Photojournalist: Career Profile, Occupational Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Explore the career requirements for photojournalists. Get the facts about education requirements, salary and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Journalism degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Photojournalist?

Photojournalists use photographs to tell a story or accompany a story for various forms of media, including magazines, newspaper and television. These professionals often are trained to work with digital video as well as photography. They must know how to use a range of different camera types, photo-enhancing software and lighting equipment. They also analyze and plan their photographs, and may need to enhance their subjects with natural or artificial light.

Individuals can pursue a career as a photojournalist after being self-taught or completing a training program. A portfolio of previous work is essential when seeking employment. The table below can provide more information on this career.

Education Required Postsecondary education, such as individual classes or full degree programs
Education Field of Study Photography, photojournalism
Key Skills Artistic ability, computer literacy, attention to detail, interpersonal
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)3% (for all photographers)*
Median Salary (2015) $31,710 (for all photographers)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as a Photojournalist?

As a photojournalist, you travel through your community or the world and shoot pictures that tell a story. Your photos may be of subjects you discover, or you could break stories involving accidents or ongoing events. In capturing a moment, you're expected to behave ethically. Pictures are supposed to represent their subject accurately and fairly. You may alter a picture's exposure or color balance, but not its content, context or meaning.

To be effective, you need both an aesthetic sensibility and some level of technical proficiency. An eye for composition and framing; an understanding of exposure, shutter speed and depth of field; and knowledge of filters, lenses, flashes and editing software will all determine the quality of the pictures you take.

Where Could I Work?

Newspapers, magazines, TV stations, stock photo agencies and their online portals are the primary employers of photojournalists. The industry is extremely competitive. You will need persistence to gain your first and subsequent assignments. Performing quality work will build your reputation and could enable you to move upward to more prestigious outlets offering higher compensation.

Exact figures for photojournalists weren't available, but in the larger category of photographers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that approximately 124,900 people were employed in 2014. A majority work in professional, scientific and technical services. From 2014 to 2024, employment was projected to increase 3% to 128,800. The BLS reported that as of 2015, all photographers earned a median salary of $31,710.

What Education Should I Consider?

According to the National Press Photographers Association, there is no agreed-upon standard for training. One view is that you can learn by dedicating yourself to your work, amassing a portfolio, shopping it around and making yourself readily available for assignments. The wide accessibility of photography workshops, online courses and software manuals make self-education a viable option.

If you prefer a structured education, associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs in photojournalism are available from 2-year community colleges and 4-year colleges and universities. Courses at both program levels cover camera technology, photography history, news photography and news writing. In addition to classroom instruction, you develop your skills through a sequence of field assignments. You also have the opportunity to mingle and exchange ideas with other students who share your interest.

Finally, some journalists believe you can learn photography and journalism on your own and should attend college to build a base of knowledge about human and world affairs. They recommend earning a degree in such subjects as anthropology, economics, political science or sociology.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Those interested in a related career may consider working as desktop publishers, film and video editors, or reporters. Desktop publishers need an associate's degree, and their job entails designing the layouts of various kinds of publications, such as magazines and newspapers. Film and video editors require a bachelor's degree. These professionals move and change the images that an audience sees. Reporters also need a bachelor's degree. They inform the public about current news and events through a variety of media.

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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