Journalism is an exciting, fast-paced, and diverse career path, but it is also extremely competitive. Breaking into journalism can be extremely difficult, especially if you are unaware of how to get your career off the ground. If you are inquisitive, energetic, and have a passion for communications, then a career in journalism might be perfect for you. This guide is here to help any aspiring journalists by telling you all that you need to know to get your career off the ground.
What You Need to Do to Start Your Career in Journalism
Of course, everyone’s path will look a little bit different, and journalism is not a profession like medicine; it does not necessarily require you to obtain certain qualifications in order to work. That being said, there are certain steps that you should follow in order to hugely improve the chances of you winning your first job as a journalist.
Define Your Goals
The first step to starting off your career as a journalist is to simply define your goals. The title journalist encompasses many different roles and specializations. The earlier you are able to choose what area you wish to specialize in, the better able you are to tailor the following steps to increase your chances of success.
The list below outlines some examples of areas that you might choose to specialize in as an aspiring journalist.
A Sports Journalist
A sports journalist will report on sporting events, either on camera for a television station, radio, or newspaper. Sports journalists need to have high-quality communication skills, very good vision, and insight into the sporting world. As a sports journalist, you will be expected to travel to attend sporting events.
A Foreign Correspondent
A foreign correspondent will travel to other countries to report on the events and situations that are occurring. A foreign correspondent will usually work for a television station or a newspaper.
Foreign correspondents can be required to report in dangerous situations, such as in war zones or politically turbulent countries. While the reporter will have received training that explains how to deal with these difficult situations, there is still a great deal of risk involved in this type of work. This means that to work as a foreign correspondent, you need to be able to keep calm and communicate clearly, even in high-stress situations.
As the name suggests, it is the role of a reporter to report on current events. A reporter can work for a number of different media outlets, either from a location or remotely. Whether working on camera or in print, a reporter will be required to communicate events very clearly, in a digestible format that provides facts and details.
When you see someone presenting the news, they will not have had the time to do all the research into the topics that they discuss in the program. A researcher is a journalist who specializes in finding out facts and breaking news that is then communicated to the public by a presenter in a television or radio broadcast.
A Fashion Journalist
A fashion journalist will traditionally work for a newspaper or magazine and report on the latest evolutions in the fashion world. Fashion journalists will cover fashion events, such as fashion shows, and comment on trends and the latest must-have pieces.
While fashion journalists would typically work for magazines and newspapers, this is changing. There is a rise of independent fashion journalists who are working for themselves, expressing their opinions in blogs or videos.
Reviewers are a type of journalist that specializes in assessing and judging establishments, productions, or musical compositions. A review can have a big impact on something’s success, and critical reception as a reviewer is seen as an authority on a subject and will impact a consumer’s choices. For example, some reviewers might specialize in restaurant reviews, whereas others specifically review new film releases.
An investigative journalist will conduct in-depth research to find out information that is otherwise not accessible to the general public. After spending time planning and researching, and collecting evidence, an investigative journalist will then report their findings. An investigative journalist usually does not publish work as frequently as other journalists do, as it takes time to find the evidence needed to break stories.
Most journalism requires you to present a story and the facts in the most impartial way possible; this is not the case for opinion journalism. An opinion journalist will report stories from their own perspective, providing their personal thoughts and critiques on the subject matter.
A Trade Journalist
A trade journalist will report on a particular field or industry, noting the developments and innovations that have occurred. A trade journalist might report on the financial industry, the business sector, or the healthcare field.
Now that you understand just how diverse the field of journalism is and have a little bit more insights into what type of journalist work interests you the most, it is time to learn what qualification you will need.
What Qualifications Will You Need?
There is no rule that says that all journalists need to have a certain qualification in order to work, but gaining some qualifications will show a potential employer that you have the skills they are looking for. Since journalism is a popular and competitive profession, having the necessary qualifications will help you to remain competitive and even stand out.
To be a journalist, you will first need to have graduated from high school; this is seen as the minimum educational requirement for such a job. It is also recommended that you gain a bachelor’s degree. You could study journalism, English literature, or even creative writing.
Studying for a Master’s degree is also recommended as it can help you to further evolve as a journalist and gain more skills and knowledge. Saint Bonaventure University recommends that you choose a specialized journalist master’s course to help you gain the most relevant skills and knowledge possible. There are a huge number of masters on offer, from sports to fashion journalism, all of which can help you become a more desirable hire.
It is important to remember that school and university is a very valuable opportunity to start actively developing your skills. You should try to get involved in as many journalistic activities as possible, such as reporting on sporting events or reporting for the school newspaper.
Look for a Training Scheme
Many big media organizations offer training schemes to aspiring journalists to help you gain professional experience. Not only do these training schemes help you to learn more about what the day-to-day life as a journalist is like, but they can help you to win a job in the end. This is because the organization will want to keep their trainees on long term to benefit from the investment that they have made in their training. Looking for a training scheme, or even just an internship, is a great way to win your first job as a journalist.
You don’t need to have an organization behind you to work as a journalist. The sooner that you start working, the better able you are to refine your real-life skills and build up a portfolio. Building up a portfolio is a vital step for any aspiring journalist as it will show a potential employer your skills and what you are capable of producing.
Take on Freelance Work
If you are motivated and able to work alone, then another great way to get started as a journalist is to work as a freelancer. Freelancers work by contacting media organizations and pitching them a story. In order to do this successfully, you will need to have an original insight into a subject matter and contacts that the organization does not have to convince them that they cannot cover this story in-house. You will also need to be able to show the organization that you have approached that you can work in a style that is suitable to the content that they produce.
Networking is important in any field, and journalism is no exception. Attending networking events and making professional connections is a great way to get into the world of journalism and to learn more about potential job opportunities.
Once you have made a connection with a professional journalist, make sure that you solidify the relationship by following up with a phone call or email. Remember that not every contact that you meet will offer you a job, but that does not make them any less valuable.
Journalism is a competitive field, but that doesn’t mean that starting a career in journalism needs to be impossible. Specializing early, getting the right qualifications and experience, and having the right approach can all prove invaluable when you are looking to start out in your journalistic career. Remember to stay dedicated and take as much work as possible; although it might not seem relevant to your long-term goals, different work types can help you gain skills and build your professional network.