How to Become a Reporter in 5 Steps
Explore a career as a reporter. Learn about education requirements, work responsibilities, salary and the job outlook for this career to see if it is the right field for you. Schools offering Journalism degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Career Information at a Glance
Reporters gather information on local, regional, national and international events and present accounts to the public through various mediums of communication, including television, radio, printed material and the Internet. The following chart gives you an overview of this career.
|Degree Required||Bachelor's degree|
|Education Field of Study||Journalism, communications|
|Key Skills||Verbal and written communication, organizational skills, computer skills, attention to detail|
|Job Growth (2012-2022)||(-14)*|
|Average Salary (2013)||$44,360*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Step 1: Get Formal Training
Associate's and bachelor's degree programs that are consistent with your occupation include those in journalism, mass communications and mass media communications. You will complete coursework in subjects like news writing, editing, public communications, feature writing, advertising and multimedia tools. Graduate studies are available at many schools, but they are not required for most entry-level job opportunities as a reporter.
Step 2: Get Practical Field Training
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that, while education is crucial, employers prefer those who also have related field training or work experience prior to employment (www.bls.gov). Field training can be obtained through various outlets, including internship programs, which are sometimes available in conjunction with degree curriculums, or fellowships, which are awarded to college students through foundations, universities and professional organizations. Aspiring reporters may also pursue part-time job opportunities as freelancers or stringers.
Step 3: Acquire Employment
As a reporter, you'll work in many environments. This includes your office environment at television, magazine, radio or newspaper companies, as well as the environments that are dictated by your research or story coverage, like crime scenes, political campaigns and other event locations.
Early in your career, you may gather information for general assignments, such as for covering car accidents and celebrity sightings. This process may entail researching, conducting interviews and taking photographs. You'll then compose reports for publication or broadcast, depending on the medium in which you work. As you gain experience, you might begin to cover more complex topics, like healthcare and foreign affairs. The BLS notes that, as of 2013, reporters earned an average salary of $44,360.
Step 4: Join a Trade Association
Trade associations generally offer reporters benefits like advocacy outlets, industry updates and opportunities for professional networking. The Society of Professional Journalists, for example, offers resources to reporters in general. Some organizations specialize in genres or industries, such as the Education Writers Association, the Association of Health Care Journalists and Criminal Justice Journalists. You might also join the National Association of Science Writers or the Society of Environmental Journalists.
Step 5: Stay Current
Part of your responsibility as a reporter is staying abreast of current events for the purpose of newsworthy reporting; however, staying current on journalism industry updates, protocols, technologies and related legislative measures is also vital to your daily activities. Some employers provide continuing education opportunities to reporters, though you may also find such opportunities through trade organizations or academic institutions.
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