Education

The benefits of pursuing a degree and career in journalism

Are you passionate about writing? Are you thinking about pursuing a career in journalism? Should you pursue a major in journalism in college, or should you start off with certain online courses without signing up for the complete degree? If you are planning to pursue a career in the field of journalism and have been asking these kinds of questions, then you’ve come to the right place. Continue reading to find out more about how a journalism degree can kick-start your career in the field, and how the skills you learn in these courses are more helpful in other areas of life than you may have thought.

Steps to becoming a successful journalist

Successful journalists have a few things in common:

  • A successful journalist is a critical thinker who is able to assess, collect and retain factual information in a systematic and logical manner.
  • They are persistent and self-motivated to give their best to their work by pursuing the truth and then verifying it with facts.
  • Successful journalists are also effective communicators who can understand the concept of storytelling and ask the right questions from their subjects.

With these traits in mind, here are some of the steps you can pursue if you are planning a career in journalism:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism: Although formal education is not mandatory for pursuing a career in journalism, a bachelor’s degree in journalism can show prospective employers that you are serious about the profession. As there are multiple specializations within the field, it is better to choose a four-year undergraduate program so that you can get more experience and learn a variety of skills.
  • Opt for a master’s degree: Attending a journalism school will offer you the chance to gain a specialization in a specific area that is of interest to you.
  • Internships are important: Journalism was traditionally learned through internships and trial-and-error, on-the-job experience. Nowadays, the learning takes place in a classroom. Colleges, universities and even some high schools promote this learning through the use of school newspapers and radio stations.
  • Choose a specialization: Traditionally, professional journalism was divided into two categories: print media and broadcasting (with radio and television serving as the two main divisions in the latter). Digital journalism has evolved as a third arena that has blurred the lines between print and broadcast journalism. Nowadays, journalists and media firms are increasingly online entities that combine print and broadcast responsibilities.
  • Land a starting job: Landing an entry-level job as a journalist isn’t the only path to a career in journalism, but it is one of the ways to get a foot through the door. Aspiring journalists should have a portfolio through their internships or school projects.
  • Continue learning through advanced degrees: It’s easy to overlook the fact that journalism is a technology-driven business. Just as the introduction of radio and then television altered the ways that journalism could be conducted, the internet and the pervasiveness of wireless mobile capabilities have created new opportunities as well as a fair amount of anxiety and disruption about how journalism is done and ultimately paid for. Most media observers believe that technological advances will continue to influence the character of journalism in the foreseeable future. These topics are addressed on a regular basis in journalism colleges with master’s and doctoral programs, both practically and theoretically.

Benefits of a degree in journalism

The world of media is exciting, challenging and full of new opportunities, especially with the technological advances that keep revolutionizing the field. Whether it is about reading the newspaper, watching the news on the television, or scrolling the news feed on the phone, the field of journalism has a lot of options.

Majoring in journalism also provides individuals with access to advisors, namely journalism school professors, who have worked in the industry and can provide valuable guidance. Furthermore, because many schools include instructors who are practicing journalists, students will have the chance to connect with professionals in the area.

A journalism degree provides a firm foundation in the core abilities of the job. An individual will also have access to advanced journalism courses. Do you want to be a sportswriter? An investigative journalist? A political analyst? Specialized programs in these subjects are available at many journalism schools. Most of these programs also provide training in the increasingly in-demand multimedia skills. Many also offer internship opportunities to their pupils. A master’s in journalism will give you all the possible options to choose your specialization after completing the undergraduate degree.

What does it include? 

A online digital journalism master’s degree will provide students with the skillset necessary to succeed in a job in journalism and beyond. You can learn research skills, writing, reporting, investigating, and more in a journalism degree. In addition, it will impart knowledge about technical skills such as video editing, content management, web design, audio, and shorthand. Some skills specific to journalism covered in journalism programs include:

  • Writing
  • Creative thinking
  • Research
  • Public speaking skills
  • Reporting

Along with the techniques and skills specific to the field of journalism, the degree will also help in developing more general skills that are considered important by potential employers. Some of these additional skills include:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Critical analysis
  • Leadership skills
  • Ability to meet deadlines
  • Resourcefulness
  • Effective communication
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Ability to listen effectively
  • Self-management
  • Ability to complete tasks with creativity and independently

These skills are covered not only in a master’s degree in journalism, but also in undergraduate-level courses. A master’s degree will certainly improve your career prospects, and you can choose specific specializations such as marketing, PR, investigative journalism, and more.

In addition to the conventional skills, you must also be equipped with the skills that match up to the advancing digital media journalism, such as search engine optimization, web development, writing for a digital platform, and even social media.

Journalism degree levels

Although many people believe that a degree in journalism is not mandatory for a successful career in journalism, these degrees have their own merits. A journalism degree can equip students with the necessary tools and education that are essential to climbing up the professional ladder. There are multiple levels of journalism degrees, and you can choose the one that suits your education and work experience:

  • Associate journalism degree: Associate-level degrees in journalism help students to prepare for entry-level work or to further their education. They are often completed in two years and provide a solid basis for career or educational progression. However, most journalists have at least a bachelor’s degree prior to entering the industry.
  • Bachelor’s degree in journalism: The bachelor’s degree in journalism suits students who wish to start at the bottom and work their way up through hard work, talent and perseverance. These degrees are typically completed in four years and equip students for a variety of journalism career routes and media specialties.
  • Master’s degree in journalism: Master’s degrees in journalism can help experienced professionals advance to more lucrative and senior roles or improve their marketability. While undergraduate journalism degrees concentrate on general mass communication, master’s degrees focus on developing particular expertise while studying the most recent technologies and approaches. Master’s degrees normally take between one and two years to complete. Depending on the curriculum and student course load, you can even complete them online at your convenience.
  • Doctorate journalism degree: PhDs are great for journalism students who desire to advance to the top levels of the profession. Doctoral graduates often pursue employment in research or education, but they can also assist current journalists in gaining considerable experience, advancing their careers, and improving their portfolios. The PhD program may take between three and eight years to finish, depending on the students’ selections. Most of that time is spent conducting research and writing the dissertation.

