If you have a knack for writing and are interested in a flexible, fast-paced career, becoming a journalist may be right for you. Although the heyday of print journalism is long gone, journalists are in high demand in industries like digital communications and TV and radio broadcasting.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for “news analysts, reporters and journalists” in 2020 was $49,300 per year. Therefore, if you are primarily concerned about earning potential, this career path may not suit you. On the other hand, the top 10% of professionals in this category earned a median annual salary of $127,370 in 2020, so there are ways to enjoy excellent compensation with a journalism background.
Similarly, according to the BLS, journalists’ pay varies depending on the industry in which they are employed. For example, journalists who work for publishers of newspapers, periodicals, books and directories earned a median salary of $37,900 per year; on the other end of the scale, journalists employed by “other information services,” primarily digital media outlets, earned a median salary of $73,300 per year.
If you’re interested in becoming a journalist, there are many degree programs and majors to consider. We’ve handpicked the 10 best ones for your consideration.
1. General Journalism
If you want to be a journalist, it makes sense to earn a degree in journalism, right?
A degree in general journalism can be an excellent stepping-stone to various career paths. It’s also a terrific option for someone intrigued by journalism but unsure of how to apply it to a successful career.
Journalism degree programs help students hone the skills they need to communicate ideas, stories and viewpoints across a variety of media, including print journalism, television, radio and the internet. These programs focus heavily on developing skills in writing and editing, but they also typically provide in-depth instruction into technical production skills for filming and editing too. Additionally, journalism programs provide instruction regarding operational procedures needed to succeed in the field, including contemporary issues, communications law, media ethics, foreign policy and journalism management.
More than any other type of journalism degree, a general journalism degree teaches students to think like journalists. While completing this program, you will learn how to write journalistically – in other words, how to write with impartiality and credibility. If the idea of working as a reporter uncovering major issues in the world appeals to you, this type of degree should be right up your alley.
People with journalism degrees can find employment across many industries, including the press, online media outlets, private for-profit companies, non-profit organizations and publishing houses. Many journalists end up specializing in specific areas of journalism like sports journalism and scientific journalism.
Some of the jobs that you may be able to pursue with a degree in journalism include the following: journalist, news producer, reporter, content writer, editor, content manager, communications manager, corporate communications specialist, social media planner and public relations specialist.
2. Broadcast Journalism
If you enjoy crafting messages but prefer seeing them conveyed beyond the written word alone, a degree in broadcast journalism is worth your consideration. Degree programs in broadcast journalism focus on techniques and methods for producing, reporting, and delivering news and news programs via television, radio, and various video and film media.
While completing a broadcast journalism major, you will learn broadcast technology and broadcast reporting principles. These degree programs also introduce students to the fundamentals of media law and policy and professional standards and ethics. As you complete your studies, you will receive instruction regarding programming, sound and video editing techniques, program design and production, on- and off-camera communication, and microphone procedures and techniques.
The primary goal of most broadcast journalism degrees programs is to prepare students for careers in broadcast media. Therefore, you will learn how to research and report the news via radio, TV and online outlets. You’ll delve into on-camera and on-air communication as well as the behind-the-scenes aspects of bringing news stories to life.
By the time you complete your broadcast journalism degree program, you will know how to investigate, report, write, fact-check, shoot, produce and edit original news stories, documentaries and in-depth features. Along the way, you’ll develop crucial broadcast journalism skills like interviewing skills, announcing techniques and how to meet tight deadlines – a significant aspect of broadcast journalism.
With this degree, you will be able to pursue many journalism-related jobs, including video journalism, video editing, news writing and media relations.
Journalism degrees encompass more than producing effective written communication. Videos and images are crucial aspects of modern journalism, and a degree in photojournalism lets you enjoy the best of both worlds.
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys exploring the world through photography and videography, a degree in photojournalism may be just the thing for you. This type of degree program focuses on understanding the effective use of still and motion photography in journalism.
While completing this degree program, you will receive instruction on a variety of topics pertinent to visual journalism techniques, including the following: journalism, photography, camera and equipment operation and techniques, news scene composition, news editing, subject surveillance, studio procedures and techniques and print and film editing. This type of program will also introduce you to topics related to working in photojournalism, including media law and policy, professional standards and ethics in journalism and news team field operations.
By the time you earn your photojournalism degree, you’ll know how to document life using still and moving images capably. With this credential under your belt, you will qualify for a variety of exciting jobs, including print photographer, layout editor and freelance photographer. Many people with this degree pursue careers as professors and even as documentary filmmakers, so the possibilities are endless.
