“What education do you need to become a copywriter?” I’ve seen this question asked a few times in the past few weeks. The usual suspects have all reared their heads – English, Psychology, Journalism. I’ve got some different advice. If you want to know what degree to take to learn the copywriter’s skills, do what I did.
Become a Historian.
History – The Copywriter’s Degree?
Not all copywriters study English. Some of the best I’ve worked with studied photography, or performing arts. But if you’re looking for a degree with skills that translate into good copy, history is where it’s at.
Research – The Key to Adaptability
If you’re unlucky, at some point in your career you’ll hear the following sentence:
“How can you write about [complex industry] if you’ve never been a [complex industry worker]?”
The answer to that is simple. It’s exactly the same way you can write about the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution even though you were born in the Eighties. Research. If you’re going to write about industries you don’t have any first hand experience of, you’ll need to read up on them first. History prepares you for this. You learn which sources you can trust, which accounts are unusable due to bias, and how to tell the two apart.
Exercise Those Writing Muscles
Turning disparate information into compelling arguments. That’s a sentence that sums up copywriting as well as it sums up a history course. And you’ll get more than enough practise.
Essays with strict word counts, exams where you need to be concise, convincing and compelling, and a dissertation where writing consumes your entire life. Those three things make history the perfect degree for prospective copywriters.
Travel The World, Meet New People
A bit of life experience enriches your copy no end. Unfortunately, if you’re straight out of university your life experience probably extends to 2-4-1 drinks offers, home remedies for Fresher’s Flu (whisky mixed with honey cough medicine, if you’re asking) and which local pubs offer a free sandwich on pub quiz night.
Luckily, as a historian you’ll be able to call upon the life experiences of thousands of people from across the world. Ok, your recall of French munition production in the lead up to Verdun might not help – but the hopes, dreams and fears of generations past can help make anything a riveting read.
If you’re a student looking for advice, or you’re a copywriter wanting to make a case for your degree, join in the discussion below.