5 minute read

Lexicographer Job Description, Career as a Lexicographer, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Bachelor’s Degree

Average Salary: $35,000 Annually

Job Outlook: Good

Job Description

A lexicographer though not necessarily known by name is very popular in the services provided. In the simplest sense of the word, they work to edit and update the written word of others, but their responsibilities usually go much deeper than that. Though they do handle writing and editing as others in the field do, their focus is primarily for dictionaries. As this is a rather specialized type of editing and writing, there is a special skill set that lexicographers must bring to the job.

Lexicographers focus much of their time editing the written word of others to get things ready for a dictionary. As this is the book that others look to for insights into how to say and spell things, their accuracy is quite important to the job and to the profession overall. Not only do they handle the editing, but they handle the writing responsibilities when they come up. They often work primarily within their given language, but may learn how to capture things and work on a bilingual basis which can add to their appeal and overall offerings.

Lexicographers also spend much of their time in evaluating outside search engines and databases to come up with new words and definitions. They perform a great deal of research to see what people are saying and how they are saying it. They compile this research into their findings which they can present for a new word or definition to be included within a dictionary. There is a great deal of effort that goes into this and it must always follow an established protocol, as it’s a big deal to add these new elements.

As they spend much of their time editing and reevaluating other people’s work, they are considered to be subject matter experts in their field. Not only do they need to stay up to date with their training on the language, spellings, and definitions, but they also need to perform a great deal of research. They must be able to handle any sort of editing and writing that comes their way, and therefore they need to be up to date with exactly what that includes. They are constantly working at perfecting their craft and their overall use of the language.

Lexicographers are also often called upon to help develop, manage, and maintain extensive vocabularies and taxonomical systems used to classify content in databases and websites. In this capacity, lexicographers call upon their understanding of language and word meaning in order to help improve efficiency and search precision in electronic information retrieval systems.

Education and Training Requirements

Though it is not necessarily a requirement in some capacities, it would be unusual to find a lexicographer without a bachelor’s degree. Any coursework or studies focused on language, journalism, or writing can be advantageous in this job, and therefore that is often looked to. Though specific degrees or coursework such as this isn’t always a certainty, it does help with the job itself. Training within search engines or other types of research can also come in handy when it comes to this work, and it may be an ongoing type of training. There is often a great deal of ongoing education involved with this job as new research methods come up. It is also essential that lexicographers keep up with their command of the language that they work within.

Getting the Job

Initially the best way for a lexicographer to get the job is to show a command of the language. This may be done through a writing or editing portfolio, in combination with an appropriate educational background. Moving forward, lexicographers need to show an ability to work for publishers that handle dictionaries directly. They want to know that the lexicographer knows what it takes to edit and write within this specialty as it is a very different capacity. This can be a competitive field as there aren’t that many jobs available, and therefore showing any aptitude in working on dictionaries in some capacity can come in very handy.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook, and Career Development

Though there are jobs out there for lexicographers, there may be competition for them as they don’t necessarily come up that often. One way that a lexicographer can increase their ability to work is to take up another language so that they can offer their services on a bilingual basis. They may also wish to look at doing this on a freelance basis, as that tends to be a popular way for lexicographers to keep busy and to earn some good money. Though there are jobs working for publishers or other similar employers directly, many lexicographers are finding that doing their job on a freelance basis may be the most beneficial.

Working Conditions and Environment

The type of environment that a lexicographer works within varies based on the type of employment that they are engaged within. If they work on a freelance basis, then they usually work from a home office or may work from anywhere. If they work for a publisher or employer directly, then they tend to have an office where they can work free from any outside distractions. Lexicographers must often have meetings or conference calls with the people that they work for to present their findings or ask pertinent questions. It’s important that a lexicographer have great attention to detail as it is required for the job. Though this isn’t known as a stressful job, there is a necessity to tune out any distractions and focus on the work at hand.

Salary and Benefits

Though the typical salary for a lexicographer is anticipated to be around $35,000 annually, this can vary based on the type of employment. Some in this field are paid on a per project or hourly rate and may earn as much as $25-45 per project or even per hour. Those with more experience can expect to earn a great deal as they have a proven track record and bring the qualifications to the job that an employer wants to see. Though experience and type of employment may play a role in the salary earned, so too may the geographical location that they work within.
This is becoming a career that is very prominent on a freelance basis as so many other editing and writing positions are. In that capacity, lexicographers are responsible for their own benefits and often earn more per hour as a result of that. If they work for a company directly, then they may expect to earn the traditional benefits such as paid time off and health insurance, but this is becoming more of an exception to the rule as a lexicographer tends to work on a freelance basis.

Where to Go for More Information
Association for Terminology and Lexicography
57 King Henry’s Walk
N1 4NH

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCommunication and the Arts