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How to Become a Journalist: Requirements, Careers & Salary

How to become a journalist with an online degree

“Journalism is dead.” You may have heard this (false) statement from friends and family members. You may have even heard it, somewhat ironically, from media personalities. If you assume it’s true, you probably also assume that there is no point in becoming a journalist.

But journalism is as alive as ever. It’s changing, evolving, expanding, progressing, digitizing, and blurring. But it’s certainly not dead; not even close. There is still a need for high-quality, research-driven, intensely-focused journalists. They may no longer work for newspapers, but the best journalists in the country and the world can still earn a strong income, and they can still provide an important service.

If you are considering a career in journalism, you should know that it is still very much a possibility. From small-town newspapers to news-oriented websites with millions of daily visitors, there are plenty of opportunities for would-be journalists. It takes commitment, integrity, and tenacity, but with the right approach and the right education, you can learn how to become a journalist, and be the best in your area; maybe even the world!

In this article, we’ll address topics and questions such as…

How to Become a Journalist

There are many paths to a journalism career, so it’s hard to define a specific way to becoming a journalist. That said, here are the typical steps to becoming a journalist…

Step 1: Prepare for Journalism in High School

From student newspapers to local publications and websites, there are many opportunities for an aspiring journalist. As early as possible, you should begin researching, writing, and reporting information. This is an important part of how to become a journalist.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism

Most journalists will have a bachelor's degree in journalism. In journalism school, you’ll learn the basics of research, interviews, and reporting. You’ll not only learn how to write for newspapers, but the top programs will also train you in broadcasting, website journalism, and more.

Step 3: Work as an Intern

Before or after graduation, you will likely need to work as an intern. In this position, you’ll learn the basics of new reporting from a professional organization. You’ll understand the process from a firsthand perspective, and you’ll gain a “foot in the door” for the industry. Although the pay is slim (if there is pay at all), many internships lead to long-term job opportunities.

Step 4: Start Entry Level Journalism Jobs

Regardless of your skills and previous experience, you’ll likely start in one of the many entry level journalism jobs. These jobs help you build your resume and portfolio, and while the pay may not be significant, it can lead to many future opportunities.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Once you have completed schooling, internships, and worked in entry level journalism jobs, you can start to advance your career, hopefully landing the dream position you’ve always wanted. Whether you want to be a columnist, an editor, a sports reporter, or a foreign correspondent, now is the time to seek the journalism career you have always wanted.

This is how to become a journalist. But is becoming a journalist right for you? To find out we need to explore this career in further detail.

What Does a Journalist Do?

The role of a journalist is to provide the public with accurate, unbiased, unblemished information on current events from local and world news. Traditionally, a journalist is associated with newspaper reporting, but this is no longer the case. In fact, newspaper reporters have been only a fraction of the journalism career for a long time. Radio reporters and television reporters are also part of the journalism industry, and have been for decades.

At its core, the job of a journalist is to deeply research a given topic or event and provide information to readers, viewers, and listeners in a clear and honest manner. Journalism, above everything else, requires clear communication. It’s one thing to be a great researcher and a dogged interviewer, but if you can’t relay what you have learned to the audience, you won’t be an effective journalist.

What Can You Do With a Journalism Degree?

One of the top benefits for entering this career is that there are many types of journalists. From newspaper reporters to on-site television reporters to political analysts, there are many directions for your journalism career.

Journalism as a career can be divided in many ways, including what you cover and what medium you work with. As a journalist, you can cover numerous subjects, including:

  • Local news
  • Sports
  • Global events
  • Politics
  • Outdoors and recreation
  • Weather
  • Investigation
  • Crime

Of course, there are also different mediums for you to work within. Some are rising, some are falling, but they all present a unique opportunity for your career. Options include:

  • Newspapers
  • Television stations
  • Cable news outlets
  • Radio stations
  • Websites
  • Magazines

In today’s world, there is a seemingly endless supply of options for your career, making journalism a good choice for people who want variety in their work. What can you do with a journalism degree? It turns out you can do quite a lot!

Journalist Education: How to Get Started in Journalism

Want to know how to become a journalist? You’ll need to start with a journalist education. A journalists education will develop your skills as a researcher and communicator, and there are many affordable online journalism degree programs, helping you reach this excellent career in a manner that fits your budget and schedule.

Do You Need a Journalism Degree to be a Journalist?

Not exactly. But if you want to be hired by the best publications and organizations, if you want to be an effective journalist, a degree is certainly important. Fortunately, there are no official journalism qualifications like you have with other professions. If you want to know how to become a journalist without a degree, you should understand that it will take longer and you may not have as many opportunities. But it is possible.

Which Journalism Degree is Right for Me?

If you are considering becoming a journalist, you should understand the types of classes and subjects you’ll study during your journalist education. It’s also important to understand the degree levels for a journalism major.

For journalism, there is no official level of education that you need to complete. Neither the government nor the industry at large dictates that you need to achieve a certain degree, such as a bachelor’s or master’s. That said, the majority of journalists have a bachelor’s degree, while some also have master’s. But it’s also possible to work in this career with only a two-year associate’s degree as your journalist education.

If you choose to pursue an associate's degree, you’ll get a fast-paced and affordable online journalism degree. The exact classes will vary by program, but you can expect classes to cover the basics of research, writing, communication, and the ethics or reporting. You will likely take courses that discuss news writing and reporting, opinion writing, and nonfiction writing, as well as general prose. When completing an associate’s degree, you’ll likely need to complete general-study courses as well, such as humanities, arts, English composition, and natural sciences. While these journalist education programs can help you begin working in journalism, many of them are designed to seamlessly transition into four-year bachelor’s programs.

