What a Journalist Does
Journalists report for newspapers, magazines, radio, and other news outlets. They often work with editors and senior staff to brainstorm content ideas, then carry out the research necessary to provide a thorough and unbiased account of events.
Sometimes, journalists work directly for an organization that presents news, while other times, they freelance and sell their stories to news outlets. Most have an area of specialty, such as news, politics, or music, and some may become even more focused, and report only on a particular person or type of event, such as a politician.
Who would enjoy a career in Journalism?
Curious, independent creatives who work well under pressure do well in the profession. Journalists should have a desire for knowledge and an urge to share it with the public. Resourcefulness is also important because journalists don’t always have a clear-cut path to their story. They must stay determined and use their creativity to overcome any obstacles in the way of information. People who respond well to tight deadlines will be able to succeed in journalism. There’s often a fast turnaround for getting a story and submitting copy; to do this well one must be able to work under pressure and stay focused. It’s also important for people considering journalism to be comfortable with sometimes working long, hectic and sometimes unpredictable hours.
Who mightn't like the career?
People who desire consistency and straightforward job guidelines may struggle as journalists. Because the news and media change so quickly, consistent schedules and workloads are often hard to come by. Journalists are responsible for finding their own stories and taking opportunities when they present themselves. They cannot always rely on being told what to do or how to approach their work. It is also not an ideal career for people who have difficulty accepting harsh feedback or rejection, both of which are commonplace in the news industry.
There are no specific licenses or certificates required to gain a career in journalism, but formal education is an asset when applying for jobs. A college degree is often required, particularly in the United States. A bachelor’s degree in journalism or a related field, such as communications or English, is encouraged.
If an applicant has a four-year degree in another field of study, pertinent journalism or writing experience (such as working for a college news station or publication) may suffice in certain circumstances. Depending on the organization and country, applicants without four-year degrees may qualify for journalist positions if they have experience working in a newsroom and/or can provide a portfolio that showcases quality writing and published work.
Completing an internship at a newspaper, television station, or other media organization is a major advantage for applicants in this competitive career field. Pursuing formal education can be a great way to gain access to available internships and complete education credits at the same time. Internships also open the door to meet mentors and network with experienced journalists who can provide valuable advice and even job referrals. When preparing to interview, research the organization before meeting with the interviewer. It’s a good idea to understand the company’s values and motives behind their publications.
- How to Make an Outstanding Impression with Your Application
- 10 Ways to Be More Marketable as a New Journalist
- Tips for Building Your Journalism Portfolio
Moving into Journalism from another career
There are many offshoots from a journalism career, and likewise a wealth of opportunities to transition into journalism. Those with a knack for writing and passion for current events can find themselves drawn to the world of journalism and gain success in the career. Moreover, because almost everything can be reported on, a person with a passion for prose can move into journalism with relative ease. However, the individual may have to prove himself in advance by doing freelance work to build a portfolio before being considered by a major news outlet. For further reading, see “Getting into Journalism After a Career Change.”
Role: Journalism internships can be paid or unpaid, often determined by the size of the company or circulation. Internships can also double as credit for formal education. Responsibilities can vary widely from organization to organization, but they generally include tasks such as managing social media accounts, scheduling interviews, contributing to company blogs, or writing smaller pieces for a publication. This is a prime opportunity to learn about managing workloads, the writing and editing process, and how to conduct interviews.
Role: Journalists research news events through investigations and observations to write content for newspapers, magazines, television, radio, or online circulations. Before taking on new assignments, journalists are often required pitch ideas to management for approval. Conducting effective interviews of relevant people can be a crucial part of journalism. Depending on the news medium, they may also have videographer responsibilities in addition to writing and editing their own content.
The career path of a journalist often involves starting at a small publication then moving up to larger news outlets after gaining years of experience. The responsibilities from small to large publications may stay relatively the same, with the exception of gaining bigger assignments with more experience.
Journalism provides many opportunities for travel. It’s often necessary for journalists to follow the news wherever it may take them, whether it’s to a neighboring city or across the ocean.
However, breaking into travel journalism can be difficult because it’s an extremely competitive field. Showing a competitive edge and networking with the right people can help pave the way for traveling for work.
A journalist’s salary in the United States is most influenced by the company they work for and how much experience they have. According to PayScale, the national average salary for a news journalist in the United States is $38K-$40K per year. In Canada, salary tends to increase with years of experience but declines for those late in their career. Journalist salaries in Australia and the UK are impacted moderately by experience.
Journalist: USD$38,000; CAD$41,000; £23,000; AU$52,000
Entry-Level (0-5 years): USD$35,000; CAD$39,000; £21,000; AU$49,000
Mid-Career (5-10 years): USD$43,000; CAD$55,000; £25,000; AU$58,000
Experienced (10-20 years): USD$51,000; CAD$65,000; £32,000; AU$67,000
Late Career (20 or more years): USD$54,000; CAD$57,000; £36,000; AU$75,000
Journalists are eligible to receive bonuses and commission, which are both included in the national salary averages from PayScale.
Why a Journalist moves on
Many choose to leave careers in journalism for a more consistent work-life balance. Journalism can be a tough career, with hectic hours, ever-changing deadlines, and extreme competition.
Reviews on PayScale quote the hours, work culture, and favoritism as cons in the journalism field. Though there are some that retire from their journalist positions, most use their journalism experience and move on to become communications specialists, marketing managers, or press release (PR) managers, several careers that offer better pay and better job security. For further reading, see Carmen Cusido’s LinkedIn story on how she transitioned from journalism to communications or Butch Ward’s narrative on finding a new career at age 50.