How to Become a Speechwriter

Careers as a Speech Writer

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Speechwriters work in many different fields, preparing public statements for corporate professionals, politicians, and even entertainers and athletes. Speechwriters prepare statements for anyone who has to make a speech or address a large number of people, the news media, or make recorded statements. Like ghostwriters for novels and biographies, speechwriters usually work behind the scenes and get very little fanfare for their work.

How to Become a SpeechwriterWondering how to become a speechwriter? If you have a passion for the written and spoken word, want to work with famous and important people, and don't mind sharing the limelight (or giving it up entirely) then you may be the perfect candidate for a job as a speechwriter. Here is how to become a speechwriter, from their potential earnings, the training required to become a speechwriter, the qualifications a good speechwriter has, and step by step instructions for becoming a professional speechwriter.

Speechwriter Salary and Income

Since speechwriters work in lots of different fields and may work as part of a team, for a government office, a talent agency, or even freelance, it is difficult to pin down a specific salary and income for speechwriters.

Because speechwriters tend to prepare statements for people in positions of authority, they make a decent living. According to statements from surveys of Human Resources departments and the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, median salary for all speechwriters in the United States in 2010 was $75,000. That means as many speechwriters earned less than $75,000 as earned more than $75,000.

The income a speechwriter can expect depends on who they work for, how often they work, their level of experience and education, and their skills at preparing statements. A speechwriter for a politician could be on salary earning six figures, especially if that politician achieves national office, while an up and coming speechwriter working freelance for athletes or on staff at a talent agency may only make $30-$40,000 a year.

Sometimes, speechwriters become more famous than the people for whom they write. After the wild success of President Obama's 2008 campaign, one of his speechwriters became, for a time, at least as famous as Obama himself. Jon Favreau, the speechwriter not the Hollywood actor, quickly moved up the ranks of the John Kerry campaign and was made a speechwriter for President Obama. Now that he's Director of Speechwriting for the Obama camp, he earns well over $200,000 a year, near the top end of speechwriter's potential income.

Education and Training for Becoming a Speechwriter

Speechwriters require only a bachelor's degree and work experience to get work writing speeches and statements. Obviously, the more education and work experience a speechwriter has, the more valuable he will be to a political or corporate team requiring speeches.

Education and training for becoming a speechwriter starts as early as high school. People interested in one day working as speechwriters should earn top-notch grades so they can be admitted to an elite college. They should get involved in local and school politics for experience in the political world. Volunteering for a political campaign or cause as a teenager looks excellent on college applications and prepares someone for a life of corporate or political gladhanding.

What a speechwriter studies in college isn't very important, although it would make sense to major in a broad corporate field, political science, communications, or even fine arts. A degree in business could assist a speechwriter who hopes to make a living writing speeches for corporate executives, while a degree in theatre or creative writing could help a speechwriter think on his feet and imbue his speeches with creativity and worldly thought.

Graduating from an elite college with top honors is important to the early career of a speechwriter. A degree from an Ivy League school or one of the better known public universities will help them catch the eye of recruiters looking to hire speechwriting talent. It is much more likely for a Harvard grad majoring in political science to get a job interning for a political candidate than a poor student from a state school to catch anyone's eye. But there's no hard and fast rule about where a speechwriter should go to college.

Gaining work experience means volunteering as often as possible and taking a low level job in politics or even a performing arts program. Speechwriters have started out working for television and movie studios--not just interning for political campaigns. Learning to think on your feet by working as a low level writer for Saturday Night Live is just as good a way to prepare for a life writing speeches as handing out flyers for a Senate candidate.

Speechwriter Qualifications

The qualities that make a good speechwriter are the same qualities you'd find in any high pressure creative field. Creative people tend to be high-strung, highly-emotional, and able to work for long periods of time without sleep. Political speechwriters are known to work 18-20 hour days, especially during political campaigns. Speechwriters should be able to work as a team, take orders from many people at once, and insert creativity and levity into their writing without seeming heavy-handed. Good speechwriters are good readers, politically and socially active and aware, and willing to let other people earn the glory for their words.

If you plan on working as a speechwriter, start preparations now by earning excellent grades in school, applying for and being accepted into an elite college or university, volunteering for causes you believe in, taking writing classes and publishing your writing, and becoming a political junkie. Even if you only work at the corporate level or for a talent agency, an ear for speeches and an eye for politics will help you create topical and meaningful speeches.

Becoming a Speechwriter Step by Step

1. Volunteer and gain work experience in political campaigns.

2. Excel in school and attend a top-notch college or university.

3. Earn your bachelor's degree in a field like political science, business, creative writing, dramatic writing, or communications.

4. Gain work experience as a writer, either for TV and movies, low-level political campaign speeches, working as a pollster, or working as an intern for a speechwriting group.

Speechwriters are more involved in political campaigns, the entertainment industry, and the corporate world than almost any other profession. They write the words that the public hears, they work to create a public image for celebrities, and they even take part in policy and financial discussions for big business and politicians. The work of a speechwriter is potentially reward in terms of salary, with some speechwriters earning hundreds of thousands of dollars.