Duties and responsibilities
A biographer is a writer who is responsible for creating written summaries of a person’s life. Their typical duties and responsibilities include:
- Assembling biographical materials from various sources (e.g., diaries, news accounts, personal correspondence, interviews)
- Researching these biographical materials to gather a better understanding
- Interviewing the subject of the biography
- Applying psychological analysis and the subject’s environment in the portrayal of character
- Working with editors, publishers, proofreaders and stakeholders
- Marketing and selling the biographical work(s)
Generally speaking, biographers will need a degree in English or journalism. Either of these degrees is will teach aspiring aspiring biographers the key skills they need.
Skills and relevant work experience
Biographers will need skills such as:
- Passion for the subject, so that they can engage and entice readers
- Research skills, as biographers will need to spend a lot of time researching the subject to ensure they are writing the correct information
- Integrity, as biographers need to be able to set aside personal views to objectively and accurately set a historical context
- Persistence, as writing is a competitive field so biographers need to be able to push through and work consistently
Some biographers will work part time and have another job on the side. Others will work full time. Most biographers will work regular office hours so that they can stay in contact with sources and editors, but many set their own hours.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for writers in the United States was $63,200 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,660 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $112,450. Biographers can expect to earn in this range too.
Biographers tend to work for themselves. They can progress in their career by building a reputation and working with bigger clients (e.g., people who are more famous). Alternatively, many writers will eventually become editors.