Cons of getting a journalism degree

Many consider that the skills of writing, reporting, analyzing and interviewing cannot be learned in a classroom. The best learning comes from practical experiences, such as covering stories for the college newspaper, interviewing people of importance for the college magazine, and more. Some of the greatest journalists have never taken a formal course in journalism, and yet they have become highly successful in their profession.

Furthermore, journalists are increasingly expected not only to be good reporters and writers, but also to have specialized knowledge in a specific sector. So, unless your plan is to go to graduate school, earning a journalism degree may limit your opportunities to do so. For example, if you want to work as a foreign journalist in France, many will argue that learning the French language and culture while also developing the requisite journalism skills is more important.

Other options for pursuing a career in journalism

Of course, it does not have to be all or nothing. A person can major in both journalism and anything else. They can even take a few journalism classes instead of opting for a complete degree program. There’s also the option of graduate school.

Always pick an approach that works best for you. If you want to take advantage of everything that a journalism school has to provide (such as advisors and internships) and spend lots of time honing your journalistic talents, then a journalism degree course is for you.

If you believe that you can learn how to report and write by diving in head first, whether through freelancing or working at the campus newspaper, then you may be better off learning your journalism abilities on the job and majoring in something completely different.

Will a journalism major provide more opportunities?

When it comes down to choosing a path for a journalism career, it essentially comes down to who is more likely to get a job after graduation. Will employers prefer a journalism degree graduate or someone with a degree in a different field?

Usually, journalism students will find it easier to get a job just after graduation in the field. This because employers have an idea of what kind of skillset the candidate is equipped with after graduating from a journalism program. A journalism major will have the fundamental skills required after the degree is completed.

On the other hand, to move up in the profession of journalism, a degree or specialization in some other area can give you a boost over your peers. A specialization will make an individual stand apart and can help in finding exclusive and more prestigious jobs in journalism.

So, ultimately, it does not matter whether you are a journalism graduate or not, as long as you have years of experience to back you up. The longer you are in the profession, the less your degree is going to matter. What’s more important is the knowledge and skillset you’ve gained over the years in the job.

Benefits of a journalism career

A career in journalism can be very fulfilling – below are some reasons why:

  • Working in the field: A journalist can work with different people in the field instead of working a tedious 9-5 job in the office. The job will give opportunities to travel to new locations to cover new and exciting stories.
  • Discovering new things: Journalism is all about asking ‘why?’ It is also about exploring new things. For someone with a curious nature, journalism will be an excellent fit. While studying in the journalism degree program, students will even get opportunities to explore new areas and apply their critical-thinking skills to learn more. Journalists essentially get paid for being curious and investigating new topics.
  • Interacting with interesting people: With a journalism career, individuals can meet different people while working on their stories. Journalists can meet people and interact with them, while learning more about their lives and gaining new perspectives.
  • Network building: Journalism is a team-based profession, so there will be numerous opportunities to build a professional network that can help in furthering the growth of your career.
  • Journalism is an exciting career: With the world constantly changing, there will always be something new to report. The world will always need effective and unbiased communicators to report events to the masses. Even though the field of journalism may change, the requirement for skilled journalists will remain to report the changes. In addition, working against some stringent deadlines to report the stories will provide an adrenaline rush in some action-filled regions.
  • A sense of achievement: Writing stories under your own name and letting people know about important things going on in the world will always bring a sense of achievement and of doing something important and worthwhile.

Career options

A degree in journalism can open doors to a variety of careers that need invaluable skills such as creative writing, communication, creativity and research skills. With a journalism degree, an individual can work directly in the field of journalism as a:

  • Magazine journalist
  • Newspaper journalist
  • Editorial assistant
  • Press sub-editor
  • Political analyst
  • Publishing copy-editor
  • Writer
  • Web content manager

It is also possible to work in various other positions that require the skills learned in the course of the degree program. Jobs such as digital copywriter, science writer, advertising copywriter, and even translator would be open to an individual with a degree in digital journalism.

Before pursuing a career in journalism, it is important to build up a portfolio and get all the possible relevant work experience. Participating in a student newspaper, magazine or radio station will certainly be beneficial. Creating your own blog to hone your writing skills can help in future job prospects. It is also a good idea to use any internship offers in the degree program to make contacts with others in the business and to gain as much experience as possible.

Typically, as a journalist, it is possible to find employment in newspapers, radio stations, television, magazine, broadcast companies and even digital media companies. Beyond the field of journalism, with a digital journalism master’s degree online, you can also find employment in corporate communication agencies, charities, PR companies, and others based on communication and creativity skills.

Final thoughts

Although the journalism landscape is constantly changing with the advancement in technologies and the advent of digital media, the profession will remain a lucrative one for a long time. Pursuing a degree in journalism will help you not only carve out a path in the field of journalism, but also in other related professions. There is a huge variety of careers available for journalism graduates, and you can choose from the numerous opportunities available in this age of digital journalism.

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