Journalists ask questions, write compelling stories, and uncover truths. Of course, the journalism industry does not look the way it did half a century ago, or even a decade ago. As the Internet has become ubiquitous, more and more consumers turn to their devices for news and away from conventional print newspapers. Journalists and reporters are now more creative with how they report the news. While some still work at local newspapers, others turn to freelance work or digital publications.
The internet has also contributed to the rise of widespread misinformation, which means reporting and fact checking remain important. Plus, although traditional reporting jobs hang in limbo, the number of writers should increase by 9% from 2016 to 2026, as projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Keep reading this guide to find help evaluating the best journalism degree programs for you and your career goals.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Journalism?
More than anything, journalism requires passion and commitment to the truth. Students should avoid enrolling in journalism degrees under any illusions; as technology and social media evolve, newspapers and other physical publications sometimes struggle to remain profitable business models. As a result, journalists might risk feeling unstable in their careers. But journalists often enter the industry because they believe in the principles of the free press. They want to tell people's stories and hold the corrupt accountable through thorough research and reporting of facts. Therefore, while a journalism career may not be the most lucrative, it could provide a sense of fulfillment and purpose.
A degree in journalism equips students with a range of skills, including interviewing, writing, and editing. Multimedia, television, and radio journalists also learn technical production skills, such as filming and editing footage.
If you attend college right after high school and desire a traditional college experience, on-campus programs probably fit you best. On the other hand, online journalism degrees allow working professionals or nontraditional students to enroll part time and study at their own pace. On-campus programs commonly offer more opportunities for students to connect with peers and network with professors, but online students may still make connections with their classmates through online chat services or live online lectures. Whether students enroll online or on campus, journalism schools typically run career advice services that help graduates find jobs.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Journalism?
The obvious career choices for a journalism major includes reporters and editors. Yet the skills students learn in journalism school apply to other potential careers as well. Many professionals who graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism go on to work in the fields of public relations, advertising, or copywriting. Below are a few possible careers for graduates with a bachelor's degree in journalism:
- Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts
Reporters and similar professionals write articles and publish news stories. Their tasks include finding, interviewing, and fact checking the statements given by sources. The job also may consist of covering breaking news, like crime and safety.
Median Annual Salary: $40,910
Projected Growth Rate: -9%
Editors edit reporters' articles, but their responsibilities go far beyond editing and revising. They guide reporters in deciding which stories to pursue and what questions to ask. Editors may also influence the final publications.
Median Annual Salary: $58,770
Projected Growth Rate: -1%
- Public Relations Specialists
Journalism degrees equip students with the skills that apply to public relations specialists as well. In fact, some journalism programs offer concentrations in public relations. These professionals maintain a positive reputation for individual clients and companies. They often write press releases and answer reporters' questions.
Median Annual Salary: $59,300
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
Copywriters write how-to guides and the text in advertising campaigns, among many other things. They must draft their writing with clear and straightforward language. One specific subset of copywriters are technical writers, who write specialized or mechanical information such as instruction manuals.
Median Annual Salary: $61,820
Projected Growth Rate: 8%
How to Choose a Bachelor's Program in Journalism
When writing stories, journalists need to exercise thorough research skills. Choosing which journalism programs to apply to requires a substantive amount of research as well. Although the field of journalism offers journalists many advantages, such as the ability to reveal abuses of power, reporters rarely earn six-figure salaries right off the bat. As a result, aspiring reporters and editors must make sure they choose journalism programs that can propel them toward their career goals without eating away at their finances.
Read up on the courses and concentrations offered by each journalism program. If you choose to enroll in an on-campus program, location matters too. Students interested in political reporting may find a program in Washington D.C. offers a more substantial and awarded curriculum than a political reporting program elsewhere in the U.S. Location also influences your quality of life and cost of living. Tuition costs for bachelor's degrees can reach up to six figures. Look up potential scholarships, grants, and loans to help offset costs.
