Journalism is a fast-paced and rewarding career that would suit anyone with a passion for researching current events and storytelling. You will have the opportunity to work on exciting projects, meet interesting new people, and become an expert in your field.
Breaking into journalism can be tough, and the industry is notoriously competitive. That said, you can have a successful career in journalism if you have the skills, determination, and passion for succeeding. Here are the key steps you should take if you want to become a journalist:
Learn about the role
If you are thinking about pursuing a career in journalism, then you must research to gain an in-depth understanding of the role and responsibilities. There are no educational requirements to become a journalist, although most aspiring journalists earn a bachelor’s degree, and many go on to complete a higher qualification like a master’s program. Earning these qualifications is a big commitment, so you must make sure that a career in journalism is right for you.
You can learn about the role of a journalist by visiting career websites or speaking with a careers advisor. According to careerexplore.com, “A journalist investigates, collects, and presents information as a news story. This can be presented through newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the internet.”Journalism is a broad field, and journalists can choose to work in a broad range of sectors. Some journalists are employed by newspapers or magazines, whereas others work on a freelance basis. Explore the different types of journalist jobs available to find a role that would suit your skills, interests, and work preferences.
Earn a bachelor’s degree
Most journalists complete a bachelor’s degree in journalism or a relevant subject such as media studies. A journalism degree is designed to teach students essential journalism skills like effective communication and storytelling. It will also give students practical experience in areas such as gathering credible sources and writing in a concise and engaging manner.
Most journalism degrees take four years to compete on a full-time basis. You can choose to study your degree online via distance learning or complete the program part-time if you are in employment or have family commitments.
Take the time to research different bachelor’s degrees and choose a program that is right for you. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a bachelor’s degree in journalism: tuition fees, location of the school, course structure, placements, and reputation of the school. It is a good idea to arrange a tour of any schools you are interested in so that you can get a feel for the campus and alumni.
Improve your writing skills
Strong writing skills are a must if you want to become a journalist. You will improve your writing capabilities while you are studying for a bachelor’s degree, but you should also focus on developing your skills outside of college. Ideally, you should have built a diverse variety of writing experiences by the time that you finish your degree. This will put you in a strong position when you start applying for entry-level positions.
Many aspiring journalists build their writing skills by publishing a blog or writing guest pieces for media companies. You could also offer your writing services on a freelance basis to build experience and earn some extra cash while you study. Try to write across a wide variety of topics so that you develop a diverse range of writing skills.
Gain hands-on experience
Hands-on experience is vital if you want to break into the field of journalism. Media companies and clients will expect you to have a certain level of experience. Most bachelor degrees include placements as part of the program, but you shouldn’t rely solely on your degree to gain experience. Be proactive and look for ways to build hands-on journalism experience as early as possible.
An internship will help you gain valuable experience and give you a real insight into journalism. You will also have the chance to make connections with people in the industry. Your duties as an intern will vary depending on where you complete your placement. Interns are typically responsible for proofreading stories, conducting research for stories, arranging interviews, and collaborating on story ideas. You may also have the opportunity to write articles and help with the final editing before a story is published.
There is fierce competition to secure the top internships, so you need to write a standout resume and application letter. Experts at poynter.org advise that you can improve your chances of securing a great internship by looking for placements outside of your hometown and state and not ruling out unpaid internships.
Complete a higher qualification
As mentioned, journalism is a competitive industry, and aspiring journalists should do whatever they can to stand out from their peers and impress hiring managers. Completing a higher qualification like a master’s degree is one of the best ways to gain a competitive advantage and secure top journalism roles. A master’s program will advance your skills and demonstrate that you have the knowledge and expertise to work as an effective journalist.
Fortunately, many schools now have online master’s programs that offer flexible, self-paced learning. An online master’s program is ideal for anyone unable to attend a traditional campus-based course due to work or family commitments. Online programs also tend to be cheaper than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, making them a popular choice with graduates.
Think carefully about what type of journalism you want to specialize in and choose a master’s program that is suited to your career goals. For instance, a sports journalism degree onlineis ideal for students hoping to work as sports journalists, although the degree can benefit a wide variety of journalism and media-related careers.
Build professional connections
Networking is essential in most industries, but it is especially important in the field of journalism. One of the best ways to build your professional network is by reaching out to people working in the industry. Contact journalists and reporters that you admire and see if they will spare a few minutes for a chat or give you some advice and guidance about working in the industry. You should always follow up a meeting or a chat with a follow-up email to thank the person for their time. This is a great way to build and nurture lasting professional relationships.
Joining a professional association can be another great way to build connections and grow your professional network. Here are some of the best professional organizations and associations for journalism: American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).
Take a look at this article by the Society of Professional Journalists for more tips and guidance on how to network as a journalist.
Write an impressive resume
You will need to write an impressive resume if you want to secure a top role in the competitive journalism industry. Take the time to write a strong resume that highlights your experience, qualifications, and accomplishments. Emphasize anything that demonstrates your passion for the industry, e.g., if you worked for your student newspaper at college or publish regular articles on your blog.
A simple spelling mistake or grammatical error can destroy your chances of securing an interview, so always take the time to proofread your resume before you send it to hiring managers. Visit myperfectresume.com for examples of the best journalist resumes. You can download a free template online to help you write a strong resume that will impress potential employers.
Maintain a work-life balance
Working in journalism can be demanding, and many journalists work long and irregular hours, especially when they are trying to break into the industry and build a name for themselves. You must maintain a healthy work-life balance and learn to manage work-related stress. Be aware of the signs of burnout and make your health and wellbeing a priority.
Here are some tips to help you maintain a good work-life balance:
- Take regular breaks during the day, especially if you start to feel tired or stressed.
- Make time to socialize and spend time with family and friends.
- Try to exercise daily as part of your routine. Regular exercise will keep you fit and healthy, plus it’s an excellent stress reliever.
- Switch off from work when you get home and avoid answering calls or emails.
- Prioritize sleep and aim to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night.
- Be more productive during the working day by minimizing distractions.
- Use a planner to organize your time and help you get the most out of every day.
- Use your holiday allowance and plan trips away to give yourself something to look forward to.
A career in journalism could be perfect for someone who enjoys researching current events, meeting new people, and storytelling. Working as a journalist can be fast-paced and challenging, but it is also extremely rewarding. If you’re an aspiring journalist, then follow these steps to start your journey towards becoming a qualified and successful journalist.