Dating as far back as the 16th century, journalism has been ingrained into the functioning of our societies. For democratic communities to make informed decisions, they must have access to readily available and updated information on news and current events in the world. An online journalism degree can help you build the skills and critical mindset needed to gather news, vet information, and interpret current events.
As a journalist, you'll interview sources, dig deep to uncover stories, and write compelling articles about current events as well as past incidences. But think hard before becoming a newspaper journalist—traditional newsroom jobs are on the decline, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Web positions, however, are expanding. Online news sites—with a focus on anything from world events to hyperlocal topics—are popping up nearly every day, with updates posted around the clock. You'll have to be willing to jump into digital media journalism—including social media and blogging—if you want to be relevant and employable in today's journalism market.
THE CAREER PATH
According to the American Press Institute (API), the purpose of journalism is to gather, assess, and present information, current events, and news in a way that is accessible to citizens. As technology advances, this information is becoming more available than ever in newer forms, like videos, podcasts, and email briefings. Across the board, different types of journalism professionals share their mission to bring truth to the public, in a variety of formats surrounding diverse topics from an array of sources.
It is not a career for the weak of heart: journalism often involves being on the frontlines of current events, no matter how dangerous or tragic. Many journalists specialize their path to cover a particular type of topic, such as sports or politics, while other journalists may specialize in a particular type of media, like broadcasting or written journalism. Some young individuals may recognize their passion for the truth and decide to pursue a career in journalism early on, while others may decide on journalism after they’ve established a different career. Regardless of where you are starting, there are many different paths in journalism that can be taken at a comfortable speed and tailored to suit the needs and interests of each different individual.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) gives an overview of some of the popular options for journalism careers:
- Reporters - Reporters are probably the stereotypical journalism professional that first came to mind when you pulled up this page -- they are the ones who report the news for newspapers, websites, TV, and radio stations. Journalistic reporting, much like teaching or social work, isn’t the type of career that professionals go into for the money, but rather for ethical reasons or personal passion. On average, reporters make around $40,000 each year. Not to mention, readership and circulation of newspapers are on the decline as alternative forms of media become more available on mobile digital devices like tablets and cellphones. Reporting jobs are expected to be on the decline—by as much as 10%—in the coming decade.
- Editors - These journalism professionals are kind of like the “Directors” of published content. They plan, coordinate, review, and revise material for publication in books, magazines, websites, and newspapers. After many years, reporters and other writers may advance to become editors. Experience with various forms of media is beneficial when applying for editor positions. Although there is no projected change in the demand for editors shortly, the years of work experience pay off more than $58,000 on average each year.
- Public Relations (PR) Specialists - Similar but slightly different to classic journalists are PR specialists, who work for specific organizations or institutions to help shape and maintain a positive public opinion by sharing updated content and information. These professionals may be referred to as communications specialists, media specialists, or even press secretaries, depending on the setting. In general, PR specialists are among the highest paid and fastest growing jobs in the field of journalism. They make around $59,000 each year on average, and as organizations continue to strive to improve their public image, the demand for PR specialists is expected to increase by 9% by 2026.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Successful journalism professionals have a passion for research, communication, learning the truth, and bringing information to the public. Journalism professionals must often be relentlessly persistent to get to the content they want and fearless in their pursuit of understanding. Journalism professionals often work with many different types of individuals and professionals and must have the interpersonal skills to build positive relationships across their differences. They must be able to problem-solve when faced with obstacles and overcome those obstacles to find solutions. Above all, professionals that work in the world of journalism must think out of the box to present the truth of their organizations, institutions, and governments to the masses of people. If you’re ready to bring your creativity to the forefront of your passion for truth and information, then a career in journalism could be the perfect match for you.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
Most entry level journalism jobs will require a bachelor’s degree. Expect a journalism degree online to contain a heavy dose of the liberal arts along with courses in communications, research and news writing. Certificates might make sense for those who hold a bachelor's in a different area but want to move into the news trade. Certificates or associate's degrees can help seasoned writers acquire digital media and project management skills.
Practical experience is crucial for journalists, and internships are generally required or strongly encouraged for online students. If you'd like to gain clips (samples of your published work), you could also work for a school newspaper or website. Or try freelancing for different news organizations to gain more publishing experience.
As a graduate with a journalism degree, you could get hired for a newspaper or news website. You could also work in public relations or communications in the private or public sector. Other careers include researcher or freelance writer. Evaluate your abilities—able to talk to new people easily, able to write quickly, excellent researcher, etc.—and find a position that requires these same skills.
If you're a journalist with experience and a bachelor's degree, you could also explore an online master's degree program. An advanced degree can help prepare an experienced reporter for teaching in academia or managing a newsroom. A master's degree isn't necessary to work as a reporter or writer, but it may open up new opportunities for you.
Look for programmatic accreditation from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) for degree programs that have an addition seal of quality beyond proper accreditation.
Our rankings reveal that an online bachelor’s degree in journalism can cost more than $50,000, so each developing professional should consider all the options that meet their budget and academic needs. Click on a program below to view accreditation, tuition, and admission information.