Become a Business Journalist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Aug 10, 2018

Research the requirements to become a business journalist. Learn about the job description and duties, and explore the step-by-step process to start a career in business journalism.

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  • 0:03 Become a Business Journalist
  • 1:35 Earn a Relevant Degree
  • 3:45 Build On-the-Job Experience
  • 5:08 Consider Continuing Education

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Become a Business Journalist

Business journalists cover news about the local, national, and global economies. These specialized journalists report breaking news, compose pieces about business trends, and write profiles on prominent business leaders. Business reporters need to break down complex economic topics into terms understandable to the general public. Job opportunities exist in diverse media outlets, including print, television, radio, and online.

Work in this field can be stressful and fast-paced, particularly when journalists are working to meet deadlines. Night and weekend hours are common as breaking stories develop. Business journalists who succeed in their roles might have the opportunity to advance to positions as editorial managers or news directors.

Business journalists need persistence and stamina to get the facts and the story completed under deadline demands. They also need interpersonal skills for interviewing and for working as part of a journalistic team. They must be able to communicate well verbally and in writing without bias and have social media and multimedia skills. Business journalists also need knowledge of Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, and FileMaker Pro, and equipment used to record images and sound. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reporters and correspondents in general made an average annual salary of $46,560 as of May 2015.

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; graduate degree helpful for advancement
Degree Field Business journalism, journalism, communications or related field
Experience Internship or other hands-on experience; some employers prefer 2+ years experience
Key Skills Persistence and stamina; interpersonal skills; ability to communicate verbally and in writing without bias; social media and multimedia skills; knowledge of Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, and FileMaker Pro; knowledge of image and sound recording equipment
Average Salary (2015)* $46,560 (for all reporters and correspondents)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job postings (July 2012), O*Net OnLine.

Let's trace the steps to become a business journalist.

Step 1: Earn a Relevant Degree

There's no strict formula for becoming a business journalist. Acquiring training in journalism ethics, practices and skills is generally required. Bachelor's degree programs in journalism and communications can provide this training, as can internship opportunities. Some employers, often in smaller markets, open the door to applicants with related degrees in English, political science, or business who demonstrate writing talent, perhaps through experience writing for their school or neighborhood papers.

Though some employers hire business journalists without specific business training, some type of formal business education could improve job opportunities. Some possibilities include completion of a minor, dual degree, or certificate in business, or even a Master of Business Administration. Though not widely available, bachelor's and master's degree programs in business journalism, combining courses in both fields, are options worth considering. Likewise, candidates with business degrees and backgrounds might consider advanced degree or certificate programs in journalism or business journalism to break into this career as well.

Success Tips:

  • Gain hands-on experience through internships and campus news outlets. Most employers want to hire entry-level journalists with experience producing business news reports. Aspiring business journalists can pursue internships with news agencies, as well as provide reports for campus newspapers or broadcast media. These experiences give students opportunities to report business stories that can be used as samples, or clips, for prospective employers. College internships sometime lead to offers of full-time employment.
  • Expand your knowledge of the global economy via international study or internships. Some schools offer business journalism programs in which students can study abroad or complete international internships. Connecting with international business people and journalists allows aspiring business reporters to increase their understanding of the global economy and worldwide media practices.

Step 2: Build On-the-Job Experience

Some reporters launch business journalism careers immediately after graduating from college, either through successful internships or assistance from the career services offered by their schools. Beginning reporters often work at news organizations in smaller markets before advancing to jobs at larger news organizations in major cities. Recent graduates also might seek freelance work for newspapers, online publications, and other news media to launch or build their careers. Some employers favor candidates for business reporting positions with at least two years of journalism or business journalism experience.

Success Tip:

  • Join professional journalism associations. Membership in organizations like the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), the Poynter Institute, or the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) can help both fledgling journalists and veteran reporters with networking, job listings, and professional development. Some professional associations, for example, assist freelance journalists with marketing their work. The SABEW keeps a listserv of freelance business reporters and connects them with potential clients, and the SPJ provides a directory of available freelancers, including business reporters.

Step 3: Consider Continuing Education

Additional training in general and niche areas of business and economics, as well as journalism and news production skills, can enhance a resume and lead to employment opportunities. Continuing education options range from online seminars on topics like finding business stories through social media to graduate degree programs. One option for experienced journalists who wish to advance in business reporting is to apply for a business journalism fellowship. Fellows typically pursue yearlong educational programs to deepen their professional knowledge and networks, which may be financed by tuition waivers and stipends.

To recap, to become a business journalist, you'll likely need to attain education in both journalism and business, which can be acquired through formal education and internships.

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