How to Become a Video Editor

Editors take the raw footage of a video and cut it into clips that tell a story. As a video editor, you might work on a film set, or you might work on a reality show, music video, trailer, or commercial. You can go to school for film production to become an editor, or you can be self-taught. Either way, you will probably need to start out on smaller projects, do internships, and work as a production assistant before getting an editing job. With some patience, experience, and a killer reel of projects, you can become a video editing master!

Teaching Yourself Basic Editing Skills

Teach yourself video editing programs to build your skills.

Some programs you need to be familiar with include Final Cut Pro, Media Composer, and Premiere Pro. Software can be a pricey investment, but you will likely use these programs for years, and it will be difficult to get a job in the industry without a solid understanding of each. You can learn how to use video editing software in college classes or by using online resources provided by Apple, Avid, and Adobe.

  • Other video editing programs include iMovie, Filmora9, DaVinci Resolve. Although they are less commonly used in professional film editing, being familiar with them can’t hurt.
  • Keep an eye out for new technology and software you may need to familiarize yourself with.

Use online tutorials to get the most out of editing software.

Apple, Avid, and Adobe all put out materials that can help you learn their programs on your own. There are also materials available from third parties, hobbyists, and professionals. Watch how-to videos, read tutorials, and do practice projects.

  • Try searching for footage for practice editing online. You don’t need to shoot your own video to practice editing.

Practice cutting films on your own.

Shoot film with whatever you have on hand, it doesn’t have to be a high quality image to get practice. A phone, camcorder, or DSLR will all work to capture some video. Work on taking whatever you capture on camera and cutting it into a story.

  • The more practice you can get, the better.
  • Consider adding in sound effects and music. Although this isn’t traditionally a film editor’s job, you will probably get your start with smaller organizations who will be happy if you can handle sound as well as video.

Look for internship opportunities to get experience in the industry.

Many non-profits and small companies need help editing videos but can’t pay established editors. Volunteer your skills to get some experience and add a few projects to your resume.

  • Having a few projects on your resume will help get you more video editing jobs.

Getting a Formal Education

Get a bachelor’s degree in film production or communications.

There are a lot of different skills you need to be a successful video editor. Majoring in film production, communications, or a related area will train you in many of those skills.

  • In addition to learning how to use different editing software, you need to know how to talk about the artistic vision for the film with the director, make decisions about keeping and cutting clips, and create stories.

Take courses in editing software, film history or appreciation, and production.

Your most important skill set as an editor will be knowledge of different editing programs. However, you will need to know about other areas of film production and how editing fits in. Since editing also shapes the story of a film, you will need to understand how storytelling in film works.

  • The more you can learn about film, the better. Take courses to help you understand acting, directing, sound and the flow of narrative.

Look for online courses if attending film school isn’t for you.

Film school can be expensive and inaccessible. Luckily, there are a wealth of resources available online, including online film degrees. Look into distance learning options if attending school won’t work for you.

  • If you don’t want to do a bachelor’s degree online, you can still find courses, tutorials, and projects to boost your knowledge online.

Edit a student film for practice.

Even if you don’t need to edit a film for any of your classes, look for an opportunity to do some editing work. Make connections with other film students and offer to edit for them.

  • The more practice you can get, the better.

Pursue a Master’s degree in film production to increase your opportunities.

Although it isn’t necessary to get a Master’s to have a career in film editing, it can give you an advantage. You can make lots of connections and work on personal projects for around 2 years.

  • You may have to have a reel or portfolio in order to get into a graduate program.

Taking on Editing Jobs

Keep an updated reel of your recent projects.

In the film industry, your reel matters more than your resume, since it shows off your skills and lets the producer know exactly what you can do. To create a reel, choose 60-90 seconds worth of film that shows off your editing skills. Each clip should be no longer than 15 seconds. Put your contact information at the beginning and end of the video, and in the video description.

  • Start with your strongest work. Not everyone will finish watching your demo reel, so you want to capture the attention right away with your first clip.
  • Editors starting out in the industry usually put their reels on YouTube and Vimeo.

Look for production assistant jobs when you are getting started.

Film editors often start out as production assistants (PAs). As a PA, you will do odd jobs and support tasks for different departments on set. Since you will work for every department, you can get to know lots of different people. Try to make connections with editors.

  • A PA job can include paperwork, cleaning up, setting up craft services, answering the phone, and getting coffee.
  • You may need to work long or odd hours as a PA. Employment usually lasts as long as production lasts. A typical PA job might last around 3-4 months.

Network with established video editors.

Making connections in the industry and building trust can be just as important as having a strong reel and resume. Make connections with video editors by introducing yourself to editors working on set with you, meeting with local creatives, and asking people you know to help make introductions.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for an introduction if you know someone who knows a video editor.

Offer to do editing work for low-budget projects.

There are a lot of directors and producers also trying to get their start in the film industry who have exciting projects but don’t have much of a budget. Offer your services for a low fee to gain experience.

  • Cutting music videos, trailers, or short films is a good way to add projects to your reel.

Build up to an assistant editor position.

Once you have a few projects under your belt, you can start looking for assistant editor jobs. As an assistant editor, you will prepare clips for the editor to work with. This most often means watching many hours of footage and selecting the clips that match the editor’s vision for the project. You will also be asked to organize and label clips according to the editor’s system.

  • To have a better shot at getting an assistant editor job, get certified in using Avid or Premiere Pro.

Go for an editor job after you have several years of experience.

After working as an assistant editor for several years, making good connections in the industry, and proving your talents on multiple projects, you can be hired as an editor for a big project. Being a hired as a film editor is a sign of trust from the producer and director, since the edit of a film can make a huge difference in the story.

  • Have patience while you looking for your first editor job.


  • Hollywood and New York are 2 places that come to mind when people think of film jobs, but film production is expanding to other areas of the United States right now. Keep an eye out for jobs in up-and-coming filming locations.

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