Journalism is a competitive, yet highly rewarding field. It’s the backbone of the media industry and is critical to a high functioning democracy. To be successful as a journalist, you must have a passion for truth, honesty and integrity, and the guts to go out and get the story. Read on for important steps on how to become a journalist.
Build upon your natural writing talent. To become a journalist, some intrinsic skills are necessary to achieve success. First off, you’ve got to have an inquiring mind. You must be passionate about knowledge and learning, and willing to do what it takes to get at the truth behind a story.
You must have high ethical standards. You must be able to write well. If you want people to talk and open up to you, it’s imperative to have great communication skills, both written and verbal. An unbiased attitude and the ability to be objective is key.
Get a formal education. A solid education is an investment in your future. Look over course curriculum carefully. You’ll want to make sure that the communications and journalism courses offered meet your personal interests. Journalist requirements vary, but a solid education is recommended in virtually all lines of work within the field. It’s not uncommon to hear how famous journalists received no formal education in journalism, but the competition for jobs is becoming increasingly fierce. Obtaining a degree in journalism or a related field will just increase your chances for employment. Research and choose the right journalism school. Begin by requesting information from journalism schools . You’ll have the opportunity to speak with a representative from the school to make sure that the programs offered meet your needs. Find more information about selecting a journalism school.
Choose your niche. Attend the basic courses in journalism, but make sure that you get classes in your chosen specialty. If you’re interested in fashion reporting, for example, you may not have the same courses as someone who is studying investigative journalism. Become an expert in your chosen field. Read books, subscribe to magazines, attend events—anything to keep you current. Get involved. You must have passion for your subject. Indifference and apathy are the enemies of good journalism.
Secure an internship (or two or three).
Many schools have newspapers, yearbooks, newsletters, or radio stations that accept interns. The experience gained is essential when it comes time to apply for a job.
Write, write, write.
Then, write some more. Build a portfolio of your work that you can present to future employers, and make sure it’s quality work. You cannot rely on word processing systems to catch your spelling and grammatical errors, and these common mistakes will almost guarantee that you struggle in your quest for employment. Often in journalism, what you write goes live without anyone in the middle to make sure you’ve spelled everything right and used proper grammar. Also, read everything you can get your hands on. Read newspapers, subscribe to magazines, explore books. It is very important to stay up to date on current events.
Be willing to start small. Think community publications, local newsletters, or small area newspapers. Anything to get your work published. If you have a hobby, look for opportunities to write a piece for a newsletter. Sometimes for free, but again—anything to get your work published. Create an online presence for yourself by starting your own blog or website. Network. Join clubs or associations. Make good connections during your internships. And above all, never, ever burn bridges.
Hone your technical skills. Photoshop, HTML, CSS, and web publishing programs are all very important in today’s media. Maintain a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, and anything else that will get your name out there, help you make connections, and continue to write. It could also be beneficial to learn a foreign language to enable you to work within different ethnic groups and cultures.
A degree alone is not going to get you a job. You must know what you want, be passionate about it, and then pursue it relentlessly. Don’t accept no for an answer. Be persistent. You’ll need talent, of course, but you’ll also need a good education and persistence. You must be able to set yourself apart from the competition. Start by learning more about available programs and request information from a variety of journalism schools and degree programs. If you’d like to learn more about journalism education, check out the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communications at www.aejmc.org.
What degree level do I need to become a journalist?
The most common is a bachelor’s degree; however, it depends on the position you are seeking. Take some time to read some job postings and get a better feel for the education requirements for the positions you are seeking.
Can you become a journalist without a degree?
While it is possible to get a job in journalism with out a degree, most employers want to know you understand the art of journalism, as well as ethical and industry standards.