Are you considering earning your journalism degree and have just begun your investigative research? Are you wrangling with questions like “Should get a journalism degree?” Or, “Should I get a degree in journalism through an online program?” Far from the gloom and doom of traditionalists in the field, journalism is not dead – it’s just transforming in the age of social media, 24/7 news, and citizen activism.
Is a Degree in Journalism Worth it?
What you are really asking is – Is a journalism degree worth it? And kudos, because it is a great question!
Historically, there is no specific definition that sets forth what it means to be a journalist. The modern journalist’s definition has become even more amorphous, as it now includes the many online journalistic options like blogging or reporting.
But, make no mistake, the modern 21st century journalistic landscape is nothing short of dynamic. With social media it’s possible for citizen journalists to cover events in real time, while the democratization of the media means that every voice gets heard. There are no more gatekeepers, and while that makes many traditionalists afraid, it also means the field is wide open.
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What Do Journalists Do?
The simplest way to answer the question – What does a journalist do? – is to recognize that a journalist’s objective is to tell a story from each available perspective.
The primary purpose of the field of journalism is to inform and educate the public regarding various topical issues that may impact them. Said another way, the concept of journalism is about communication.
However, there are a number of types of journalism that complicate the answer to the question – What do journalists do? Here is a partial list of the differing types of journalism –
- Investigative Journalism
- Business Journalism
- Sports Journalism
- Political Journalism
- Education Journalism
- Crime Journalism
- Celebrity Journalism
- Arts Journalism, to name a few.
To answer the question, What does a journalist do? – let’s review the available career paths that lead to a journalism career.
How Do I Become a Journalist?
Unlike many other occupations – like law, teaching, or medicine – journalism jobs rarely require applicants to possess an advanced journalism degree. However, that is not to say that an employer would not prefer an applicant to have an academic degree in journalism.
Studying journalism in college is a great way to explore the many facets of the field of journalism offers. In addition, completing a college degree in journalism allows students to amass a portfolio that demonstrates their skills and talent when applying for a journalism job. But, what degree do you need to be a journalist?
Another way to learn how to become a journalist is to consider obtaining an internship with a media company or newspaper (among other choices!), which are typically included in any college level journalism degree program.
What Degree Do You Need to Be a Journalist?
Most students seriously interested in a career in journalism typically complete a journalism degree with a double major (or a minor if you prefer) in a specific topic of interest to the student – like technology, sports, or politics, among others. Although some students interested in a career in journalism might choose a communications or English major as well, or to specialize in print publishing or digital media.
It is noted that some journalists begin their journalism careers without a degree, but that is typically considered the harder path in how to become a journalist.
Successful journalists typically have exceptional skills that include –
- Data collection and information gathering.
- Powers of persuasion.
- The analysis of a situation from a variety of viewpoints.
- Effective communication.
- Problem-solve by thinking critically.
- Reporting & editing.
- The synthesis of information into a cohesive written narrative, among many other attributes.
What Can You Do with a Journalism Degree?
As noted previously, it is possible to find jobs in the journalism field without a degree; however, it is likely a more challenging path to journalistic success.
If you are seriously considering the variety of jobs you can get with a degree in journalism, take enough time to understand what jobs you can get with a journalism degree before making any final decisions.
As you become more familiar with the available jobs with a journalism degree, be certain to ask more pointed questions like –
- What are the reporting jobs you can get with a journalism degree?
- What jobs can a journalism degree get you if you want to work in the world of digital media?
- What jobs can you get with a journalism degree with just a bachelor’s degree? Would earning a masters degree open up my options?
- Are there jobs with a degree in journalism that would allow you to pursue a master’s degree at the same time?
- What jobs can a journalism degree get you in the field of television journalism?
- What jobs can you get with a degree in journalism that allows you to travel internationally?
The available jobs you can get with a degree in journalism will depend on the exact kind of journalism career that you wish to pursue, i.e., broadcast or investigative journalism, to name a few. Because there are so many journalistic options, it is important to seriously consider which of the many slices of the journalism industry you wish to pursue.
Available Jobs with a Degree in Journalism
As you consider your journalistic options, consider these available jobs with a journalism degree –
- A court reporter.
- A media buyer.
