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What is a Journalism Degree?
A degree in journalism is a program of study that focuses on the principles, practices, and ethics of journalism as a profession. The goal of a journalism degree is to prepare students for careers as journalists, writers, editors, and other media professionals.
Typically, a journalism degree program includes coursework in writing, reporting, editing, media law and ethics, multimedia storytelling, and other areas of study relevant to the field of journalism. Some programs may also offer specialized tracks, such as sports journalism or investigative journalism.
In addition to classroom learning, many journalism programs offer practical experience opportunities, such as internships, student media organizations, and real-world reporting projects. These hands-on experiences provide students with the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-world scenarios, build their portfolios, and make valuable industry contacts.
Because there is no rigid degree requirement for becoming a journalist, there is a wide range of educational paths to choose from. The best degree program for you will depend on your professional goals, skills and interests, and lifestyle. Here are a few common degree options to consider:
Associate Degree + Certificate Program in Journalism - Two Year Duration
Interested in journalism, but not quite ready to take the plunge? Consider starting with an associate degree or certificate program. These degrees are generally shorter and more affordable than a bachelor’s or master’s. They take about two years to complete and offer a broad introduction to the field. But while these programs can lead you to some entry-level journalism jobs, a bachelor’s diploma or higher is recommended for many positions.
Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism - Four Year Duration
A Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism is a great way to launch your career. These programs are typically about four years long, although some schools offer condensed degrees that take as little as one year to complete. A bachelor’s will provide fundamental training in key journalistic tools, techniques, and strategies, as well as specialized coursework in the media specialty of your choosing.
Journalism Internship - Varying Durations
Historically, apprenticeships were the best strategy for becoming a journalist. Today, internships and apprenticeships remain an excellent way to gain hands-on experience, build connections, and advance your career in journalism.
While many journalism programs incorporate some form of internship component, it’s also possible to pursue an internship without completing a formal degree. This can be a great way to assess whether you’ll enjoy the profession before deciding to pursue full-time studies. It also offers an opportunity to enter the industry without ever enrolling in school, building professional experience as you work your way up the ranks.
Master’s Degree in Journalism ("JSchool") - Two Year Duration
Maybe you’re already working in journalism and want to improve your career prospects. Maybe you studied a different subject during your undergraduate and want to try something new. Either way, a graduate degree is your best bet.
A Master’s Degree in Journalism (also known as "Journalism School" or "J School") usually takes one to two years to complete. These programs offer more specialized training, often with a particular focus, like science communication or new media journalism. Typically, an in-depth master’s project will complement the course requirements.
Doctoral Degree in Journalism - Three to Eight Year Duration
For journalism students who are interested in a research or teaching career, a PhD can be an excellent move. These advanced graduate degrees can take anywhere from three to eight years to complete, after a master’s. They involve a mix of coursework, exams, and specialized research; typically, the preparation of your dissertation will take up the bulk of your time.
Online Journalism Degree
A growing number of journalism programs can now be done without ever setting foot inside a classroom. Available at both the graduate and undergraduate level, online journalism programs are a great way to continue working while you study.
Degrees Similar to Journalism
Whatever degree you pursue, you’ll likely need to choose a journalistic specialization at some point during your studies. Here are a few popular directions to choose from:
Skills You’ll Learn
With its strong emphasis on writing, journalism can look very similar to other degree programs, like creative writing, English, and communication. Here’s what sets journalism apart:
Like journalism, creative writing programs train students in the art of storytelling, involving a lot of writing, editing, and critiquing. But unlike journalism, creative writing tends to focus more on literary forms like novels, poetry, screenwriting, and short stories—all of which are based on fiction, rather than fact. If you’re interested in reporting on news and current events, choose journalism; if you prefer to draw inspiration from your imagination, choose creative writing!
Both journalism and English involve tons of writing. But they take very different approaches. Typically, English degrees focus on analyzing others’ writing; students critique and explore existing books, stories, and poems through essays, exams, and presentations. Journalism, on the other hand, is all about improving your own writing; students learn hands-on techniques for crafting news stories, opinion editorials, and more.
Communication overlaps with journalism in many ways. Not only does this degree provide hands-on training in a wide range of storytelling techniques; it can often include courses in digital media and other journalism-related topics. But communication tends to be broader, covering everything from social media and blogging to public relations. Journalism, on the other hand, is usually more niche, providing specialized training for becoming a journalist.
What will you learn during your degree? Some key skills you’ll develop in a journalism program include:
- Excellent verbal, written, and visual communication
- Strong research abilities
- Critical and creative thinking
- Self-management, independence, and resourcefulness
- Deadline-oriented work ethic
- Excellent interpersonal skills
What Can You Do with a Journalism Degree?
Whatever path you choose, a journalism degree can open up lots of exciting career opportunities. Some possible directions include:
From covering community news for your local paper to working as an investigative reporter for an international outlet, newspapers offers a diverse array of careers. Publication timelines will differ, but, in general, these jobs tend to be intense and fast-paced; you know what they say about yesterday’s news!
Digital journalism jobs can be found everywhere from niche online blogs to massive multimedia corporations. This is one of the newest areas of journalism, combining text-based media with audio, video, photography and more. Highly visual and interactive, this novel form of storytelling is constantly evolving, offering lots of opportunities to learn and explore.
Perhaps you’re more attracted to the glossy images of the magazine world. In comparison to other journalism jobs, this line of work tends to follow a lengthier publication schedule. Magazine professionals often plan their work months—even as much as a year—in advance of publication (although tight turnarounds can also be common). Fact-checker, feature writer, copy editor, proofreader, creative director, and editor-in-chief are a few magazine careers a journalism graduate could pursue.
Radio producer, TV reporter, podcaster—broadcast journalism jobs are incredibly varied. You could become the host of a national TV program, covering breaking news or top sports results. You could find yourself in a research job for a niche radio show, sourcing new ideas and interview subjects for human interest stories.
Journalism degrees teach you how to communicate clearly, compellingly, and concisely. They also provide you with basic digital and visual storytelling training. All of these qualities are ideally suited to a career in social media. A few example job titles in this area include social media marketer, engagement coordinator, brand manager, and digital strategist.
You know what they say: a picture’s worth a thousand words. For journalism students with a knack for visual communication, a career in photography can be an ideal fit. You might find work for a single news outlet, shooting videos and photos of the latest news, press conferences, and other events, and more. Or, you might try your hand at freelancing, offering specialized photography services to a wide array of clients.
Book publishing is distinct from journalism in many ways, but shares some key similarities. For example, both industries rely on the power of storytelling to turn profits. And both offer exciting careers in research, writing, editing, planning, and marketing. Although journalism overlaps with all forms of book publishing to some degree, the nonfiction area will likely be the closest fit.
From textbooks to websites, tourism pamphlets to instruction manuals, technical writing is everywhere. This career area relies on many of the same communication techniques journalism students learn during their degree, but with a primary goal of providing technical information rather than journalistic reportage.
In our increasingly digital world, content is king. Virtually every business now has some kind of online presence, which means virtually every business needs content to make that presence interesting, useful, and informative. Many journalism grads find their way into careers writing blog posts, landing pages, e-newsletters, and other forms of digital creation.
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