CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a journalist.
Is becoming a journalist right for me?
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:
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If you're interested in becoming a journalist, there are several high school courses that can help you develop the skills and knowledge you'll need for this career. Here are a few courses that could be beneficial:
- English: Strong writing and communication skills are essential for journalists, so taking advanced English courses can help you develop your writing and reading comprehension abilities.
- Social Studies/History: Journalists need to have a good understanding of current events and the historical context behind them. Taking courses in history, government, and social studies can help you develop this knowledge.
- Media Studies: Some high schools offer courses in media studies, which can help you understand the role of media in society and the basics of journalism.
- Creative Writing: Journalism often involves storytelling, so taking a creative writing course can help you develop your narrative skills.
- Speech/Debate: Journalists need to be able to communicate effectively and persuasively. Courses in speech and debate can help you develop these skills.
- Photography: Many journalists take photos to accompany their stories. Taking a photography course can help you develop your skills in this area.
You can also gain experience by contributing to your school newspaper or website, or by interning at a local media outlet.
There are several educational pathways to become a journalist, but the most common include:
- Bachelor's Degree in Journalism: This is a traditional route for many aspiring journalists. A Bachelor's Degree in Journalism provides a broad range of skills, including writing, reporting, interviewing, and multimedia storytelling.
- Bachelor's degree in another field plus a postgraduate diploma in journalism: If you already have a bachelor's degree in a different field, you can opt to pursue a postgraduate diploma in journalism. This diploma usually lasts for one year and covers the fundamental skills and knowledge required for journalism.
- Bachelor's degree in another field plus relevant work experience: Some journalists get their start by working for a newspaper or magazine in a non-journalistic role and gradually transitioning into a reporting position. This path requires a great deal of networking, self-teaching, and persistence.
- Internships: Another way to become a journalist is by interning at a news organization. This route is ideal for college students who want to gain practical experience and make contacts in the industry.
- Freelance work: Many journalists start out as freelancers. Freelancers can write for a variety of outlets and build their portfolios before finding a staff position.
Regardless of the educational pathway, it's essential for aspiring journalists to develop strong writing, research, and critical thinking skills. It's also crucial to gain experience through internships, writing for student publications, and taking on freelance assignments.
There are many internship opportunities available for aspiring journalists. Some options include:
- News organizations: Many news organizations offer internships for aspiring journalists. These can range from local newspapers to major national outlets such as CNN, NBC, and The New York Times.
- Magazines: Magazines also offer internships for writers and journalists. Popular options include Vogue, Rolling Stone, and Harper's Bazaar.
- Broadcast journalism: If you're interested in broadcast journalism, consider internships at TV stations, radio stations, or networks such as CBS, ABC, and NPR.
0 Online media: Many online media outlets such as BuzzFeed, Vox, and Mashable offer internships for journalists interested in digital media.
- Non-profit organizations: Non-profit organizations such as ProPublica and The Center for Investigative Reporting offer internships for journalists interested in investigative reporting.
When searching for internships, it's important to consider your interests and goals as a journalist, and to research the organization thoroughly to make sure it aligns with your values and journalistic ethics. It's also important to apply early and to have a strong application, including a cover letter, resume, and writing samples.
Journalists can find employment opportunities in various sectors, including:
- Print media: This includes newspapers, magazines, and journals. Journalists can work as reporters, feature writers, editors, or correspondents.
- Broadcast media: This includes radio and television news. Journalists can work as anchors, reporters, producers, or writers.
- Online media: This includes digital news outlets, blogs, and social media. Journalists can work as writers, editors, or producers.
- Corporate media: Many companies have their own media departments that produce content for internal or external audiences. Journalists can work as writers, editors, or producers.
- Government agencies: Many government agencies have their own media departments that produce content for public consumption. Journalists can work as writers, editors, or producers.
- Non-profit organizations: Many non-profit organizations have their own media departments that produce content for their websites, newsletters, and social media channels. Journalists can work as writers, editors, or producers.
- Freelancing: Journalists can work as freelancers and offer their services to various media outlets on a project-by-project basis.
There are several certifications available for journalists, depending on their area of expertise and interests. Here are some examples:
- Certified Journalism Educator (CJE) - This certification is offered by the Journalism Education Association and requires candidates to have at least three years of teaching experience in journalism and media.
- Certified Broadcast Meteorologist (CBM) - This certification is offered by the American Meteorological Society and is designed for journalists who specialize in weather reporting.
- Certified Investigative Reporter (CIR) - This certification is offered by the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization and is designed for journalists who specialize in investigative reporting.
- Certified Photojournalist (CPJ) - This certification is offered by the National Press Photographers Association and requires candidates to have at least three years of professional experience as a photojournalist.
- Certified News Manager (CNM) - This certification is offered by the Radio Television Digital News Association and is designed for journalists who manage news operations.
- Certified Magazine Media Professional (CMMP) - This certification is offered by the Magazine Publishers of America and is designed for journalists who work in the magazine industry.
- Certified Digital Marketing Professional (CDMP) - This certification is offered by the Digital Marketing Institute and is designed for journalists who specialize in digital marketing and advertising.
There are many professional associations that journalists can join to network with other professionals, stay informed on industry news and trends, and access resources and training opportunities. Here are some of the most well-known associations for journalists:
- Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ): A professional organization that promotes ethical journalism practices, offers training and professional development, and advocates for press freedom.
- National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ): An organization dedicated to promoting the advancement of Hispanic journalists in the United States.
- National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ): An organization dedicated to supporting and advocating for Black journalists and media professionals.
- Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA): An organization that aims to increase diversity in newsrooms and promote accurate coverage of Asian American communities.
- Online News Association (ONA): An organization that supports digital journalists and provides resources and training on the latest trends and technologies in the field.
- Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE): An organization that provides training and resources for investigative journalists and promotes investigative journalism as a public service.
- Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ): An organization that supports journalists who cover health care and related topics, providing resources and training on health care policy, medical research, and more.
- National Press Photographers Association (NPPA): An organization that supports visual journalists and advocates for the importance of visual storytelling in journalism.
There are many online resources available for journalists. Here are a few:
- The Poynter Institute: The Poynter Institute is a nonprofit organization that offers journalism training, resources, and research. They offer online courses, webinars, and workshops, as well as a variety of articles and guides on the latest trends and issues in journalism.
- Nieman Lab: Nieman Lab is a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. They cover news and analysis about the future of journalism and media in the United States. They offer a newsletter, podcast, and events for journalists.
- Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ): SPJ is a nonprofit organization that promotes ethical journalism and freedom of the press. They offer resources such as training programs, webinars, job listings, and a code of ethics for journalists.
- Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE): IRE is a nonprofit organization that supports investigative journalism. They offer training programs, webinars, a database of public records, and a job board for journalists.
- Columbia Journalism Review: Columbia Journalism Review is a magazine that covers news and analysis about the media industry. They offer articles, podcasts, and newsletters.
- The Online News Association (ONA): ONA is a nonprofit organization that promotes digital journalism. They offer training programs, webinars, and an annual conference.
- American Press Institute (API): API is a nonprofit organization that provides research and training for journalists. They offer a newsletter, webinars, and research reports.
- National Press Club: The National Press Club is a professional organization for journalists. They offer networking opportunities, events, resources, as well as a job board.
- Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP): RCFP is a nonprofit organization that provides legal resources and support for journalists. They offer a legal defense hotline, guides to open records and meetings laws, and a legal guide for journalists.
- Society for News Design (SND): SND is a nonprofit organization that promotes excellence in news design. They offer training programs, webinars, and events for journalists who are interested in visual storytelling and design.