Journalism is appealing to almost anyone who enjoys creative writing and educating others about current events. If this sounds like you, you should learn how to become a journalist. Being able to combine two passions for a paying job is one of the best decisions you can make.
What Is a Journalist?
Journalists are everywhere; at newspapers and magazines, on the radio, on TV, and all over the Internet. They write articles to report on anything they think the public needs to know more about. This ranges from political issues to crimes happening in a city or state.
Many journalists are also photographers, making them photojournalists. They are the same as journalists, except they take photos and use them to tell their stories.
What Does a Journalist Do?
Perhaps the most important part of journalism is conducting interviews. Without interviews, there would be no stories. Journalists find sources closest to the stories they intend to write and conduct interviews either in person or over the phone to get information and quotes.
Writes and Edits Stories
Of course, it wouldn’t be journalism without writing. After collecting all of the information they want to publish, journalists write their stories in the manner that they feel will be received best by the public. They also edit their work prior to turning it in, ensuring it is the best possible draft it can be.
Not all journalists do photography, but for photojournalists, it is a huge part of their job. Many journalists feel that their message translates easier to the public if they are able to accentuate it with photographs. This can often mean crime scene photos or photos of protests in a city.
Essential Journalist Skills
Persistent and Driven
Especially when trying to find people to interview, journalism can be frustrating. As a journalist, you need to be persistent and have the drive to accomplish your goals because you are more than likely to have doors slammed in your face over and over again before making something work.
Creativity plays a huge role in writing stories. Even though journalists report on real-life events, being able to write creatively and keep an audience entertained is key to having your voice heard as a journalist. For photojournalists, being creative is important to capture the right shots for the story you are trying to tell.
Critical thinking can be important when journalists are trying to piece together bits of a story. Oftentimes, journalism is similar to detective work as journalists try to uncover secrets to write a good story. Critical thinking is vital to this aspect of the job.
Journalist Salaries and Job Outlook
Journalists are often paid by the hour, with pay ranging from $10 an hour all the way to $32 an hour. The national average is right around $17 an hour, and working full-time, this adds up to an annual salary of $41,620. However, if you are able to score a job with a higher hourly pay, your salary could look more like $65,000 per year.
In the age of modern technology, newspapers, radio shows, and televised news channels are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Many of the big news companies such as The New York Times and CNN have started making their articles mobile-friendly, but the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics has still predicted journalism employment to decline 10 percent by 2028. This doesn’t mean there will be no jobs, but it will become more difficult to be hired.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Journalist?
Most journalism jobs only require you to have earned a bachelor’s degree, so it typically takes around four years to begin work as a journalist. Some journalists choose to earn a graduate degree, which adds a few extra years to the time it takes to become one, but that is not necessary.
How to Become a Journalist: A Step by Step Guide
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
The first and most important step to becoming a journalist is to earn a bachelor’s degree. Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism generally takes around four years total, can be done online, and allows students to pick an area of concentration so that their degree is best suited for their career goals.
Step 2: Earn a Master’s Degree (optional)
While earning a master’s degree is optional, it can seriously help you find a job as a journalist. Especially today, with journalism job opportunities declining, having a higher degree will give you an advantage over other applicants. This normally takes one to two additional years of schooling.
Step 3: Choose a Specialization
Again, choosing a specialization is not mandatory, but it helps impress employers. Some areas you can choose to specialize in include broadcast journalism, environmental journalism, news reporting, photojournalism, or sports reporting. It is possible to specialize in multiple areas, but be sure the areas you choose will benefit your career.
Step 4: Complete an Internship and Build a Portfolio
Completing an internship provides you with work experience, which you can then use to build a portfolio. Both the experience and portfolio can be submitted with your resume when applying for jobs, and they will help convince employers to hire you over other candidates.
Should You Become a Journalist?
While journalism may be on the decline, if this is a career you are truly passionate about, you should become a journalist. The career will not be eliminated completely, and if you have a backup plan, you should be good to go.
What makes a good journalist?
Being a good writer, ethical, and creative help make you a good journalist.
Do journalists travel a lot?
Some journalists travel frequently while others rarely do. It depends on the position you are hired for.
Why do journalists get paid so little?
Journalism is a job in low-demand and it is on the decline, so journalists simply are not paid as much.