An online journalism degree prepares learners for exciting roles at local newspapers, international news bureaus, and online publications. However, the competition for journalism jobs is steep, so learners should begin preparing for their careers while they're still in school.
Organized students can plan well in advance by participating in internships, preparing their resumes, asking professors to write letters of recommendation, and taking advantage of networking opportunities. Degree seekers can also look for ways to gain experience on campus. Aside from taking relevant journalism classes, they can write for the student newspaper or other campus publications.
Read on to learn more about what a journalism career entails. This guide features information about education and experience requirements, common jobs, salaries at each degree level, and professional resources.
Skills Gained in a Journalism Program
Earning a journalism degree teaches learners a variety of skills and competencies, preparing them to excel in the industry. In the classroom, students learn to interview subjects, conduct research, and outline stories. They can also take advantage of internships to work in practical settings and participate in journalism clubs and organizations — both on campus and through professional organizations — to gain more expertise.
- Written and Oral Communication
Whether interviewing people or writing a magazine article, journalists must know how to communicate effectively with a broad spectrum of audiences. They must also know how to use specific style conventions, such as AP Style.
Getting to the bottom of a story often requires far more than simply googling a topic. Journalists must possess advanced research skills to find the information they need. This could involve talking to sources, visiting archives, reviewing case files, or getting access to sealed documents.
Readers rely on journalists to provide unbiased reporting about the news. As a result, it's important for these professionals to try and keep personal opinions out of their writing and simply report information as it happens — free of strong political or religious undertones.
Journalists who write for magazines or other narrative-driven publications must know how to keep readers interested, even in longform articles. To do this, they must create a story arc that helps seamlessly carry an article from start to finish, while keeping audiences engaged.
- Time Management
Journalists often juggle several assignments at once, all while thinking up ideas for new pieces. To accomplish all their responsibilities in a given day, journalists must develop excellent time management skills. This may involve scheduling specific times for research, writing, or responding to emails.
Why Pursue a Career in Journalism?
A career in journalism can be very rewarding. Many professionals spend years employed in the field and work their way up from assistant positions to managerial roles. The fast-paced industry offers a satisfying career path where no day is exactly the same. Individuals who enjoy continually learning about new things, interacting with a variety of people, and helping educate others often find great satisfaction in these roles.
Numerous industries rely on news writers and correspondents to keep them connected to the field. As a result, earning a journalism degree can translate into a career in politics, healthcare, technology, or health and wellness. As demonstrated in the next few sections, working in journalism can also prove fairly lucrative for those who stay the course and work their way up to advanced positions over time.
How Much Do Journalism Majors Make?
Journalism career salaries vary based on many factors. The industry in which graduates choose to work can make a big difference; for instance, workers in a nonprofit setting usually earn less than those in a corporate setting. Additionally, salaries vary based on an individual's amount of experience, job responsibilities, and level of education. Students should also consider location, as businesses in cities with higher costs of living usually pay employees more than those in less expensive places.
Check out the table below to get a sense of average salaries for common journalism careers. However, remember that this only provides a snapshot of the many career possibilities available to journalism grads.
How to Succeed in Journalism
Journalism and communication programs are available at every degree level. Students should consider their professional and academic goals to decide whether earning an advanced degree will help them obtain their target career. For example, an associate degree prepares individuals to work in some support roles, although most employers prefer graduates who hold a bachelor's degree. Students interested in learning more about programs at this level can check out some of the best bachelor's in journalism programs.
Alternatively, a master's degree offers a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the field, preparing graduates for senior managerial and research positions. You can read about master's in journalism programs for more details. Finally, doctoral programs may appeal to students looking to work in academia or advanced leadership roles.
Journalism can be a competitive industry, so students should be sure to enroll in meaningful classes, take advantage of additional training/networking opportunities, and participate in internships while still in school. These experiences can give students a better understanding of professional settings; allow them contribute to meaningful projects; and offer opportunities to meet other professionals who can write letters of recommendation or, in some cases, hire them after graduation.
Additionally, if your college or university offers a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) chapter or journalism club, take advantage of these communities to participate in competitions and attend conferences.
Licensure and Certification
The field of journalism does not typically require licensure or certification for employment. However, the PRSA does provide accreditation for public relations professionals seeking this qualification.
Concentrations Available to Journalism Majors
A career in journalism covers a broad array of industries, areas of expertise, and career possibilities. A concentration can help students tailor their degrees to match their interests and build more specific, pertinent skills. The specializations discussed below give degree seekers a sense of what to expect, but students should also check with individual schools to learn more about specific offerings and make sure that an institution can help them meet their professional goals.
- Broadcast and Digital Journalism: This concentration appeals to individuals who see themselves working in front of or behind the camera. Students learn to produce stories, anchor news segments, and create content for television and online outlets. They also cover emerging trends in digital broadcasting.
