Whether you’re fascinated with politics, love the idea of reporting on sports, or have general curiosity, becoming a journalist might be a great career path. You might get to cover many big events as a journalist. This type of career can be rather rewarding.
If you’re considering a career in journalism, you should learn how to become a journalist. Let’s look at what it will take if you want to make journalism your career.
How to Become a Journalist in 6 Steps
Step #1 – Finish High School
High school will be vital to your path to becoming a journalist. You will want to keep your GPA up and score high on the SAT or ACT. With the right SAT or ACT prep course, you can ensure you score high.
The best colleges and universities will look for a high GPA and test score for admittance. If you want to become a journalist, getting into a top school is important. It will help open up doors and may lead to a higher salary.
During high school, it can be helpful to take journalism and writing courses. You should also consider working for the school website or newspaper if you have one. Any experience you can gain with writing or journalism is helpful.
Step #2 – Get your Degree
You will have some choices when it comes to your journalism degree. Getting a degree is most likely going to be required if you want to enter this field. Most magazines, digital publications, and broadcast stations will require a degree.
Colleges may offer an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree program. In some cases, journalism will be a separate department. Other schools put it under the communication umbrella.
Choosing a top college or university can help open up doors into this field. You should also consider getting a graduate degree. A master’s degree in journalism can help you gain better job prospects.
You will likely study specific types of courses while getting a degree. These courses may include:
- Mass communication
- Broadcast journalism
- Investigative reporting
- Mass communication law
- News writing
- Social media journalism
- Advanced reporting
There may be other classes, too, but these will be some of the core topics you will cover during college.
Step #3 – Complete an Internship
It’s common for journalists to start as interns. With an internship, you can gain valuable on-the-job training. It can also allow you to network with others in the field.
Media outlets often partner with universities to offer internships. So it’s a good idea to complete a summer journalism internship if you can find one.
Step #4 – Build Your Portfolio
When you’re new to journalism, you need to start building your portfolio. Anything you can do to make it look attractive will be helpful. So whether it’s pieces you wrote for a school blog or newspaper or freelance work you did, add it to your portfolio.
Step #5 – Create Your Own Blog
You don’t have to be employed as a journalist to cover stories. Instead, you can show off your skills, build your portfolio, and work on your writing by starting a blog. This can allow you to report on the most interesting and important topics.
Plus, the comments will give you some feedback to help hone your skills.
Step #6 – Be Nosy and Available
Journalists have to be nosy, and they have to be available as close to 24/7 as possible. Breaking stories don’t wait for a sleeping journalist. If you’re nosey and willing to ask questions, you can show off your journalism skills with incredible reports.
Becoming a Freelance Journalist
It’s common for journalists to choose the freelance route. This allows a journalist to contribute to any outlet they want without a single employer pulling their strings.
As a freelance journalist, you must create a large network and learn how to pitch often. Producing valuable pieces is helpful, but you need to know how to pitch your pieces to the right outlets.
If you want to become a freelance journalist, you’ll need to network consistently. You will also want to know the editors and publications well, along with their audience. Of course, you also need to find stories that add value. Be ready for rejection, but don’t give up, as you can become a very good freelance journalist with time.
Basic Requirements to Become a Journalist
While there are no hard and fast rules for the requirements to become a freelance journalist, if you want to work for a media outlet, most will require the following:
- Bachelor’s degree in journalism or communications
- Experience working with a media outlet or publication
- Excellent written and oral communication skills
- Comfortable asking hard-hitting questions
- Ability to cover multiple subjects
- Excellent investigating and research skills
- Willingness to work strange hours and travel
It’s common for a journalist to travel at a moment’s notice and work odd hours. You will also need to cover multiple subjects if you want to break into this highly competitive field.
A Few Tips to Set You Apart as a Journalist
Journalism is a very competitive field. You have to become very good at what you do to get the best stories. If you want to become a journalist, consider these tips.
Read, Read, and Read some more
You want to read publications in your niche and other niches. It’s important to stay up-to-date on the news within the areas you report on. Read publications you want to write for and your competitors. It can help you find stories and make connections.
Many journalists can make extra money by providing their own pictures for stories. You can also take on photojournalism jobs if you’re a freelancer. Since photography is a huge part of journalism, this can be a helpful skill.
Learn Another Language
Bi-lingual journalists are very sought after. If you can speak another language, it can help you to report from another country. This can give you more job prospects as a journalist.
Join Journalism Organizations
Another way to network and make the right connections is through a journalism organization. But, again, there are plenty to choose from, and many will even offer free memberships for students.
These tips can help set you apart in the field of journalism.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Journalist
How much can I make as a journalist?
The salary can range quite a bit as there are different types of journalists. As a reporter or correspondent, you will likely make an average salary of around $41K per year.
Your salary will also range depending on the type of job you take. For example, editors make around $53K per year, while a sportswriter might only make around $24K per year. You can also become a photojournalist and make around $36K per year.
Some journalists accept freelance gigs to earn a higher salary, too.
How long will it take to become a journalist?
You will likely need a bachelor’s degree to become a journalist. This will take about four years to complete. Then, if you get a master’s degree, expect it to take another two years.
Once you have a degree, you can likely find an entry-level journalist job. However, it will take several years of experience to build your portfolio and become recognized as a journalist.
Is journalism growing?
It depends on how you look at journalism. When looking at the numbers for reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts, no, it’s not growing. In fact, experts believe these types of positions will decline by about 10% over the next ten years.
Most journalism is moving online. This means, if you want to become a journalist, you can expect to write for an online website, report for a YouTube channel, or even host your own podcast or interview show. This area of journalism is growing rapidly.
What type of hours do journalists work?
The hours for a journalist can be rather inconsistent and unpredictable. You might need to cover a story in the middle of the night or the middle of the day. With strict deadlines, it can be a grueling job at times.
Which colleges and universities offer the best journalism programs?
There are many great journalism programs available for college students. Some of the top schools include:
- University of Georgia
- New York University
- Boston University
- University of Florida
- Michigan State University
- Marquette University
Along with these schools, you can find many others that offer a journalism program.
What is the main duty of a journalist?
Typically, the most important duty of a journalist is to investigate. Therefore, you will collect and present evidence through one of many different media outlets.
Who hires Journalists?
The most common employers of journalists are still TV stations, radio stations, newspapers, and magazines. However, online publications also hire journalists, and this is a growing area.