How to Become a Film Editor in 4 Simple Steps

What is a Film Editor?

Film editors work on unfinished films making cuts, edits, and changes to put together a finished product.

They work with other members of a movie production team, such as sound editors and cinematographers to complete a finished movie.

Before we analyze how to become a film editor let’s see what are the key skills and duties you will need as a film editor.

Being a film editor requires a good deal of technical knowledge with different software packages, analyzing pieces of film at a fraction of a second, and often working under time pressure.

It is however, incredibly rewarding to see the finished product being consumed by potentially millions of people worldwide. Film editors are often one of the lesser known contributors to a Hollywood blockbuster, but a vitally important part of the process.

The average salary of a film editor is .

Degree Level

Bachelor's Degree



What Does a Film Editor Do?

Film editors start by meeting with the director and other members of the film crew before production starts. They need to get a good grip on the creative vision of the director, as well as understand all the practical elements that will be going into the film.

Throughout the filming process they visit the sets and locations to get a ‘feel’ of the film and depending on the situation and the individual they may get more or less involved. There is a lot of time spend in front of a computer editing the film footage, working with sound engineers, and sending clips to the director for approval.

Time is money in the film business and there are often strict guidelines to work too. This may mean long hours, unexpected extra workloads, and changes or edits to pieces of film that were previously thought to be finished.

Key Duties of a Film Editor Include:

  • Working with directors and film crews to understand their vision
  • Editing film, making cuts, changes, and revisions
  • Adding sound effects, subtitles, and other graphics to film
  • Work to tight deadlines and make revisions as directed
  • Keeping up-to-date with the latest film editing software and techniques

Desirable Skills of a Film Editor

Being a film editor is both challenging and rewarding. There are some skills that will give you an advantage when entering this career path, and will help you to progress:

Knowledge and Interest in the Film Industry

Having an interest or hobby that relates to your chosen line of work is always an advantage. If you have knowledge of how films are made, produced, and some of the work that goes into editing it’s going to be a huge advantage.

Willingness to Keep Up-To-Date with Film Editing Software

Film editing software is always advancing and anyone who doesn’t keep up will be left behind. There is a need for films to continually look better, smoother, and have more impressive effects than the last.

Ability to Work Alone and to Strict Deadlines

There will be what seems like endless hours spent behind a computer working hard to get pieces of film completed to tight deadlines. Being reliable, self-motivated, and dedicated are incredibly important qualities of a film editor.

Good Communication and Working Relationships

There are a lot of people involved behind the scenes when producing a film. Communication and being able to work well with people from all types of backgrounds and levels of experience is important to the success of a film.

Ability to Be Flexible

Changes of schedules, additional edits, and changes to the final cut of a film are not uncommon. A good film editor is able to be flexible at a moments notice and keep a cool head when things are getting busy.

Becoming a Film Editor

Step 1 High School Preparation

High School Courses for Film Editors

There are four main courses you can take in high school to help you prepare for becoming a film editor. These courses will prove very useful before moving on to university or studying privately after high school.

Visual Effects Editing

Visual effects editing helps you to understand how to edit pieces of film digitally. There are almost always visual effects added to films in production, some of which are barely noticeable, while some effects may make up complete segments of the film.

Sound Editing

Film editors are expected to work with sound editors to arrange the sounds effects and musical scores of a film. Sometimes on smaller products the film editor will also do all of the sound editing, so being good in this area is a huge advantage.

Digital Video Editing

High school digital video editing courses teach students to edit, organize, and produce digital data. This can include adding the sound overlays, text, special effects, and bringing a project to completion.

Step 2 Get an Undergraduate Degree

Film Editing Certification program 3 months – 1 year

Students with a high school diploma can pursue a certificate in film editing.

Depending on the college students will be taken through a range of film editing techniques, such as digital editing, special effects, pre and post-production cuts, graphics, sounds, and more.

Total credit hours (24-32)


Core Courses (24 Credits)

  • The Art of Film
  • Film-making Studio 1
  • Intermediate Film Lab
  • Advanced Pre-Production and Development
  • Advanced Film Production
  • Advanced Post-Production Workshop

Electives (8 Credits)

  • Cinematography and Lighting: Film and Digital
  • Digital Editing: Fundamentals
  • The Aesthetics of Directing
  • Audio Production
  • Script Analysis
  • The Innovative Camera: Experiments in 16mm Film-making
  • Recycled Images and Non-Camera Film-making

The average cost of film editing certificate program is about $ 2,048$ – $ 4,992.

If you are thinking of joining film editing certificate program click below and discover the best programs close to you.