- Digital and Print Journalism: Students who select this concentration typically want to write news for magazines, newspapers, and/or online publications. The concentration covers topics such as creating news articles, covering breaking news, writing features, developing editorials, and managing daily or weekly columns.
- Photojournalism: Photojournalism concentrations teach students to use still photography and videos to convey information. Learners cover topics related to telling stories through visuals, editing photos and videos, complying with legal requirements such as privacy and consent, and understanding various types of camera gear.
- Public Relations: This concentration prepares graduates to work with companies and individuals who want to enhance their public persona, build a brand image, and/or provide access to spokespeople and other marketing professionals to further underlying goals. Students also learn to handle crisis communications.
What Can You Do With a Journalism Degree?
While there are many different career types in the journalism field, students should remember that access to these roles depends largely on a worker's level of education. Individuals who want to qualify for roles as journalists, reporters, or correspondents must usually possess a bachelor's degree. Alternatively, those who want to work in areas of research, academia, or advanced leadership must have a master's or doctoral degree.
As students move up the educational ladder, they may qualify for jobs with more responsibilities and earn higher levels of pay. As you review the following sections, consider how each degree level fits with your personal and professional goals.
Associate Degree in Journalism
Associate degrees in journalism offer students an introduction to the field and prepare them to apply for assistant and support positions. These programs may appeal to learners who want to work in journalism but want to complete a shorter program. Associate degrees in journalism usually require two years of full-time study and about 60 credits.
Coursework combines studies in news writing, communication, photojournalism, and digital media, as well as general education studies in areas like math, science, English, and history. Students who attend properly accredited schools can usually transfer these credits to a bachelor's program if they want to continue their education after graduating.
- Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technicians
Working on the sets of television shows, concerts, movies, and radio programs, these professionals ensure broadcast equipment works properly and that the lighting, audio, and video settings are all correct for the project at hand. They may also edit the visual and audio settings of recorded media.
While reporters capture the news with words, photographers use their skills in the visual arts to take photographs. They may work for newspapers, magazines, or in a freelance capacity for several clients. They take photos, arrange lighting, and use editing software to correct any imperfections before supplying final images to their client.
- Desktop Publishers
These individuals design and create the layouts for printed and digital materials. They may work on brochures, newspapers, magazines, or books, lending their creative eye to the placement of images, graphics, and text to create a functionally designed final product.
Bachelor's Degree in Journalism
A bachelor's degree in journalism qualifies graduates for entry-level roles in the field, while also preparing them to advance professionally. Full-time students usually take four years to complete roughly 120 credits in order to graduate. In addition to general education and core course topics, some programs allow degree seekers to concentrate their knowledge in a particular subdiscipline of the field. Interested students can access in-depth online resources and learn more about this degree path.
- Reporters and Correspondents
These professionals research and report the news through television shows, radio programs, podcasts, newspapers, websites, and other types of media. They work alongside editors and other news staff to identify and write stories, collect interviews, and find relevant sources.
Editors work alongside writers to ensure final projects are grammatically and structurally sound. They check for typing errors, verify facts, help further develop story arcs, and approve final versions of pieces. They also make decisions about which articles and stories get published.
- Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators
While many journalists work in front of cameras, these professionals work behind the scenes to ensure newscasters and other reporters are properly framed in the shot with good lighting. After shooting a program, they work with directors and producers to create edited versions of the material.
- Technical Writers
Technical writers can work for individual companies or in freelance positions for a portfolio of clients. They commonly write the text for how-to manuals, instructional guides, and other materials that help readers understand concepts or accomplish particular tasks.
- Writers and Authors
Writers create content for many different types of publications, including blogs, advertisements, TV, film and theatre scripts, magazines, newspapers, and books. They use their knowledge of grammar and syntax to deliver well-written pieces that appeal to specific audiences.
Master's Degree in Journalism
After gaining a few years of experience in journalism, some individuals may decide they want to further their education by completing an advanced degree. Master's degrees in journalism offer versatile outcomes for students interested in management positions or other specialized roles. These programs take 1-3 years to complete, depending on whether students enroll in a part-time, full-time, or accelerated path. If you want to learn more, read about some of the top online master's in journalism programs. Journalism students develop many skills applicable to the careers described in the table below.
- Public Relations and Fundraising Managers
These professionals concern themselves with maintaining and improving the public image of companies or clients. They create press releases, arrange interviews, act as spokespeople, and work to develop an individual or business identity that is viewed favorably by the public.
Whether working in a standard city library, at a school or college, or in a medical library, these professionals help manage the books, manuscripts, and digital materials in a library's collection. They may organize materials, plan programming, assist patrons in finding items, and select new materials to add to the library's holdings.
Historians — whether working as writers, researchers, teachers, or museum professionals — use their understanding of the past to help educate the public. They may focus on particular eras (e.g., the middle ages) or particular topics (e.g., women's history) within their projects.
- Political Scientists
Political scientists study, explore, and convey information about American and international political systems. They may work directly in politics as advisors and campaign managers, serve as political correspondents for news organizations, or teach students.
