Speechwriter Job Description, Education, Training Requirements, Career, Salary, Employment

Job Description: Speechwriters assess facts and opinions that are to be presented by a client and then compose speeches for the client, or a representative of the client, to deliver in both the public and private sectors of business, non profit, government and higher education settings.

Training and Educational Qualifications: A college degree generally is required for a position as a writer or editor. Although some employers look for a broad liberal arts background, most prefer to hire people with degrees in communications, journalism or English. For those who specialize in a particular area, such as fashion, business, or law, additional background in the chosen field is expected. Knowledge of a second language is helpful for some positions.

Job Outlook: In general, employment of salaried writers is expected to increase. Large businesses and organizations often hire speechwriters to write for their executives.

Salary: Speechwriters earn between $48,929 and $107,200.

Significant Facts:

•    Most speechwriters are experienced writers many of them have backgrounds in journalism and public affairs.

•    Sometimes speechwriting is one duty of a top level manager in public affairs, public relations or communications.

•    Positions for full time speechwriters (as the primary or sole job function) are available in government, large companies and non profit organizations and periodically, in universities for university presidents.

Do you know of which companies have the best internships in this field that are known to help launch a successful career?

There are no internships that I know of, as speechwriting isn’t really an entry level position. Some large companies might have research internships that would help. The best training is editorial writing for newspapers any kind of opinion writing. Capitol Hill is a good place to get training, which would be writing for a Senator or Congressperson.

Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?

Washington, DC is probably best because there are so many legislators and executive branch officials giving speeches. There are also many trade associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that need speechwriters. Other than that, New York City or any other major city.

What is your typical day like?

When I’m working out of my home office, what I do with my day depends on whether or not I have an assignment. A speech can take anywhere from half a day to a whole week to write. Early in the process, I do research and read through the materials a client has provided. I also try to interview the client personally, using a tape recorder. Once the research and interviewing are done, I just sit down at my computer and write until I get a draft done. Once I send off a draft, I wait for comments and/or revisions, and then I make them.

When I’m looking for assignments, I might use the day to call or visit prospective clients, or network with other speechwriters to see what is happening and find out if they have any leads. For the past several months, though, I have been (atypically) working out of my client’s office on a contract. So I put on a coat and tie and drive to the office, where I work on speeches much as I would from my home office.

What are your job responsibilities?

I write speeches, stay up on what’s going on in the world so I can make topical references, read up on the subject matter about which I write (energy, environment, world trade, international finance, etc.) so I can help my speaker sound erudite.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Writing crafting a speech that helps my speaker achieve his or her communication objective.

What do you dislike about your job?

The speaker’s inevitable cadre of assistants and other gatekeepers who destroy my best lines before the Secretary/CEO/Chairman/President gets to read them.

Have you had any turning-point or “light bulb” moments in your career that have helped you get to where you are today?

I have had several. One of the first came when I was given an assignment to write a speech before I formally became a speechwriter. Several colleagues commiserated, to the tune of “Man, I could never write a speech. It’s too tough.” I realized that the more people felt that way, the less competition I would have. I also realized that if clients thought it was tough, they would pay more. Both have proven to be true there’s competition, but there’s enough business to go around. And it does pay well.

My second light bulb moment came when I realized, after writing speeches for years, that what I did was an actual academic discipline called “rhetoric” or “speech communication.” I went back for my master’s and learned why I was doing what I was doing. My academic study of speech communication has made me a much better speechwriter.

How did you know you wanted to pursue the career?

The Department of Energy made me a manager, and eventually I had to decide which 15 of the 3 0 people I managed would be laid off. I decided that I didn’t want to be a manager any more, and that I wanted to go back to what I did best writing. Speechwriting pays more than any non-managerial position in corporate communications, and more than any other type of freelancing, in my experience.

How got into the industry and how got most recent job?

I was originally hired into the government as a speechwriter, despite never having written a speech. It was a convenience used to get me on board during the Arab Oil Embargo. When they discovered my newspaper background, they threw me into the breach in media relations.

1  became a high-profile spokesperson for the Department of Energy during the energy shocks of the ’70s under the Carter Administration. When the Reagan Administration came in, they abolished my job. I had Republican as well as Democratic friends, however. Since I had been initially hired as a speechwriter, the new administration simply shifted me over to be chief speechwriter for the Department of Energy. It was what I wanted anyway and I have been doing it ever since.

I got my most recent job when I decided I didn’t want to be a corporate speechwriter any more, and I began freelancing. I value the freedom the opportunity to work out of my basement office wearing sweats or take off in the middle of the week to play golf.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

I have written speeches for three United States presidents, senators, governors, more than 100 CEOs, university and association presidents and others. My greatest accomplishment is probably lasting more than

2 5 years as a speechwriter. I have written many speeches of which I am proud, and it is hard to single out any one of them.

What other career might I have considered?

Author. I’m going to phase out of speechwriting someday soon and just write books for the rest of my life. I have two in the works now. At 62, I’m overdue to publish a book.

To what professional associations do you belong?

I belong to Washington Speechwriters Roundtable and Washington Independent Writers.

What professional publications do you read?

I subscribe to The Speechwriters Newsletter and the Economist.

What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?

If you want to be a speechwriter, study speech communication learn your craft. There are dozens of excellent speech communication programs around the country. Otherwise, go into newspaper work and become an editorial writer. It’s an excellent way to learn opinion writing, which is the core of speechwriting.