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 Digital Marketing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Reporter?

Reporters may work for newspapers, magazines, online publications, radio stations or television news shows. They investigate stories and may travel to specific locations nationally or internationally, interview witnesses and research data to ensure that they substantiate the claims of their story. Their role is to present factual information to the public through a verbal or written report. They typically work closely with their editor, who normally assigns them stories, and may also work with photographers or cameramen who are responsible for capturing visual images to support their story.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Journalism, communications
Key Skills Verbal and written communication, organizational skills, computer skills, attention to detail
Training Internships recommended
Job Growth (2014-2024) -8* (for reporters and correspondents)
Average Salary (2015) $46,560* (for reporters and correspondents)

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 ( 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 2015, reporters earned an average salary of $46,560.

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.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Editors are required to have a bachelor's degree, and they also focus on generating stories for the public that will be presented through print or broadcast news mediums. The main difference between an editor and a reporter is that an editor may assign stories to a reporter, and may also review content to ensure that it is technically and factually accurate before being published or broadcast, while reporters investigate and create those reports.

Public relations specialists are professionals who also need a bachelor's degree, and they focus on creating content for the public that is intended to create a desired impression of their client. They may work for government agencies, individuals or companies.

Photographers may work as newspaper photographers or photojournalists and perform tasks that are similar to the ones a reporter has. They use their photographic skills to capture visual images that tell or enhance a news story, and may be able to enter their field with a high school diploma or GED.

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