Journalist College and School Program Information

Though many employers prefer to hire journalists who have earned at least a bachelor's degree, programs in the field are available at nearly every degree level. Details about the programs, career options and salary information follow.

Essential Information

Journalists gather and report on news events for a variety of outlets, including newspapers, magazines and radio and television stations. In some instances, an undergraduate certificate in the field combined with work experience can prepare individuals to work as freelance reporters, while an advanced-level doctoral degree program in journalism can prepare graduates to work as college professors or researchers. Programs available include certificate programs, bachelor's degree programs, master's degree programs, and doctoral degree programs.

Journalism Certificate

Some schools offer 1- or 2-semester certificate programs covering the fundamentals of news writing and editorializing, among other basic journalism concepts. Some schools allow certificate students to specialize in newspaper journalism, magazine writing or photojournalism. Some certificate programs for journalists offer internship opportunities. Admission to a journalism certificate program doesn't take much more than a high school diploma. High school students interested in pursuing this type of program might want to take electives in creative writing and speech as preparation.

The coursework in journalism certificate programs emphasizes practical skills related to research, writing, fact-checking and editorializing. Students usually learn about a variety of media, including newspapers, magazines, broadcast media and the Internet. The topics listed below are commonly offered through certificate-level courses:

  • Feature writing
  • Media studies
  • News writing for the Internet
  • Broadcast journalism
  • Photographic editing

Associate of Arts in Journalism

A number of community colleges offer Associate of Arts (A.A.) degrees in journalism that blend instruction in newsgathering with classes on mass media theory. In addition to learning about journalism, students also take courses on public relations, print design and photography. Many journalism A.A. programs are designed to prepare graduates for further study in the field.

Applicants need to perform well in their high school English classes, taking Advanced Placement courses, if they are available. Those who have good communication skills and the ability to complete work in a timely manner are likely to perform well in journalist colleges. Students in journalism A.A. programs learn the history, theory and methods of news reporting and mass media. Many programs require students to complete internships with local publications prior to graduation. Students often take the classes noted below:

  • Mass media and culture
  • Journalism ethics
  • News editing
  • Broadcast writing
  • Multimedia

Bachelor of Arts in Journalism

A typical 4-year journalist college program leading to a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree goes beyond associate's degree programs by offering more advanced topics on the student's area of interest. Students can often choose to specialize in news reporting, broadcast journalism, photojournalism or multimedia reporting. Most journalism B.A. programs provide for-credit internship opportunities so students can gain concrete experience while in school.

High school students interested in applying to journalism B.A. programs need to take any available classes in creative writing and English. Participating in the school newspaper or yearbook staff is also advised. Journalist college courses include training in writing, photography, the history of journalism, design, communications law and journalistic ethics. Students learn about writing and delivering news stories for a variety of media and sometimes have the option of specializing in broadcast journalism, photojournalism or print media. Courses typically address the topics mentioned below:

  • Editorializing
  • Web-based reporting
  • Research and interviewing skills
  • Page layout
  • Literary journalism

Master of Arts in Journalism

Master of Arts (M.A.) programs in journalism teach students about the techniques used in reporting and the theories governing mass communications. Students often learn about the research methods and statistical analyses used to track the effect of mass media on society and culture. Programs sometimes offer concentrations in electronic media, broadcast news or print media. Students usually complete a thesis project as part of their coursework.

Applicants who have demonstrated strong skills in research, writing and communication stand the best chance of being admitted into journalism M.A. programs. Programs look for applicants who have an undergraduate degree in communications or liberal arts. Applicants are often required to submit letters of recommendation and samples of their writing. Journalism M.A. program coursework emphasizes advanced practical reporting skills and the theoretical framework of mass media. Students often complete hands-on writing and research assignments in addition to standard classes. Programs include classes on the topics below:

  • Business journalism
  • Sports journalism
  • Editorial journalism
  • Mass communications research and statistics
  • Page layout and design

Doctor of Philosophy in Journalism

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in journalism emphasize the more theoretical aspects of the field over the practical skills used to deliver news stories or editorial comments. Journalism Ph.D. programs help students develop their skills in research, analysis and critical thinking. Students learn about the effects of mass communication on cultural and social attitudes and values. Most programs require students to finish a dissertation.

Admission into doctoral-level journalist schools can be exceptionally competitive. Applicants need to demonstrate strong critical thinking skills and a high level of writing proficiency. Programs often look for applicants who have already completed extensive college coursework in mass media theory and communications. Journalism Ph.D. coursework is usually blended with classes on communications or mass media. Students usually work with an academic advisor to choose classes relevant to their area of interest. Core classes deal with the topics listed below:

  • Media criticism theory
  • Media research methodology
  • Statistical analysis of media
  • Effects of media content on society
  • Multiculturalism in mass media

Popular Career Options

Earning a certificate from a journalist college is useful for those interested in being freelance writers or in finding entry-level jobs with newspapers or magazines. People who enter the workforce after earning a certificate often work as freelance reporters, independent feature writers or copy editors. A.A. programs in journalism provide students with a theoretical and practical knowledge base applicable to several entry-level careers in media and writing. Graduates can work independently or for established publications. Many graduates seek careers as newsletter editors, newspaper staff writers and technical writers.

B.A. program graduates can find work with newspapers, magazines, newswires, TV stations and Internet news providers. Graduates of journalist school often start in entry-level jobs before progressing to more advanced careers. Completing a journalism master's degree program prepares graduates for many advanced careers in the field. Graduates can work as journalists, researchers or consultants. People who earn a Ph.D. in journalism often enter research or academic careers. They are employed by colleges, media corporations and private consulting firms to fill the roles as professors, media analysts and advertising consultants. The careers listed below are popular options for journalism graduates:

  • Newspaper editor
  • Magazine writer
  • Photojournalist
  • Mass media research
  • Magazine editing
  • Freelance feature writing

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an estimated 49,300 reporters and correspondents were employed across the country in 2014 ( These individuals worked primarily for newspapers, magazines and radio and television stations. They earned a median annual salary of $36,360 in 2015, as reported by the BLS.

There are a number of education options for those desiring to pursue a career in journalism, from certificate degrees to doctoral degrees. Potential careers in journalism cover a broad range, including newspaper editors and reporters, media analysts, researchers, etc.

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