Become a Journalist

Do you like to write? Have teachers and others told you that you write well? If so, a career in journalism might be right for you. Writing is the most obvious skill needed by a journalist. Other traits include:

• a natural curiosity about current events
• the ability to ask questions and make people comfortable talking with you
• the ability to comprehend and present information to other people in a clear manner.

If you think you possess these traits, you will probably be a good journalist.

What Career Options Will I Have as a Journalist?
Being a professional journalist offers many opportunities. As a journalist you can write for newspapers, magazines and websites. You can also be a broadcast journalist on radio or television, either writing daily news stories, being an onsite reporter, or an on air reader.

As a journalist in any of these branches you will have the opportunity to specialize in different types of reporting. Some specialties include writing or reporting on Lifestyle Features, Crime or Police Beats, Politics, Sports, City News, or Business. If you write for a niche magazine or website, your specialty could be even narrower, writing about any number of special interests that people are passionate about.

Where Will My Job Opportunities Be?
Most major cities have newspapers and television stations, but the competition for these jobs is intense. Be prepared to start at the bottom…that means a low salary and the need to pursue stories that nobody else wants to report on. Generally speaking, the larger market you are working in, the more opportunities for advancement you will have.

Writing for magazines is another option for journalists. Publishers are located throughout the United States but tend to concentrate in major metropolitan areas. As part of a magazine staff, you will be involved with the magazine’s editorial and publishing decisions. However, because magazines accept submissions from many different writers, it is possible to live remotely and still work as a magazine journalist. The key is to network with editors, and establish a good reputation as a writer who produces good work and also meets deadlines.

Probably the fastest growing segment of journalism is online reporting. Most major news sites, as well as niche news sites, have reporters who write and report news and opinions for their online websites. Jobs range from writing for well-respected international news websites to local, specialized or opinion-based websites. If you want to write for a website, you could be located almost anywhere…either where the stories are happening (if you write about current events) or from your home office (if you write about a niche expertise).

What Background Do I Need?
Most successful journalists have a college degree in journalism, or a related field such as Communications or English. A degree in a niche subject, such as Political Science, History, or Fine Arts might also qualify you to report on certain topic areas, especially if you have a Journalism minor. According to payscale.com, the median salary for a journalist is $36,225. Generally speaking, the bigger media market you work in, the greater potential you have for earning a higher salary.

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