Consider whether you prefer conventional on-campus programs or online programs. Either way, most journalism programs require students to complete internships or professional projects before graduation. After all, students can only learn so much in the classroom; they must practice exercising their skills in the real world. Research what sort of internship, professional experience, or study abroad experiences each journalism program offers.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's Programs in Journalism
Journalism involves thoroughly checking statements to evaluate whether those claims hold value and truth. Accreditation in higher education operates much in the same way. Accrediting agencies regularly send representatives to check on different programs at colleges and universities. Those representatives observe courses and professors and assess whether students receive a quality education. Employers and graduate schools look at whether applicants possess accredited degrees. The candidate who attended an accredited program holds a competitive edge over the candidate who did not.
That said, when you research potential journalism degrees, ascertain whether the programs possess accreditation from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC). This organization has accredited over 100 journalism programs and departments across the U.S. and around the world.
Regional accreditation indicates that a university holds a high standard of quality for all its programs; therefore, a university with regional accreditation may not have programmatic accreditation for individual programs.
Bachelor's in Journalism Program Admissions
After researching potential journalism degrees, you must make your decision. Apply only to schools you can seriously see yourself attending. Applying to an excessive amount of schools drains your financial resources and energy, resulting in a substandard application. Most students apply to between four and six schools.
Instead, you should stick with one dream school, one safety school, and a few in between. This way you can focus all of your efforts on putting together compelling college applications. Plus, you can avoid a considerable amount of anxiety and sleepless nights. You can find a list of typical admissions requirements from journalism schools below.
- Minimum GPA: Schools often require students to possess a minimum GPA ranging from 2.5 to 3.0.
- Application: Most schools allow students to fill out an application form online. Applications often consist of multiple sections, including biographical information and a personal statement.
- Transcripts: Transcripts from your high school and any colleges you attended are also required. Some colleges charge a small fee for retrieving a transcript.
- Letters of Recommendation: If your preferred journalism school requires recommendation letters, ask for those letters from teachers or past employers who can speak to the quality of your character and ability to handle a college curriculum.
- Test Scores: Most colleges expect students to take either the SAT or ACT and submit their test scores. Some colleges provide average test scores for incoming freshman on their admissions pages.
- Application Fee: Application fees may range from $30 to $75. Sometimes schools waive this requirement for students who demonstrate financial need.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's Program in Journalism?
As the journalism industry evolves to keep up with digital publishing, journalism schools have been transforming their programs as well. No schools offer identical curricula; you can find several reporting programs with various specializations and strengths. Read about what you can expect from journalism bachelor's degrees below.
|TV/Radio Reporting||Journalists who work in television and radio need to know skills that other reporters do not: how to record audio or video footage, produce a segment, and how to interview on camera.||Reporter, producer, broadcast news analyst, correspondent, producer, camera operator|
|Convergence Journalism||In today's world, journalists cannot rely on writing alone. They must utilize social media or record a podcast as well, leveraging the popularity of technology with traditional journalism. In the convergence journalism concentration, professors teach students multimedia skills.||Reporter, editor, producer|
|International Reporting||Students who want to work as foreign correspondents should consider focusing on international reporting. This specialization teaches students how to report on global issues without falling into stereotypes, and it usually requires students to learn at least one other language fluently. International reporting students also typically study abroad.||Foreign correspondent|
|Health and Science Reporting||For many, issues of health and science seem complicated and difficult to understand. Journalists who report on these issues must cover complex topics and simplify them for consumers.||Reporter, editor, broadcast news analyst|
|Investigative Journalism||Investigative journalism takes reporters beyond the stories and daily grind of breaking news. Students who specialize in investigative reporting learn how to obtain documents through open records requests or human sources, as well as data analysis through computer systems like SQL.||Investigative reporter, special projects editor|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Journalism Program
Most journalism degrees offer many of the same basic courses in writing, reporting, and editing. But schools also offer unique courses. While some programs may allow students to enroll in courses concerning cross-cultural reporting, others may provide courses on creating infographics. Below, you will find a selection of courses you might find within journalism programs.
- Business and Economics Reporting
This course teaches student journalists how to report on financial matters and break down economic jargon. While many journalists do not claim to hold expertise in finance and markets, a business and economics course introduces them to these concepts.
- Religion Reporting
Covering religion can prove tricky. Many people consider their religious beliefs a deeply emotional and sensitive topic. If journalists report on religion with a blasé attitude or make incorrect assumptions in their reporting, this damages their credibility. This course prepares reporters to cover this topic with a sense of understanding.
