What Does a Professional Journalist Do?

Research what it takes to become a journalist. Learn about education requirements, job duties, 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 Is a Professional Journalist?

A journalist prepares, writes, and presents news stories to the public through various media channels including television, newspaper, radio, magazine and the Internet. To successfully create a news story, a journalist needs to gather data from various sources, interview credible people, verify all information, and review his or her work for accuracy and clarity.

The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about becoming a journalist.

Degree RequiredBachelor's degree
Educational Field of StudyJournalism
Communications
Key ResponsibilitiesResearches, writes, and reports on newsworthy topics; interviews individuals; travels for stories and interviews
Job Growth (2014-2024) -8% (decline) for reporters and correspondents*
Average Salary (May 2015) $46,560 for reporters and correspondents*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What's the Job of a Journalist Like?

A professional journalist's job revolves around researching, writing and reporting news stories. As a journalist you may be assigned general news topics or you may work in various specialty areas such as politics, celebrity news or sports. Much of your job will involve traveling to local or distant destinations to gather information for a story. You may have to interview people to gather facts or get firsthand accounts of an event. Deadlines are a regular part of the job, and journalists frequently work odd hours and weekends.

What Education or Training Do I Need?

Most professional journalists have a degree in journalism. Bachelor's and master's degrees are the most common choices, but you may also pursue a certificate, associate's degree or even earn a Ph.D. You may earn a journalism degree, you may study a specific medium such as print or broadcast, or you may earn a broad-spectrum degree in multimedia journalism.

You need to have excellent writing and communication skills and a clear grasp of English grammar. Depending on the area of journalism you wish to pursue, you may also benefit from public speaking skills. In some more specialized jobs you may be required to have expertise in areas outside of journalism, such as sports or finance. To break into journalism, most employers require some type of experience, which is easily gained through an internship. Internships may be available through potential employers, your school or professional organizations.

Where Can I Find a Job?

Jobs are available at television stations, private companies, newspapers, radio stations and other media outlets. Freelance work may also be available. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for reporters and correspondents from 2014-2024 was expected to decline by 8 percent. However, the BLS stated that the best job prospects should be in areas where new technology is emerging and where retirement rates are high. Promising job leads for aspiring journalists will be Internet service providers, local media outlets and freelance work (www.bls.gov).

What Could I Earn?

The BLS reported that the average annual wage for reporters and correspondents as of May 2015 was $46,560. However, you may want to consider all the earnings reported by the BLS to get a better understanding of what to expect. For example, the tenth percentile reported earned $21,390 per year, but the ninetieth percentile earned $81,580. The difference in earnings is likely due to choice of employer. For example, someone employed by a national broadcasting company will likely be paid more than someone who works at a small town newspaper.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Professional journalists may also be employed as public relations specialists whose main role is to make a person or a company look good in public through building strong relationships with the industry and community. Some professional journalists may opt to take the technical writing path as technical writers whose main responsibility is to create manuals, how-to guides and other technical documents. Unlike professional journalists who work mainly for media companies, both public relations specialists and technical writers may be employed in a variety of industries. All of these careers require a bachelor's degree typically communications, journalism or a related field.

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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