One of the best things about completing a photojournalism degree program is that you should emerge with a portfolio of your fieldwork, which you can then use to pursue jobs across various industries.
4. Radio, TV and Digital Broadcasting
If you’re unsure about which type of media you’d like to work for in your career, pursuing a degree in radio, TV and digital broadcasting is a viable option to consider. This versatile degree program prepares students for careers across radio, TV and online media – the perfect combination for the modern world.
In fact, if you aspire to work as a news reporter or broadcast journalist, this type of degree provides a ton of much-needed flexibility. The primary purpose of this major is learning how to relay time-sensitive, critical news stories via radio, TV and online media outlets, so you become familiar with creating work across all of those areas.
As a bonus, a degree in radio, TV and digital broadcasting helps you develop technical broadcasting skills and introduces you to the business side of the industry. You will learn how to write, edit, produce and direct media content and fine-tune your ability to tell a great story.
At the same time, this type of program provides instruction in budgeting, teamwork and project management skills – all crucial skills to have in various journalism careers.
Like many journalism-related degree programs, this one typically requires students to create hands-on projects. Students often emerge with portfolios they can use to pursue jobs in the professional world.
With this degree, you can pursue careers in radio as a broadcast journalist, DJ or announcer. It prepares for careers in television as a producer, anchor or production manager. In the world of digital communications, you will be able to pursue jobs as a content writer, web strategist, blogger or podcaster. Many corporations have media departments, and this degree can also pave the way for careers in those arenas.
Another versatile journalism degree program to consider is one that centers around publishing. Contrary to popular belief, publishing degrees don’t limit you to careers in print journalism; they also provide you with credentials that are crucial in the world of digital content.
The primary purpose of a publishing degree program is to teach students how to make information available to the public through magazines, books and various types of digital content. While completing this type of degree program, you’ll learn the ins and outs of how magazines and books are produced and designed. Naturally, you’ll also hone your writing and editing skills.
As part of your training, you will likely have to produce a thesis project, which may involve developing your own magazine or other forms of print media. Internships with magazine and book publishers are also often crucial parts of completing such programs. Therefore, you will emerge with real-life experience in the industry – and a portfolio to boot.
Some subfields of publishing that you may pursue with this type of degree include book distribution, media sales and interactive media. With a publishing degree, you may be able to pursue jobs such as editor-in-chief, print sales manager, managing editor and freelance editor so that you will have tons of flexibility in terms of career paths.
6. Communication and Media Studies
If you’re interested in journalism but don’t want to back yourself into a corner professionally, pursuing a degree in communication and media studies may be the answer. This type of degree program is mainly concerned with how people communicate in a digital world, so it’s perfect for today’s fast-paced business world.
While completing a degree program in communication and media studies, you will develop skills like reporting news, disseminating information effectively, analyzing media culture and storytelling. Along the way, you will fine-tune your ability to create compelling messages, work with new technologies and understand audiences.
What’s more, you will look closely at the intersections of communication, culture, and society. This type of program provides instruction regarding media ethics, policy and law. It also helps you hone research skills and fine-tune your ability to write for communication.
Higher-level classes in this degree program often involve individual study courses, where you will engage in original research to produce a creative capstone project. This type of project can take many forms and depends on your area of interest. For example, you might produce public relations materials for an organization or write a feature-length article for a digital media outlet.
Since most industries rely on communications professionals, this is a very versatile journalism-related degree to pursue. People with degrees in communication and media studies work in various industries, including the following: marketing, advertising, social media, public relations, television, journalism, translation and graphic design. Some even pursue careers in event planning and other industries that involve effective communication.
7. Public Relations and Advertising
For those who enjoy the idea of journalism but would like to take those skills and apply them to a more fast-paced career, pursuing a degree in public relations and advertising is an excellent way to go. This type of degree program essentially teaches you how to put your journalism skills to work to develop and maintain a positive image for your client, which may be a company, an organization, a brand or even a celebrity.
In addition to having strong written communication skills, this degree program is ideal for people with excellent interpersonal skills. You’ll learn how to hone these skills to effectively develop relationships with various media outlets, which you can then use to promote the clients that you represent.
While completing this degree program, you will complete courses across a wide range of subjects, including the following: media campaigns, image management, broadcast media, news writing, speechwriting and videography. You will also be introduced to subjects like message and image design, digital communication, applied research, professional writing and the principles and theories of persuasion. These programs also typically include instruction across various business-related topics to prepare you for the professional world.
