What to major in if you want to be a journalist
If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, and especially as a reporter, you’ll need a basic set of skills. Many bigger companies will not even consider hiring someone to do this type of work unless they see a Bachelor’s degree on their CV. They are typically looking for degrees in English, Communications or Journalism.
Many schools are now offering other types of degrees and diplomas that touch on various areas of contemporary journalism, such as social media marketing, visual (digital) design, digital publishing, and information technology. These might be excellent specialized options if you already have a degree that is not related to journalism but wants to pursue that field.
How to get journalism experience outside of the classroom
Most companies these days will have a digital media component, so to this end, you will want to consider what area you want to specialize in---is it video and audio production? Social media management? Digital publishing? Do you want to start your production one day or even freelance? These last two things will likely require a solid aptitude for business and marketing.
There is plenty of work out there for people without formal degrees, but be forewarned that there can also be plenty of competition. For instance, almost anyone can start their blog these days, but not everyone knows how to build a website or produce a feature-length film. So whether you are in school or not, you should focus on making the real-world experience in the stream that you want to concentrate in. This includes self-publishing (blogging or making videos) and volunteering to build a portfolio and following.
If you are in school, consider pursuing classes and in-class projects that allow you to build on your specialty skills. Get involved in the school newspaper or other campus clubs. You should also look for internships and volunteer opportunities. And be sure to take courses in business and journalistic writing to hone your writing skills, even if writing isn’t your primary focus. Finding a specialized focus will be crucial to your success, so try to get that experience on campus if you have access to it.
Journalism is flexible
Even though you’ll want to find an area of interest to focus in, you should also remember that this is an incredibly dynamic and flexible field, so to some extent, you don’t have to limit yourself. This means you can be creative not only in your project scope but also in the way that you build your experience.
This is a career that allows for a fair bit of flexibility, both within a given program as well as regarding how you are gaining experience. How you do in school technically may not matter compared with the way you approach, create and produce stories in the real world. So, for instance, if you are majoring in English and don’t get an A on a crytical essay writing, this isn’t likely to affect your career in the big picture.
If you aren’t in school, you should take courses in writing, do informational interviews and build a freelance career online through blogging, social media, and videos. You will need to be working on the business side of your career as well as networking and self-promotion on a regular basis. And if you have a particular interest or passion, you should write about it to develop a niche.
Though the traditional job of a print newspaper journalist may be disappearing, there’s still plenty of room for people to specialize in various reporting and production activities.
What kind of person should go into journalism
These days journalism can take on a multitude of media forms: blogging, videos, social media, investigative reporting, podcasts, writing, publishing, photojournalism, broadcast journalism, and the list goes on. The chances are that most people going into journalism should have at least a bit of a handle on a few of these areas.
But when push comes to shove, your technical skills aren’t going to be as important as this: you need to be passionate about telling stories. Great journalists are natural investigators and storytellers. They aren’t afraid to ask questions, contact people for interviews, go to strange places to find stories or explore different points of view. To be successful, you have to be willing to share your creations far and wide. And if you are involved in news or social media, you’ll want to get good at reporting on current events with some degree of speed and accuracy.
What it’s like to work as a journalist
Journalism is a fascinating career with so many possibilities---and the schedules can be brutal. Much of the work these days is done remotely, which means that it can be lonely. You’ll probably have some long shifts at odd hours, you may be traveling a lot, and you’ll likely find yourself up against tight deadlines. You may be responsible for both visual and audio elements of a given production. Most people in this profession need to be independent and not afraid to take risks. They need to be self-motivated and be able to produce good stories quickly.
One interesting thing about this field is the amount of creativity required---there is a range. For instance, if you are more exacting and extroverted, you may want to go into broadcast journalism, which is more fact-based and depends on your ability to memorize and orate with accuracy. But if you are more introverted and creative, you could pursue a