How to Become a Journalist in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a journalist. Learn about job duties, education requirements, job outlook, and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Journalism degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Journalist Do?

Journalists provide the public with accurate and unbiased information on current events through the mediums of print, television, radio and online media. Their job is to thoroughly research newsworthy stories and to present them in a clear and coherent manner. As well as having excellent verbal and written communication abilities, journalists need strong interpersonal and investigative skills in order to make contacts within the industry and carry out interviews. While some journalists may work for just one institution, most journalists work freelance positions that allow them to contribute stories to many different publications or broadcasters at once.

Education Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Journalism, communication, English or a related field
Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024) -9%* (for all reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts)
Median Salary (May 2015) $36,360* (for all reporters and correspondents)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Journalist?

A journalist is a writer who investigates current events, issues and trends, then generates a story surrounding uncovered facts and disseminates it to the public via print, broadcast and online media. In generating a story, journalists attend live functions and conduct research, review their notes for relevant details, write story copy and correct grammatical, punctuation, spelling and content errors. They often work a particular area or 'beat,' such as politics, entertainment, business or sports.

Step 1: Prepare in High School

Whatever medium you choose to work in, you will need a strong background in writing. Courses in English, language arts, humanities and social studies will push you to develop your skills in this area. Writing for the school newspaper, yearbook or literary magazine is helpful as well. Volunteering to work for your school's TV or radio station, if it has either or both, could help you prepare for a place in broadcast journalism.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism

A bachelor's degree in journalism teaches you how to write for different distribution media. It also provides you with an understanding of journalistic ethics and fundamental methods of investigation - how to cultivate sources, conduct personal interviews and search news databases. Some programs are divided into broadcast, print, photojournalism and public relations specializations. Because many journalists are freelancers, you may want to consider courses in marketing and business administration as well.

Step 3: Pursue an Internship

Many journalism programs include an internship course through which you can gain experience in a professional newsroom. Schools that offer journalism bachelor's degrees often maintain relationships with local media outlets to facilitate your access to them. In addition to experience, you can build a portfolio and make contacts that may help you obtain a job after you graduate.

Step 4: Find Employment

You can find work for newspapers, magazines, TV stations, radio stations, colleges and universities, as well as a wide assortment of Internet portals. Figures for 2015 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that the majority of journalists worked for newspapers and magazines. A smaller but significant share worked for TV and radio stations. The BLS outlook for journalists isn't promising. Employment is expected to decline nine percent from 2014-2024, partially due to losses in advertising revenue. Opportunities will be strongest at online magazines and newspapers. The median salary of journalists as of May 2015 was $36,360.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

You will likely have to start out in a small market at a small station or newspaper. Entry-level tasks include writing obituaries or covering civic meetings or court cases. After you've accumulated more experience, advancement usually entails changing jobs to positions at larger publications or broadcasters in a larger market, covering a specific field or covering more difficult or dangerous stories. With sufficient experience you could become a columnist or editor if you work at a newspaper. You could advance to the position of correspondent, announcer or program manager if you work for a broadcaster.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of other positions within the media that require students to hold a bachelor's degree in journalism, communication or a related field. Students may also want to consider becoming editors, whose responsibilities primarily include revising and preparing content for publication. Those who are more interested in the technical aspect of news reporting should look into becoming film or video editors, whose job duties consist of managing, producing and editing videos for telecommunication purposes. Another writing-related career that requires similar skills to journalism is becoming an author and writing creative fiction or nonfiction for a variety of books, magazines and other publications.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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