Being an editor of a journal can be time-consuming, but has obvious benefits (especially if one enjoys reading and reviewing manuscripts). So I expect many academics have a desire to become an editor.

I have never seen an advertisement for a position on an editorial board, which leads me to believe that most positions are not filled this way.

How do most people become editors, and how might a person wishing to become an editor achieve this (without setting up a new journal)?

  • You mean a communicating editor or a chief editor? Because there's a big difference in the typical hiring process.
    – yo'
    Jan 31, 2015 at 0:21
  • @yo' I'd be interested in both. Though not all journals use those titles/roles. Feb 1, 2015 at 9:58
  • Even though not all journals use these titles, most journals have the two things separated in some way. I tried to make a reasonable answer.
    – yo'
    Feb 1, 2015 at 14:14

2 Answers 2


Open positions in journal editorial boards are frequently not advertised (though that happens). Instead, when a vacancy appears, the chief editor will typically look for people with the required expertise and ask them whether they would be willing to serve.

Often, editors will have different specialties. So an editor who is stepping down would need to be replaced in his specific area of expertise. Given that he is an expert and should have a good overview of his specific field, he will most likely be asked to suggest possible replacements.

Chief editors will usually be "elevated" from among the non-chief editors, since these already know the journal and its specifics.

So, how to go about to be invited as an editor? Two things:

  • Build a reputation as an expert in a specific field. Submit good quality papers to the journal you are most interested in (and others), go to conferences etc.
  • Build a reputation as dependable and articulate. Hand in reviews promptly, and write good reviews. Editors remember people who write good reviews.

Of course, this is not a guarantee of being asked for an editorship.


There are in general two types of editors, and their role is quite different.

First, you have the editors-in-chief or editors-in-charge. There is usually one of them for a journal, sometimes a small group (if the journal has dozens of issues a year). These "run" the journal, but are not responsible for the scientific quality of the papers. They can be scientists themselves, but quite often they are not active in science and their editorial job is a full-time.

Second, you have the communicating editors. There can be tens of them. Each of them is usually responsible for communicating the papers in some sub-field of the journal's field; so in a graph theory journal, you'll have someone for dealing with graph algorithms, someone for Ramsey theory, etc. These are supposed to be active scientists in their field since only then they know the right people to review the paper and they can have a good level of judgment over the paper's quality themselves.

So, the hiring process differs a lot. If a non-scientist is sought for, a standard competition will usually be held, the position announced through various means (mailing lists, job advert sites, LinkedIn, etc.). You can simply join the competition, send your CV and other required documents and hope.

On the other hand, if a specialist scientist is sought for, then usually what Stephan Kolassa describes is the case: the editor-in-chief will look for people based on the journal's experience with the people and ask them on a personal basis.

Remark: The terminology may differ from journal to journal, and also the actual situation may differ. Especially with small journals, even editor-in-chief need not to have it as a full-time job, and he can do research himself. It just depends.

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