Learnings and Letdowns from the Copyediting Certificate Program at UCSD

I recently completed the University of California in San Diego’s copyediting certificate program. In online editing and writing communities, the program is touted as one of the best copyediting courses out there, and UCSD itself promises introduction to tools, techniques, and topics that ensure a successful career.

With expectations thus embellished, I enrolled about a year ago.

The program is available through UCSD’s web-based extension platform. It consists of four ten-week courses, two of which you can follow simultaneously. This means that you can complete the entire program in either nine months or one year (I did it in one year). Each course demands a time commitment of between six to ten hours a week. On top of that, the program is not cheap at $425 per course, plus books.

So, was it worthwhile?

Top Learnings

  • I learned a lot, particularly from the first course, Grammar Lab. While I felt I had a pretty good grasp of grammar before the course, it definitely filled in some gaps, and moreover it has enabled me to explain the grammar conventions behind my edits to others. Subsequent courses offered plenty of opportunity for practice and introduced some guiding principles that have made me a more confident editor.
  • I was introduced to resources, reference works, and communities that I was not previously familiar with and that I am certain will be helpful in the future. Amy Einsohn’s The Copyeditor’s Handbook is an invaluable reference, the CE-L listserv is brimming with advice and opportunities, and mnemonics like the one below made me laugh.
  • I found the academic level of this program to be very high. Clearly, instructors are knowledgeable, and quizzes and assignments require that you get through your readings and pay attention.
  • Completing the program does indeed take time. Especially the last course, Copyediting III, during which you continuously work to complete a heavy edit of a thirty-page document for the final exam, required many hours of work.
  • Being based outside the US, I had a hard time obtaining the required books. An unrelated trip to New York and an incredibly accommodating bookstore in Taipei were my saviors.
Hyperbole and a Half's Alot
Hyperbole and a Half’s mythical creature, the alot.

Top Letdowns

  • Reading materials, quizzes, and assignments were clearly recycled from previous years, which led to a suboptimal experience. For example, we were at one point asked to read a document on “the copyediting practices of the publishing industry today,” which turned out to be almost twenty years old. It was, of course, hopelessly outdated.
  • Despite promises of “ensuring a successful career,” the program very rarely touched on the career or business aspects of copyediting, which I think is a missed opportunity. However, UCSD does supposedly offer a course on editing as a business, but I haven’t seen it scheduled yet.
  • Taking a class online is obviously not the same as walking into a classroom—you don’t experience the same camaraderie or sense of community. Yet, I’ve followed other online courses during which this kind of intimacy was better approximated, through videoconferences, for example.

Final Score

In my opinion, UCSD’s copyediting certificate program does provide a very thorough, very instructive introduction to the copyediting discipline. After completing the program, I feel much better positioned to help clients with their editing needs. In addition, the program brought me closer to a field that I find both professionally and personally satisfying. I’d recommend this program to peers looking to build or improve their editing skills.

8 thoughts on “Learnings and Letdowns from the Copyediting Certificate Program at UCSD

  • May 26, 2016 at 10:29 pm


    Thanks for the write up. I am seriously thinking of taking this course. I am a newbie in this field, in fact doing a career path change. I have a flair for reading and writing and looking for your inputs to me who has no clue on the career prospects if I take the course. How and where do I start. (Gone through the details of the above university mentioned).

    Thank you.

  • August 16, 2016 at 4:40 am

    Thanks a lot for this thorough review. I’m trying to decide what program to take and I found it really useful.

  • October 10, 2017 at 3:50 am

    Thanks for your review. I am considering re-registering for the copyediting certificate extension program through UCSD. (I was actually previously enrolled in this program but had to withdraw due to financial difficulties.) I appreciate your honest appraisal of this program! Your input was very helpful to me.

  • February 23, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    This information is exactly what I need to make a decision. Thank you!

  • April 9, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    How much is the program?

    • April 17, 2018 at 2:58 pm

      Thanks for this comment and apologies for the late response. I don’t recall the price exactly, but maybe something like $400 per course? I recommend checking their website for up-to-date prices. Marianne

  • April 17, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    I’m currently enrolled and just barely got through Week Two of Grammar Lab. I’ve never felt more inadequate and unintelligent in my life; I simply can’t get all of the terms and rules into my head. So, I am about five minutes from dropping the course and the copyediting program for which I had such an initial enthusiasm. I honestly wasn’t expecting the first course to be so challenging right out of the gate.

    • April 17, 2018 at 3:01 pm

      If I recall correctly, I found Grammar Lab to be the most boring part of the program, if that makes sense. Because it a lot of just learning rules and conventions. But then later on, when it all comes together and you start applying the rules, I thought it became more fun. So I’d recommend sticking with it — at least for a little while longer? Marianne


Leave a Reply

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