Sociologists research how humans behave when placed in different cultures, socioeconomic groups, locations, and communities. They conduct surveys and interviews, collect data, and present their findings in various academic and professional settings.
Doctoral Degree in Journalism
A doctoral program in journalism represents the highest degree in the discipline and prepares learners for advanced careers. However, completing a doctoral degree in journalism is not for everyone. These programs typically take 3-5 years to complete and require students to successfully pass advanced coursework before researching and writing a dissertation. After graduating, individuals may qualify for positions in areas related to research, academics, or senior-level leadership. Because many learners pursue this credential while also working, schools may provide distance learning options that better align with the schedules of busy professionals.
- Journalism Professors
Working in colleges and universities, these professionals prepare lectures, assign readings and papers, grade tests, offer mentorship, advise students on plans of study, and write letters of recommendation. They may also conduct research and write about journalism, presenting their findings at academic conferences.
- Chief Executive Officers
CEOs lead organizations by providing strategic planning, management of staff from the top down, and leadership through times of growth and change. Those working in journalism may serve as the CEO of a magazine, newspaper, or an online publication.
- Research Directors
These individuals explore the roots of journalism and the trajectory of the field, postulating where it might go in the future. They may consider how technology can be incorporated into the discipline and ways of innovating within the field.
What Industries Can You Work in With a Journalism Degree?
Journalists work in many different industries to keep stakeholders, clients, companies, and the general public abreast of news and other topics. Because of this, graduates of journalism programs can combine their interests and passions to find a field that works for them. For example, some may feel drawn to politics, while others want to focus on travel and leisure. Check out some of the industries below to get a sense of your options.
- Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers
Journalists in these mediums write for local, state, and national publications about general news topics.
- Radio and Television Broadcasting
Professionals in this industry translate news into radio segments, newscasts, and other types of digital media that can be streamed and aired.
- Other Information Services
This industry refers to specialized news areas such as health and wellness, environmental sustainability, food, and international topics.
- Motion Picture and Video Industries
Individuals in these industries research, write, photograph, record, and present on topics like upcoming movies and television series, celebrities, and sports.
- Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools
Graduates who want to educate the next generation of journalists typically work as professors in various higher education settings.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How Do You Find a Job as a Journalism Graduate?
Finding work as a new graduate of a journalism program doesn't need to be difficult, but students should plan ahead. Certifications aren't as common in this industry as others, but learners who complete a specialty or concentration while earning their degree can better define their skills, interests, and expertise to hiring managers.
Students should also look for opportunities to network with other professionals and regularly peruse job boards. The Global Investigative Journalism Network, JournalismJobs.com, and the Society of Professional Journalists all provide resources for individuals looking to land a job. Approximately 78% of journalists work in radio and television broadcasting, followed by 11% who own their own businesses or freelance, and 3% who work in educational settings. Many areas of the field should experience steady growth in the coming years. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of writers will grow by 8% between 2016 and 2026.
Professional Resources for Journalism Majors
Based at the Missouri School of Journalism, ASNE provides members with access to an annual conference, emerging and minority leadership programs, awards, a legal hotline, industry news, regularly scheduled events and webinars, and a job board.
With a focus on increasing diversity in America's newsrooms, AAJA works to champion Asian American journalists and advocate for more equitable coverage for people of color. The group provides a student leaders program, scholarships, internships, an annual conference, and a career center.
APME provides members with access to in-house publications, a leader's conference, continuing education opportunities, an award series, career support, and a First Amendment center that helps journalists understand their protected rights.
For individuals working in the medical and health fields, AHCJ provides a Center for Excellence, blogs, an award series, industry news, webcasts, health data, resources for freelancers, research on common topics in the field, and an active jobs board.
NAHJ empowers and advocates for Hispanic and Latino individuals working in journalism. The group oversees the Excellence in Journalism Conference, scholarships, leadership development programs, student programs, regional and national events, and in-house publications.
Established in 1985, the NNA protects and promotes newspapers across the country. The group provides public policy initiatives, contests and awards, local and national events, conferences, media kits, and a member directory.
NAJA has served approximately 500 members throughout Indian Country since its inception. Some of the services offered include Native American fellowships, scholarships, university chapters, regional events, an annual media conference, a job board, and reporting guidelines.
Created for reporters working in areas of climate, health, energy, environment, and science journalism, SEJ provides an online journal; awards; grants; fellowships; workshops; an annual conference; meetups; young journalist initiatives; and a digital library featuring publications, blogs, job postings, and teaching tools.
NABJ provides scholarships, internships, the Young African Journalists program, webinars, journals, style guides, diversity programs, an annual convention, regional conferences, a media institute, and a series of annual awards for recognizing outstanding Black journalists.
IRE hosts in-person and digital events and training, a comprehensive data library, a fully stocked resource center, job postings, member awards, industry publications, free webinars, a mobile app, and active social media accounts.