Career Options for Journalism Majors

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Journalism students often possess a passion for the truth and a heightened sense of curiosity. Many consider a journalism career their calling, rather than just a challenging job. Earlier programs required students to specialize in one traditional media, such as print or broadcast journalism. Most schools today offer traditional specialization areas while including modern digital media and non-traditional communication areas.

Many journalism programs train students to write, research, and report for various traditional and emerging media. A journalism career requires persistence, critical and analytical skills, professional connections, and a ‘nose for news’ gained from years of experience. A well-designed journalism program covers ethics and law as they relate to journalism.

Careers for journalism majors span many industries since the skills they develop transfer well to other fields. Graduates can explore opportunities outside of journalism jobs, such as teaching, public relations, and research.

FAQs

  • Q. Do journalists get paid well?

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median annual salary of $49,300 for journalists. Several factors impact a journalist’s salary, including the state where they work and their specific field.

  • Q. What kinds of jobs can I get with a degree in journalism?

    Careers for journalism majors include fields such as corporate communication, content writing, news editing, and public relations.

  • Q. What degree do I need to become a journalist?

    Most people begin their journalism career with a journalism bachelor’s degree or a communication degree with a journalism concentration.

  • Q. How do I start working as a journalist?

    Journalists start as staff writers, bloggers, or researchers, depending on their educational background and career goals.

Online Journalist Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

How to Become a Journalist



A journalism bachelor’s degree provides an excellent starting point for many journalism careers. Students take field-specific courses covering U.S. media institutions, interviewing techniques, story construction and editing, and libel laws. Enrollees take research, writing, and public speaking classes. Most programs include an internship, which gives participants first-hand experience in the profession. Degree-seekers complete their internship in their chosen specialization.

According to the BLS, newspaper, periodical, and directory publishers hire the most journalists and news analysts. The radio and television broadcasting industry hires the second-most journalists.

Journalism Specializations



The rise of digital media has forever changed the field and practice of journalism. Online news channels, social media, blogs, and other digital communication continue to redefine journalism jobs. These factors constantly reshape the journalism field itself.

Schools offer journalism concentrations in public relations and advertising, journalism design and graphics, and the three subfields below. Journalism careers in certain specialties require practitioners to earn continuing education units, certification, or a postgraduate degree. Journalists with special training in specific subfields often receive higher wages and qualify for leadership and management positions.

Digital and interactive-media connect code, data, design, storytelling, and research. It often requires user participation and engagement to create a meaningful exchange. Students in this specialization take classes on media technologies and culture, visual communication, and media industry and management. The concentration qualifies graduates for jobs in online publication and positions requiring data-driven visualization.

Defined as “critical and in-depth journalism,” investigative journalism involves reporting on topics obscured by confusing facts and data. Investigative journalists rely on primary sources. They fact-check before releasing a story. The subjects they cover often carry serious and far-reaching impacts, so their work needs accuracy. Classes cover how to use data as an investigative tool, internet forensics, and accessing and interpreting public records and data.

Photojournalists use images or photos as the main storytelling medium. Photojournalism programs include classes in photo editing and techniques, layout and design, and computer-aided publishing. Students also learn advanced visual communication. Through practice and hands-on manipulation, students master the use of the digital single-lens reflex camera. Degree-seekers become familiar with digital editing software such as Photoshop and Final Cut Pro.

What Are the Education Requirements for Journalists?



Schools nationwide offer associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral journalism degrees. A higher degree often serves as a career and income booster. Individuals can launch a journalism career just as easily with an associate or bachelor’s degree as with a postgraduate degree. Advancement depends as much on a journalist’s instincts as it does on their education, training, and experience.

Associate

An associate in journalism prepares graduates for journalism jobs including copywriter, publicist, researcher, or segment producer. A typical curriculum includes digital production, editing, news reporting, and ethics and media law. Most students complete an associate degree in two years. Graduates can enter the workforce immediately after graduation or continue to an undergraduate journalism or related program.

Bachelor’s

Common bachelor’s classes include broadcast news writing, copy editing and design, and mass communication and society. Learners also study media law and ethics. A journalism bachelor’s degree usually qualifies graduates to become news editors, content managers, corporate communication specialists, and digital strategists. Most journalism bachelor’s degrees comprise 120 credits, an internship, and a culminating thesis or capstone project.