- Editorial Writing
Unlike news articles, which give readers fact-based accounts of recent events or findings, editorials allow columnists to write opinion pieces in publications. Editorial writing does not simply consist of declaring one's opinion, though. Instead, editorial writers must support their opinions with facts in a clear and nonconfrontational tone.
- Computer-Assisted Reporting
Reporters who know how to analyze data can find significant and sometimes surprising patterns that lead to big stories. Computer-assisted reporting courses train students how to track down data and then use programs like SQL and Python to break down and interpret that data.
- News Producing
In broadcast news, producers must understand how to write scripts for TV and radio, direct reporters during interviews, and edit video with software. News producing courses teach students how to master all of those skills. Professors often expect students to go out into the field and produce real news stories during the course.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Journalism?
Journalism degrees typically require students to complete 120 credit hours of coursework. Full-time undergraduate students usually complete their degrees in four years. Students who bring transfer credit or dual credit from high school may complete their degrees a semester or two early. On the other hand, several students spend a longer time earning their degree. They might choose to study abroad for a year, take a break for an internship, or study part time.
If you decide to pursue your bachelor's degree in journalism through an online program, you may find that online degrees provide a lot more flexibility to complete a degree because of the asynchronous format common to online programs. Students studying online can also enroll full time or part time, which adds flexibility for working professionals. Online programs also sometimes offer accelerated tracks that allow you to graduate more quickly.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Journalism?
The cost of journalism degrees varies from school to school. In public colleges and universities, out-of-state students must often pay a higher tuition rate than in-state students. While public institutions charge in-state students tuition as low as $4,000 per semester, out-of-state students may pay up to $13,500 per semester at the same school. For a four-year program, the in-state students would accumulate around $25,500 in debt, while an out-of-state student could pay over $100,000 for the same education. The price of tuition increases for both in- and out-of-state students attending private, nonprofit universities.
Students may also pay additional costs, including technology and lab fees. Online students often pay a distance learning fee, but on-campus students pay for room and board. Some schools offer resident tuition for nonresident students if they apply to schools with high enough grades and test scores. Most schools provide scholarship opportunities or other financial aid options to help students with the heavy financial burden. Alternatively, students can take out student loans through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Keep in mind, though, you may have to spend years or even decades paying back those loans after you graduate.
Resources for Journalism Students
Investigative Reporters and Editors uploads tip sheets from conferences, guides to digging deeper on various topics, links to listervs, and full text of large investigative projects for members.
This website updates journalists on applications and technologies like data visualization, digital security, and audio transcription.
Journalists must oftentimes make tough ethical decisions. The Society of Professional Journalists publishes its entire code of ethics on its website so that reporters can reference it whenever they need.
Journalists follow Associated Press (AP) style, which includes strict, specific, and sometimes obscure rules. Luckily, reporters and editors can purchase a subscription to the entire AP Stylebook online.
Sometimes journalists or journalism students need legal help with open records, but they lack the funding to hire a lawyer. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press operates a hotline that journalists can call for legal advice.
Professional Organizations in Journalism
Professional associations allow student journalists to learn from experienced reporters, editors, and producers in the field. These groups also run mentorship programs, provide legal assistance, publish reporting guides, and offer scholarships and fellowships. Ultimately, professional associations help student journalists build relationships that may help them flourish in their careers.
The Online News Association connects digital journalists through a yearly conference and journalism awards. The organization runs a women's leadership accelerator, a mentorship collaborative, and a fellowship for reporting students attending historically black colleges.
Investigative Reporters and Editors takes the position that every journalist can work as an investigative journalist. IRE organizes educational events like regional workshops and two major annual conferences.
The Society of Professional Journalists functions through a network of local chapters across the U.S. The society's legal defense fund provides financing to for journalists who need legal help with public records.
This organization serves as a space for women journalists to connect with and learn from one another. JAWS hosts one large annual gathering, and it also runs mentorship and fellowship programs.
A dedicated group for African-Americans in journalism, this association runs a media institute, publishes the NABJ Journal, and puts together conferences and workshops. Black students may also apply for scholarships through this organization.