While an associate’s degree creates an excellent journalism career path, most people in this profession have at least a bachelor of journalism. Whether you have already completed an associate’s program or you are going straight to a four-year bachelor’s degree, completing this level of education is a great way to launch your journalism career. The curriculum in a bachelor of journalism will be both broader and deeper. Subjects that you’ll study may include mass media in today’s society, the financial fundamentals of journalism organizations, media editing, and strategies for digital reporting. You’ll have a chance to study topics that cover all forms of journalism, such as the ethics and law of communications, as well as specific subjects, such as web page design, magazine writing, or freelance writing. When you study in a four-year program, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the industry, learn more techniques of reporting, and likely have more opportunities to practice your writing and communication skills in various mediums, including radio, television, magazines, and newspapers.

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For many journalists, a bachelor’s degree is enough of an education.

However, it’s entirely possible to continue your education and achieve a higher level of industry expertise by completing a master’s degree in journalism. During a master’s in journalism, the curriculum will be even more focused and specific. You will likely take classes that cover issues such as multi-media writing, theories of mass communication, and the techniques that create outstanding journalism. You may complete a research project that enhances your skills in reporting, or you may complete advanced video editing or writing projects. You may even complete courses that, while not directly tied to journalism, help you become a better journalist. Statistical methods, for example, can help you better understand and report on data, an essential skill for any aspiring reporter.

Regardless of the specific education level, you can find a journalism degree online. All of these education levels, from associate’s to a master’s in journalism, are available through online institutions, creating an affordable and convenient path to a world-class education. You can meet the basic journalist requirements, and an online education can help make it happen.

Journalism Careers: What’s it Like to Be a Journalist

Knowing how to become a journalist is only the start. To make the right choice for your future, you should understand what it will be like to work in journalism careers. From entry level journalism jobs to advanced positions, what’s it like to work in this interesting and engaging profession? How much will you earn after becoming a journalist, and what can you expect from career option?

Is Journalism a Good Career?

Money and job growth are only part of becoming a journalist. For the best careers, you need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of the profession. This will help you decide if pursuing a journalism education is the right step for your future.

There are certainly many advantages. You’ll have the chance to use your journalist education to inform the public and tell real stories that impact people’s lives. You get to work on interesting projects and, depending on your position and journalism qualifications, you may get to visit interesting and even exotic locations. As a journalist, you’ll literally be learning for a living, which makes it an ideal career for curious people and anyone interested in the world.

A top benefit for becoming a journalist is also access. As an established reporter, you’ll have access to exclusive areas, such as sports stadiums, concerts, movie premiers, political rallies, and many other events that others pay to attend. Yes, you’ll be working, but this access gives the profession the feeling of privilege and exclusivity.

Of course, there are disadvantages, including long work days. Journalist may go through period of relatively light work, then go through months where it seems they are working non-stop. Political reporters and sports journalists often have this experience. It can be stressful, and sometimes you don’t get the story you hoped for. And in some situations, it can even be dangerous, as journalists often cover conflict, disaster, and severe weather events.

Journalist Salary

If you are considering a career as a journalist, you’ll want to know the potential earnings for this career choice. While there are many reasons to become a journalist besides pay, you should understand that the income, while not outstanding, can be strong.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for “reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts” in May of 2020 was $49,300. Compared to many other careers (medical and technology specifically), this may seem like a smaller pay, but it’s actually about $7,000 more than the median salary for all careers.

Overall, there is a strong chance of excellent pay for outstanding journalism professionals who stick with the career. According to the BLS, the top 10% of reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts earn over $127,000 annually.

Unsurprisingly, considering the trajectory of the industry, the pay for people working at “newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers” is $37,900. However, there is a significant chance for people trained in journalism to work for radio and television broadcasting and earn a strong income. The BLS says that professionals working for these types of companies have a median income of $55,030.

So while journalism may not bring the largest paycheck, there is a chance to earn a strong income.

Journalism Career Growth

Even more than pay, career growth is a concern for aspiring journalists. Because of a variety of factors, this career field is actually expected to decline, shrinking by 11% between 2019 and 2029. Overall, there were roughly 52,200 reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts in 2019. By 2029, this number is expected to shrink to 46,200, a loss of roughly 5,800 jobs.

There are many reasons for this reduction, but there are also reasons to be hopeful.

Overall, the main problem for aspiring journalists will be a reduction in advertising dollars. Declining advertising revenue is a symptom of the larger problem impacting the industry: a reduction in readership and viewership. Newspapers, as an example, are expected to continue their overall decline, while television and radio stations will continue to publish information online, which means news organizations will have trouble selling advertising opportunities. Declining revenue will result in more organizations reducing their workforce, which means fewer opportunities for journalists.

But there are significant opportunities for anyone trained in reporting, writing, and communication. If you want to be a journalist, the options are still out there, you just need to go out and grab them. For many aspiring journalists, this doesn’t mean working for a newspaper, but instead creating their own news outlet. The public still desires honest, clear, well-researched journalism; if you can provide it, it won’t matter whether you write for an established national paper or your own personal website, people will find you.

Start Your Journalism Career Today!

If you have the drive, curiosity, and determination, you can become a successful journalist. All it takes is the right education. A journalism degree online can give you the skills you need conveniently so you can launch an exciting career as soon as possible!

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