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How to Become a Sports Journalist: Career Guide

Find out how to become a sports journalist. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in sports journalism. View article »

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  • 0:00 Should I Become a…
  • 1:13 Earn a Degree
  • 2:29 Develop a Portfolio &…
  • 3:18 Consider Continuing Education

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Sports Journalist?

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's degree beneficial
Degree Fields Journalism or communications
Experience Experience writing and researching stories through internships or college newspapers
Key Skills Excellent written and verbal communication skills; objectivity and persistence; basic computer skills including social media and databases; ability to work long hours in a fast-paced environment
Salary $35,410 (2016 median for sports journalists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine

Sports journalists provide content about sports events and teams for a variety of news platforms, including newspapers, radio and TV shows, magazines, and websites. In general, journalism is a very competitive field. Aspiring sports journalists may have to start out in low-paying, entry-level positions in small markets before moving up the ranks. Once they do, however, they may be able to build a reputation and long-standing career, travel to various sporting events, and even interview athletes.

Key skills for this career include excellent written and verbal communication skills, objectivity for reporting news without bias, persistence for pursuing news stories, basic computer skills including social media and databases, and the ability to work long hours in a fast-paced environment. These skills, as well as experience, weigh heavily on a sports reporter's earning potential. But, according to Payscale.com, sports journalists earned a median salary of $35,410 as of January 2016. Now let's take a look a closer look at the career path toward become a sports journalist.

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Step 1: Earn a Degree

A bachelor's degree in journalism, English, communications or a closely related major is a necessary first step for prospective sports journalists. Such a degree program provides a foundation in writing, reading, critical thinking and other skills necessary for journalists. A journalism curriculum generally includes coursework in interviewing, reporting principles, online journalism and journalism ethics. These programs may also include coursework in specific topics of reporting, including sports journalism and entertainment journalism. Additionally, some universities offer bachelor's degrees specifically in sports journalism.

During college, take advantage of opportunities to participate in an internship, which provides real-world experience working alongside experienced journalists at local publications and news stations. Students may also contact local sports organizations, newspapers or other media outlets for internship opportunities.

Another great way to gain journalism experience is to write for college publications. Doing so can help students hone their interviewing and reporting skills and familiarize them with working under strict deadlines. Aspiring sports journalists can pursue the sports beat to gain experience specific to their field.

Step 2: Develop a Portfolio and Gain Experience

Sports journalists should have a strong journalism portfolio, a collection of journalism samples that demonstrate skills and experience in journalism. Early on, a journalist portfolio may consist of pieces published in college publications during internships. Graduates then present a portfolio to prospective employers.

Sports journalists typically start out in entry-level positions writing for small publications in small towns or cities. As they gain experience, develop their reporting skills and make names for themselves in the field, they may move on to larger, better-known news organizations located in major cities, such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, DC. As the journalist's career advances, his or her portfolio should evolve as well.

Step 3: Consider Continuing Education

While a bachelor's degree suffices for this career, sports journalists may benefit from earning a graduate degree to stand out from other applicants and gain advanced reporting skills. It may be particularly beneficial to sports journalists have trouble kicking off their careers or to those who have bachelor's degrees in fields other than journalism. A graduate degree in journalism generally provides instruction in new digital technologies, multimedia journalism and specialized areas of journalism, and it generally requires completion of a dissertation or thesis project.

To become a sports journalist, you generally need a bachelor's degree in or closely related to journalism, a strong portfolio and experience in the field. Some sports journalists earn graduate degrees to advance in the career.

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