Photojournalism Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Photojournalists use pictures to tell stories by capturing newsworthy events on camera. Find out about degree, portfolio and publishing requirements, earnings and employment outlook before deciding if a career in photojournalism is right for you. Schools offering Journalism degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Photojournalism Major?

A photojournalism major has two areas of focus while they complete their degree: photography and journalism. Through photography studies they develop a good eye for capturing visual images and learn how to use photographic and digital video equipment, develop pictures and edit images. The studies in journalism cover information relevant to reporters. They learn the principals of journalism and journalism ethics.

Photojournalists typically work for newspapers, magazines or online publications that provide coverage of events that are relevant to the publication's readers. Photojournalists may accompany a reporter while a story is being investigated and are responsible for collaborating with the reporter to ensure that appropriate and compelling images are taken that will enhance the written or verbal report that the reporter produces. Although photographers do not need to have a degree, it is typical for photojournalists to have a bachelor's degree to prepare for their career.

Degree Required Bachelor's Degree
Key Responsibilities Use photographic and video equipment to record visual images of events, people or places that are relevant for publication as part of a news story.
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3%* (for all photographers)
Median Salary (2015) $31,710* (for all photographers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Can I Do with a Bachelor's Degree in Photojournalism?

The practical and technical skills gained through a bachelor's degree program in photojournalism can give you an advantage over others in this competitive industry. Photojournalists can work for newspapers, magazines, journals or television networks. You may be responsible for taking photographs for use in print or digital media.

Photojournalists may work as full-time salaried employees for advertising agencies, commercial photography studios or universities. As a regular employee of a news company, you could become a specialized photojournalist and concentrate in one area of the news, such as sports, health or entertainment. Many others work independently as freelance photojournalists. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that over half of all photographers were self-employed in 2008 (www.bls.gov). Freelance photojournalists are typically hired for particular assignments on a contract basis.

Other photojournalists become teachers in colleges, technical schools and films schools. After gaining several years of experience as a photojournalist, you could become a photo editor for a newspaper or magazine. Photo editors use their knowledge and expertise to select and manage all the photographs used for news stories.

What Will I Need in Addition to My Degree?

Photojournalism can be a fiercely competitive field and difficult to enter. You will need a strong portfolio that highlights your best work and unique skills to help you stand out from others. Most of your portfolio material can come from work that you completed during your degree program. Completing an internship while in school or upon graduation can help to expand your network and give you professional work to enhance your portfolio.

When beginning your photojournalism career, it is advantageous to publish as much work as possible. Many photojournalists sell their work for little or no pay at the beginning of their careers to build credibility and gain exposure. Joining a professional trade organization, such as Editorial Photographers or the American Society of Media Photographers, can also expand your network and keep you current on new technologies and copyright laws. Some professional organizations also offer seminars and workshops for professionals looking to improve their skill set.

What Can I Expect to Earn?

According to the BLS, the median annual wage of salaried photographers, including photojournalists, was $31,710 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Full-time salaried photojournalists could earn more than those working as freelancers. This is partly because freelance photojournalists must purchase and maintain their own equipment, including anything they may need for particular assignments, such as special filters, lenses or other accessories. Freelance photojournalists can also have more sporadic schedules, possibly going several months without work. As a result, their salaries can fluctuate considerably from year to year.

What is the Job Outlook for Photojournalists?

The BLS reports that employment of all photographers is projected to rise 3% over the period 2014-2024, which is slower than average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reports that contracting work out to freelancers is becoming increasingly popular among companies who do not want to hire their own full-time staff. Freelancers are able to reach more clients by posting their portfolios online.

Photojournalists have been negatively impacted by the decline in print media; however, magazines, newspapers, television and radio networks generally post Internet versions of news stories on their websites, increasing the need for digital photographs. Candidates with good computer and multimedia skills will likely have better job prospects as companies increase the use of online video and multimedia content.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Film and video editors and camera operators capture and edit video images. Like photojournalists, they need a good eye and they need to be trained to use photo editing equipment. They also need a bachelor's degree. Reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts need a bachelor's degree, and they also perform some tasks that are comparable to the work of a photojournalist. They investigate stories and may travel to locations to develop reports or research their stories. They also may work with photojournalists to ensure that the right visual images are captured to augment their stories.

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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