Associate of Arts in Film Editing program 2 years

Associate of Arts programs takes two years to complete.

You can study for these at colleges and film schools, and they differ from certification courses in that they require a much broader understanding of film editing.

Students will focus on the core subjects of video editing, lighting techniques, and audio techniques


  • Freshman Composition
  • College Mathematics
  •  Introduction To Theater
  • Survey Of Entertainment  Technology
  • Basic Stagecraft
  •  Introduction  to the Film Process
  •  U.S. Government
  • General  Psychology
  • Introductory  Sociology .
  • Introduction  to Audio  Production
  • Introduction to Stage Lighting
  • Technical  Theater Production
  • Film Editing
  • Film camera Techniques
  • Film Production I
  • Film Production II
  • Film Production III
  • Film Gripping
  • Film Sound
  • Film Lighting
  •  Art Of Cinematography

The average cost of an associate of arts in film editing program is about $41,165 – $48,170.

If you are thinking of joining an associate of arts in film editing program click below and discover the best programs close to you.

Bachelor of Arts in Film Editing and Fine Arts Four-Year-Plan

You can study for a Bachelor of Arts in film editing at film schools.

Students are required to study additional courses in film studies, and there are some educational requirements from high school classes.

An application will require a clear understanding of film and film editing.

Total credit hours 126 – 180


General Education Courses (55 Credits)

  • Survey of Western Art I
  • Survey of Western Art II
  • Management in the Creative Environment
  • Reading Films
  • History of Cinema
  • Survey of Computer Art Applications
  • Advanced Survey of Computer Art Applications
  • Speaking of Ideas
  • Composition
  • Foundations of Story

Core Courses (80 Credits)

  • Collaboration
  • Introduction to Screenwriting
  • Digital Film Production: Story to Screen
  • Pre-production: From Concept to Set
  • Production: Lighting, Camera and Sound
  • Post-production: Cutting the Story
  • Content, Platform and Distribution Revolution
  • Short Film Screenwriting
  • Multi-camera Production
  • Directing Actors
  • Shot Design
  • Editing Aesthetics
  • Visual Storytelling: Directing the Documentary
  • Visual Storytelling: Producing Television
  • Visual Storytelling: Directing the Narrative
  • Visual Storytelling: Virtual Reality to Interactive
  • Commercial and Branded Content Production
  • Production for Mobile and Social Platforms
  • Music Video Production
  • Pre-production Lab: Story and Development
  • Production Lab: Producing and Directing
  • Production Lab: Picture and Sound Editing
  • Production Lab: Cinematography and Visual Design
  • Advanced Production: The Language of Cinematography

The average cost of a bachelor of arts in film editing and fine arts program is about $123,100- $238,200.

If you are thinking of joining a bachelor of arts in film editing and fine arts program click below and discover the best programs close to you.

Step 3 Get a Graduate Degree (Optional)

Master of Fine Arts in Film and Media Production 2 years – 3 years

Master of Fine Arts programs for film and media production are incredibly detailed and personalized to the student.

A masters is for students who have already completed a bachelor’s of fine arts and are looking for added focus on areas of interest to the student applications require a detailed and varied demonstration of experience in film editing.


  • Film Production Studio I
  • Film Production I
  • Cinema Studies
  • Screenwriting
  • Film Production II
  • Media & Society
  • Producing & New Media
  • Film Production Studio II
  • Principles of Visual Aesthetics
  • Thesis Development
  • Thesis Review
  • Final Film Production
  • Psychology of Film
  • Emerging Formats

The average cost of a master’s in film editing program is about $39,350 – $98,870.

Step 4 Do an Internship

Internships are one of the best ways you can gain real-world experience and get a real feel for working in a profession, and it’s certainly a valuable experience in the film editing world.

Whether you’re paid, earning credits, doing it as unpaid, it’s still an incredibly valuable experience, and it’s down to you as to how much you get out of it.

Completing an internship not only helps you understand more about a profession, it better prepare you to start your career and make you more employable.

From the viewpoint of having some experience on your resume it breaks that cycle of needing experience to get experience.

The networking potential of working for companies in the industry can’t be overlooked. It’s not uncommon for internships to lead on to job offers, and at the very least you’ll have made connections in the film editing world.

You will also learn the core values that come with work experience. Time management, co-worker relationships, using the latest technologies, and so on.

As you can see there are more than enough pros to outweigh the cons of accepting a film editing internship. I always recommend them, at the very least take a look at what options are available to you.

Overview of Film Editor Degrees

Certificate Program

Film editing certificate programs take you through the foundations of cutting, editing, filming, and working with both video and audio. The program will typically take a year to complete.

