Become a Political Correspondent: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a political correspondent. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in political correspondence.

Should I Become a Political Correspondent?

Political correspondents gather and analyze information to prepare political reports, articles and interviews for print and online publications, as well as television and radio broadcasts. They inform the public about political news at the local, state, national, and international levels.

Political correspondents often travel to gather information for their reports, and correspondents who cover international politics may be out of the country for long periods of time. Political correspondents working in all types of media are usually on-call when a major news story breaks.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Journalism, political science, communications, or a related liberal arts field
Experience Requirements vary by employer, but some require 3-5 years experience in journalism
Key Skills Strong written and verbal communication; people-oriented; determination; objectivity; familiarity with social media, blogging, and page layout software (such as Adobe InDesign)
Salary (2014) $36,000 (Median salary for all reporters and correspondents)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2012 online job postings, College Board

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Completing a bachelor's degree program in journalism, communications, English, or political science can help individuals pursue careers as political correspondents. Coursework in journalism programs typically includes print and broadcast writing, editing, and media ethics, as well as relevant courses in legal communication and political news press. Students may have to choose a specialization in print or broadcast media.

Political science majors provide students with a thorough understanding of political systems and teach the critical thinking, research, and writing skills that are essential to a political correspondent career. Some schools offer specializations or minors in political journalism that combine courses in political science, communications, and global reporting. Journalism and political science bachelor's degree programs may require students to complete one or more internships.

Success Tips:

  • Gain practical experience. Aspiring political correspondents whose bachelor's programs don't require internships should still consider gaining real-world experience to learn skills that are critical to success in the media field, including the ability to work under pressure and concentrate in a hectic environment. They could intern in a politician's office, with a political campaign, or with the politics desk of a media outlet. Other options include volunteering, working for their schools' newspapers or broadcast stations, and shadowing a political correspondent to learn about day-to-day duties.
  • Make professional contacts. Students can build their networks through career fairs, national research conferences, and local chapters of professional organizations.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Political correspondent positions typically require years of experience in the field and strong knowledge of and enthusiasm for politics. Recent graduates may enter the workforce as general assignment reporters at local media outlets to gain experience writing daily stories as well as following issues as they develop. They can also practice working in multiple formats and integrating text with photos and videos.

Step 3: Build a Portfolio

Entry-level journalists or reporters can build portfolios of political writing clips and gain contacts in the political sphere. After 3-5 years, they may seek positions with larger news organizations and specialize as political correspondents. Additionally, keeping up-to-date with advances in page layout software and digital media can help political correspondents stay competitive in the face of technological changes within the field.

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