prospects. States with the highest pay for film editors include California ($92,940 annual median salary), New York ($78,430), District of Columbia ($74,400), Virginia ($66,140) and New Jersey ($60,120).

Job Outlook

Because the film editor career is lumped together with the camera operator career in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data, the published information shows that the job growth is expected to be quite slow – about 3% through the year 2022. However, this probably is due to the fact that the growth for camera operation jobs is slowing significantly. Editing jobs, however, are on the increase because of the demand for new movies and television shows, not to mention commercials for advertising and other projects.

States with the highest levels of employment for film editors include California (7,970), New York (3,780), Florida (1,320), Texas (890), and Illinois (650).

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