Completing a certificate program not only helps to teach you what’s required for the role of a film editor, but helps lead on to further education and opens up more career options.

If you’re interested in other areas of film editing, such as digital film, audio techniques, video, art, 16mm film, and so on, you may be able to find a program that covers these if you make some inquiries.

Associate’s Degree Program

An associate’s degree in film editing covers both the creation and production of film and audio, as well as some of the technical aspects behind film editing.

You will be taken through the creation process of many types and forms of film or audio. As well as being given hands-on training with the latest equipment and software that film editors use.

Associate’s degrees take 2 years to complete. After completion you will have more employment opportunities, can carry on with further education, and have the skill sets to start working in the film editing industry.

Bachelor’s Degree Program

A bachelor’s degree in film editing will take you through a comprehensive curriculum covering video production, hands-on training using equipment and software, communication theory, audio production, and more.

It will take up to 4 years to complete a bachelor’s degree. There is a wide range of topics to cover, and after completing the degree you’ll be well versed in all areas of film editing.

Completing the degree will increase your employment opportunities, increase your salary potential, and give you the hands-on and technical knowledge to be competent in your work.

Master’s Degree Program

If you’re serious about learning as much as you can about film editing and have the drive for continuous development then a master’s degree is for you.

You will cover everything from producing film and audio, screenwriting, direction, to post-production and editing.

You will be given the creative freedom to produce and edit your own film, given training on the latest software and equipment, and possibly even screen and show your work to a closed group.

It will typically take two years to complete a master’s degree, although you can complete it over a longer period to meet your own circumstances.

Which Type of Degree Is Best for You?

Depending on your experience and future goals, one or more of the above degrees will present the best choice to equip you with the experience and skills you need to get started in your career as a film editor.

As a rule of thumb I recommend looking at a bachelor’s degree first for individuals interested in film editing.

A bachelor’s degree is designed and tailored for individuals interested not only in the hands-on production and editing of film and audio, but the principles and technical know-how too.

This gives you a much broader understanding of film editing. Giving you more employment opportunities when you’ve qualified, as well as the potential to earn more as a starting salary.

You can expect a bachelor’s degree to last 3-4 years depending on the amount of work involved in the program, and how fast you want to complete it.

It’s also a great foundation to work towards a master’s degree after. You’ll learn some of the core principles, as well as the work ethic involved in high-level study.

So, if you’re going to pursue further education I recommend looking at the available bachelor degrees in film editing and finding a program that meets your requirements.

Film Editor Job Growth, Salary and Outlook


Want to know what the projected job growth, salaries, and outlook is for film editors over the next 10 years?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the projected growth for the film editor profession is between 2016-26.

This is faster than the national average across all occupations which is . This is a testament to the strength of the profession and shows us there are plenty of work opportunities.

The change in employment for the same period is 7,600. This is also above the national average and shows positive signs of growth in the industry.

The median pay for film editors in 2018 was . Looking at this against the national average across all occupations of you can see the positive earning potential for this profession.

One of the driving forces behind the huge growth for film editors is the increase in the number of online platforms and this has lead to a specialized area of editing.

This form of media is a lot more accessible and has fewer barriers to entry. Streaming and web content is on the increase, and being easy to get started with and access to a worldwide audience is always opening up new opportunities.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Film Editor and How Much Does it Cost?

Option1: Certificate

Degree Time Cost
Certificate 3 months – 1 year$2.048 – $4.992
Total 3 months to 1 year$2.048 – $4.992

Option 2: Associate’s Degree

Degree Time Cost
Associates Degree2 years$41.165 – $48.170
Total 2 years $41.165 – $48.170

Option 3: Bachelor’s Degree

Degree Time Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$123,100- $238,200
Total 4 years$123,100- $238,200

Option 4: Master’s Degree

DegreeTime Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years $123,100- $238,200
Master’s2 years to 3 years$39,350 – $98,870
Total6 years to 7 years$162,450- $337,070

Film Editor Training Video

Noel Griffith, Ph.D.
Noel Griffith is a Doctor of Philosophy with a strong interest in educational research. He has been an editor-in-chief of since 2014. Noel is an avid reader (non-fiction), enjoys good food, live theatre, and helping others make wiser career decisions.

One Response

  1. Thank you for helping me learn more about how to become a film editor. My son is thinking of becoming an editor. Knowing that he needs a desire to keep up on editing software will help him in making his decision.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Find a School Near You
Try our FREE award-winning tool to find the best schools in your area.


Try Our Free Tool

Find Schools Near You