How to Become a Reporter: Education and Career Roadmap

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

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  • 0:00 Should I Become a Reporter?
  • 0:40 Career Requirements
  • 1:31 Steps to Become a Reporter

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Should I Become a Reporter?

Reporters, also referred to as journalists, are news professionals who inform the public of current events. They may work in print, online, television or radio media. Reporters gather information by investigating leads, researching data and conducting interviews before composing and delivering news stories. Those in radio and television may record their newscasts live from the scene and are often required to travel extensively. Some locations may hold danger, such as those related to wars or natural disasters.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree (minimum)
Degree Field Journalism, communications or a related field, such as English or political science
Experience Experience from internships preferred
Key Skills Objective and persistent; strong communication and interpersonal skills are also essential; able to use database software, like FileMaker Pro or Microsoft Access, as well as statistical analysis software; should be familiar with social media applications; physical stamina and a flexible schedule
Salary $36,360 (2015 median for reporters and correspondents)

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

Steps to Become a Reporter

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A reporter is generally required to hold at least a bachelor's degree in journalism, communications or a related media writing major. Bachelor's degree programs typically take four years to complete and combine liberal arts education with reporting instruction. Courses may include:

  • Newspaper journalism
  • Feature writing
  • Investigative reporting
  • Broadcasting
  • Sports reporting
  • Photojournalism
  • News editing
  • Media law

Students usually select coursework geared toward specific media types; for example, those interested in broadcasting may take electives in radio and television writing. The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications accredits many journalism and related programs.

Many schools have student-run campus radio stations or television shows. Getting involved with reporting or production is a good way for a student to gain insight into the field and collaborate with other students on real-world projects. Additionally, networking with professionals in the field is a good way for students to make connections for their future careers. Taking advantage of the field trips and alumni events offered at some schools may open the doors to make such connections.

Step 2: Complete an Internship

Practical experience can be beneficial to finding employment in reporting. Students in college programs or graduates seeking experience may find hands-on training by incorporating internships into journalism curricula; otherwise, aspiring journalists may independently pursue internship programs with newspapers, magazines, online media or broadcasting stations. Interns may serve as reporters, bloggers, editors or broadcast assistants, among other positions.

Step 3: Obtain Employment

Graduates of journalism degree programs may find entry-level employment with small newspapers, magazines and broadcast stations. Reporters can begin the employment search by requesting job listings from their colleges' journalism departments. When applying for positions, cover letters and resumes should be grammatically correct and free of typos to demonstrate writing skills and attention to detail. Employers may also ask for writing samples that have been published in newspapers or magazines.

Step 4: Advance with Experience

According to the BLS, this job field is expected to decline sharply in coming years. Employment may be easier to find in local news institutions and in multimedia news. Reporters typically begin in lower-level positions as general reporters. As they develop professionally, reporters may take on more complex assignments and move on to bigger publications or broadcast stations. Some reporters become specialists in particular fields of news writing, while others progress to jobs as editors or directors.

To summarize, reporters need at least a bachelor's degree in journalism, communications or a related field and may need experience and work samples.

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