Degree programs in PR and advertising also often include areas of specialization, such as organizational communication, political communication, PR and image management and international and intercultural communication.
Most people who earn this degree pursue careers with advertising agencies or as in-house publicists for corporations and other organizations. With this degree in hand, you will be able to pursue jobs as an art director, copywriter, PR specialist or promotions manager.
8. Media Arts
If you have an artistic bent and technological aptitude, pursuing a degree in media arts can be a great way to break into the world of journalism. This type of program prepares students to manage and organize various aspects of visual arts, performing arts and entertainment media, teaching them how to arrange and distill information into an aesthetically pleasing format for the general public.
While completing a degree program in media arts, you will learn various practices, theories and approaches to media design. These programs introduce students to an array of subjects, including design processes and techniques and communication methods and tools. Students may focus on areas of specialization, including developing logos, advertisements, webpages, commercials and even video games.
Examples of the types of courses you will complete while pursuing this major include the following: event promotion and management, marketing and fundraising, product and artist management and labor relations for the arts.
Like most journalism-related degree programs, this one typically involves completing various hands-on projects. You can then share this work in a digital portfolio, which will come in handy as you pursue your professional career.
Some of the jobs you will be able to pursue with a media arts degree include interactive designer, graphic designer, video game developer and media production specialist.
What if you love reading and writing but aren’t sure about pursuing a career in journalism, per se? In that case, earning an English degree may be the solution. This type of degree provides a comprehensive understanding of the fundamentals of many types of journalistic pursuits, including grammar, writing, linguistics and literary analysis.
While completing a degree program in English, you will be exposed to a variety of foundational subjects, including the history of the English language, technical writing, creative writing, non-fiction writing and English composition. In other words, you will learn the nitty-gritty aspects of wordsmithing – crucial skills for any career in journalism or related fields.
As you work toward earning your English degree, you will study various essential works of literature while developing your own unique voice. If you’ve ever thought about becoming an author, earning an English degree is a no-brainer because it provides you with the fundamentals you need to write effectively and to develop exciting storylines.
Another great thing about earning a degree in English is that it opens up many career paths and many graduate study opportunities. Popular grad programs for English majors include law, education and creative writing. Many people with English degrees go on to pursue teaching, including as professors at major colleges and universities. Therefore, if a career in academia sounds appealing to you, earning an English degree may be the perfect option.
In addition to pursuing jobs as a teacher or journalist, an English degree opens up other job opportunities, including careers in fundraising, grant writing and public relations.
10. Mass Communication
If you’re interested in the broader aspects of journalism, you should think about pursuing a degree in mass communication. With this type of educational background, you will learn to understand the big picture of modern communications and media, which will come in handy across various career paths.
At its most basic, a degree program in mass communication examines the many forms of mass media in modern society. It examines how media works and how it affects society in general. As you complete this type of program, you’ll study the history of media and media laws, giving you a background that opens up many other educational pursuits. For example, many mass communication majors go on to earn master’s degrees in various subjects as well as MBAs and law degrees.
Mass communication degree programs examine how mass media messages affect people’s behaviors and opinions. They teach students how to develop effective research methods and hone their analytical skills. As you complete your major in mass communication, you’ll learn how to create, analyze, send and receive messages to large audiences via verbal and written media. The broad scope of this type of degree program opens up many doors educationally and professionally.
People with mass communication degrees pursue an eclectic array of careers, including positions as freelance videographers, research analysts, editors and journalists. Some branch out into even more intriguing areas as musicians, wedding planners and designers.
Companies and organizations across most industries rely on mass communication experts, so you can also pursue in-house positions in which you develop visual, written, audio and multimedia training and instructional materials. Likewise, companies will hire you for sales positions, PR positions and for developing internal and external communications for the firm.
As you can see, when it comes to earning a degree in journalism and pursuing a career in that area, there are tons of pathways and programs to consider. Contrary to popular belief, journalism isn’t dead. It is just evolving for modern times, and those with suitable educational backgrounds and training will be able to take their pick from a broad array of career options.
While investigating various journalism degree options, keep your innate skills and interests in mind. If you’d like to write the great American novel, pursuing an English degree may be the answer. If you see yourself as the next Woodward and Bernstein, pursuing a general journalism degree could be the way to go. Even if you want to work in the corporate world, many journalism-related degrees will provide you with the skills and credentials you need to pursue a variety of career paths in that area.