Master’s

Journalism jobs for master’s degree-holders include top-level positions as senior correspondent, television news anchor, and executive editor. Coursework varies depending on a student’s area of expertise and professional objectives. Most schools offer courses in computational journalism, business and economic reporting, U.S. politics, and deadline writing. A master’s degree meets the educational requirement for a doctorate in journalism and related fields.

Doctorate

Positions such as journalism professor, academic dean, or director of journalism research often require a journalism doctorate. Most programs encourage candidates to create an individual plan of study around their dissertation topic and career goals. Program coursework varies but often includes media sociology, telecommunication law, and strategic communication. Most journalism doctorates take five years to complete and require candidates to write and defend a dissertation. They may also need to complete an internship.

Online Guide to Accredited Colleges and Universities

How Much Does a Journalism Degree Cost?



National Center for Education Statistics data reveal an average 2019-2020 tuition of $21,035 for in-state students. Undergraduates at private institutions paid an average of $48,965. Both amounts include room and board. Online learners paid considerably lower tuition, with an average of $9,349 at in-state schools. Distance students at private institutions paid an average tuition of $35,807. The cost of an on-campus or online journalism bachelor’s will likely approximate these amounts.

Students should note that some public schools allow out-of-state online enrollees to pay in-state tuition. Since this option can mean significant savings, online enrollees should learn whether a prospective institution offers this opportunity.

How Much Do Journalism Majors Make?



Journalists with several years of relevant experience, a postgraduate degree, or industry-recognized certification usually earn median salaries higher than the current national average of $41,950. The industry and state where journalists work can also impact their salary.

Organizations that offer grantmaking and giving services pay practitioners in this field the highest average salary of $112,470. The telecommunications industry and companies that provide information services pay the next highest salaries of $87,750 and $76,400, respectively. The radio and television broadcasting industry, the second most common employer, pays an average salary of $72,880.

Journalists who work in the nation’s capital earn the highest average salary at $115,980. The following states also paid journalists top salaries: New York, Georgia, California, and Virginia. Journalists in these areas make $90,450, $74,270, $73,990, and $67,140, respectively.

Career and Salary Outlook for Journalists



Well-crafted journalism programs give students many chances to develop research, writing, interviewing, and reporting skills. Graduates can apply these skills to many professional arenas, including the four below. Journalists can qualify for top management positions by gaining experience. They can also earn certifications and advanced degrees.

  • Editor

    Editorial duties often depend on the company size and specific practice arena. Most editors choose material to publish or air, set editorial calendars and deadlines, plan budgets, and negotiate contracts. In small agencies, they proofread and review submissions prior to publication or airing. This process includes checking for grammatical errors, overall tone, and compliance with guidelines.

  • Broadcast, Sound, and Video Technician

    Graduates with a strong interest and well-developed skills in technology can explore a journalism career in broadcast and video technology. Duties vary but may include operating and maintaining equipment for production, recording, and editing news broadcasts. Professionals in large organizations often specialize in a specific field, such as sound recording or video editing.

  • Technical Writer

    Technical writers distill complex material and information to make them more understandable for readers or viewers. They write instructions for using products or software and create diagrams to demonstrate different processes. Technical writers may review materials prior to publication or airing to check for clarity and accuracy.

  • Writers and Authors

    Writers with a journalism background often qualify to become staff writers, publicists, advertising copywriters, and book authors. Writers can focus on traditional media or explore digital options as bloggers, influencers, or product reviewers.


Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Editor $63,400 -7%
Broadcast, Sound, and Video Technician $47,420 9%
Technical Writer $74,650 7%
Writers and Authors $67,120 -2%

Source: Bureau Labor of Statistics

Resources for Journalists

  • American Press Institute Affiliated with the News Media Alliance, API helps publishing professionals engage their audience, increase revenues, and enhance public-service journalism. API also serves the publishing industry. It provides cutting-edge research and information about organizational changes that impact journalism.
  • American Society of Journalists and Authors ASJA provides resources for freelance writers to help them establish or grow their writing or journalism careers. The organization maintains a regularly updated job board.
  • Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication AEJMC members can explore scholarships and internships and access publications with the latest journalism-related news. AEJMC offers career development services such as training courses, fellowships, and postgraduate programs.
  • Investigative Reporters & Editors The organization offers networking and mentorship opportunities for student members. IRE features training options, fellowships, and scholarships. It also hosts a job center for practitioners at every level of their journalism careers.

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