Journalism School: Overview of How to Become a Journalist

A degree in journalism typically covers writing, reporting, ethics and history. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for journalism graduates.

Someone pursuing a career in journalism usually must receive a bachelor's degree in journalism, or sometimes communications. These programs often involve internships to help the student learn their craft through real-world application. Some journalists may also be freelance writers, though research skills are essential no matter the route one takes.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Broadcast Journalism
  • Photojournalism
  • Print, Broadcast and Electronic Journalism

Essential Information

Journalism school provides a broad theoretical foundation in news reporting and teaches reporting skills and ethics. Programs offered through these schools can also provide the opportunities for students to gain practical experience through internships.

Career Reporters and Correspondents Broadcast News Analysts Writers and Authors
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -8% -13% 2%
Average Salary (2015)* $36,360 $65,530 $60,250

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Enroll in a Bachelor's Degree Program

Bachelor's degree programs in journalism usually include foundational courses in writing, reporting, professional ethics and the history of journalism. These courses also teach broad skills applicable to a variety of mediums, including newspapers, magazines, television or the Internet.

Upper level courses are often tailored to specific segments of the industry, such as magazine writing, photojournalism, online media or video production. Courses typically focus on acquiring certain skills, such as interviewing and reporting techniques, using graphics software, learning desktop publishing applications or devising communication strategies. Students interested in a particular field of journalism, such as business or political reporting, could consider taking supplemental courses or even earning a minor in a related field.

Step 2: Participate in an Internship

Although attending a journalism school can provide a strong foundation for aspiring journalists, experience might also be required to obtain a job as a journalist. One of the advantages of seeking formal educational training is the opportunity to perform internships for credit and gain writing, editing and journalism experience. Students can consult with their department and career advisers to find these internships. Intern duties could range from updating company websites, blogs and other forms of social media to fact-checking and copywriting.

Step 3: Consider Graduate Programs

To gain specialized training in a particular field, aspiring journalists could consider enrolling in a graduate certificate, master's degree or doctoral program in journalism. Coursework might include topics in Web content development, freelancing and international reporting. Students can also gain experience working on news production projects through the school's newspaper or broadcasting studios. Some schools offer writing workshops to help students develop their persuasive and narrative skills.

Step 4: Enter the Workforce

College graduates entering the market can look for positions in several types of companies, such as radio and TV broadcasting companies as well as newspaper and magazines publishers. Once hired, journalists might investigate and present news stories, examine documents, observe events at a news scene, interview people or employ other tactics to gather newsworthy information. To capture key ideas and information, journalists take notes, shoot photographs or capture video footage. They then organize their material to develop cohesive stories.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Your chances of finding work as a journalist will vary based on the area that you want to work in. For broadcast reporters and correspondents, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 8% decline in employment between 2014 and 2024. Broadcast news analysts will see a decrease of 13%, and writers will see an increase of 2% during that same period of time, according to the BLS.

Data from the BLS shows reporters and correspondents earned an average salary of $36,360 in 2015. Broadcast news analysts were paid an average salary of $65,530, and writers and authors averaged $60,250 that year, based on the BLS's figures. It may be worth noting that the figures for writers encompass a wide range of writers, not just print journalists.

Earning a bachelor's degree in journalism or communications, along with gaining experience through internships, is how most journalists get their start. While there are many forms of journalism, curiosity, research skills, and a willingness to ask questions are all critical skills for the prospective journalist. Jobs for journalists are expected to show little to no growth for 2024 and may decline in some fields.

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