- A publisher or copy editor.
- A media consultant.
- A teacher.
- A lawyer.
- A communications technologist.
- An account manager for an advertising agency, among others.
Degree Types Associates, Bachelor’s, Master’s, & Doctoral Degrees in Journalism
One of the greatest benefits of enrolling in a journalism degree program is the types of networking it offers degree candidates.
In addition to the basic core curriculum that helps hone your journalistic and data gathering/synthesis skills, you will interact with classmates and professors with likely strong ties to the world of journalism.
Associate’s Degree in Journalism
Most associate’s degrees provide a basic and introductory exploration and education of a specific subject area. Fortunately, there are many on-campus and online associate’s degrees in journalism to help jump start your journalism career.
Another advantage of earning even a two-year associate’s degree in journalism online is that degree candidates are provided internships and practical experiences in which to apply theoretical knowledge learned traditionally in a classroom or online.
With an online journalism associates degree graduates will find entry-level journalistic career opportunities; however, most employers prefer/require a baccalaureate degree, at a bare minimum.
Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism
If you are interested in applying to an on-campus or an online bachelor’s degree in journalism, this four-year degree (although there are some accelerated bachelors in journalism online options) will allow you to explore more specialized topics that include web design, media ethics, news writing, advertising, video production, or editing, to name a few.
Most journalism bachelor degree online or on-campus options award journalism degrees at the baccalaureate level as follows –
- A Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Journalism
- A Bachelor of Science (BS) in Journalism
Journalism majors are typically required to complete a journalism-related intern or externships in that sector of the journalistic industry the student finds most interesting or appealing.
Master’s Degree in Journalism
Professional journalists who have earned their graduate degrees have fully demonstrated their academic prowess. Earning an on-campus or online masters in journalism degree speaks to the graduate’s mastery of journalistic skills of the trade.
An on-campus or an online journalism masters degree opens many journalistic career options. These include–
- A Public Relations Director – earning a masters in journalism online is a great springboard to heading up the public relations department in an organization or company.
- A Television News Anchor – those who want a career in front of the camera often earn at least their on-campus or online journalism masters degree.
- An Executive Editor – an editor in chief or executive editor is typically the person who is tasked with the responsibility of the management of the entire media production related to a company, magazine or online site, etc. Most executive editors hold a minimum of an online masters in journalism or higher.
Other careers available to those who have earned a masters in journalism online include social content strategist, communications manager, sports journalist, advertising copywriting, market research, or multimedia specialist, to name a few. Some even choose to earn a dual degree with a Juris Doctor to work in the intersection of law and journalism.
Accreditation for Journalism Programs & Schools
If you are seriously considering and thinking about applying to an academic degree program at the college level, it is essential for you to understand the concept of accreditation. Most nonprofit or state-funded schools are regionally accredited by the U.S. Dept. of Education. However, most industries offer specialized accreditation through sanctioned accrediting agencies or professional organizations.
Many accredited journalism programs will have received accreditation through the AEJMC (Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism & Mass Communications).
The ACEJMC is tasked with the responsibility of accrediting programs in journalism and mass communications from institutions of higher education within the United States., Puerto Rico, and internationally. To date, the ACEJMC has accredited more than 110 journalism programs.
Certifications/Licensure for Journalism Professionals
Like most professions, journalism majors can fine-tune their education by earning certifications and credentials in specific topics related to the field of journalism. And for those students interested in enrolling in a journalism certificate online program, there are quite a few online journalism certificates from which to choose.
An online certificate in journalism offers journalism professionals an alternative way to master a specific skill within the industry, which often makes a candidate more competitive when vying for a key journalism job.
Fortunately, many schools, colleges, and universities offer a variety of journalism certification online programs that are available as professional online journalism certificates or undergraduate certificate in journalism online programs. Many of the undergraduate online certificate in journalism programs have credits that are applicable to baccalaureate degree programs.
Available journalism certificate online programs – which typically requires about 18 semester credits to complete – include –
- Desktop Publishing
- News Editing
- Photographic Elements
- Strategic Communications
- Investigative Reporting
- Digital Journalism
- Media & Ethics
- Scholastic Journalism
- News Reporting
For journalism majors who wish to enter the teaching profession, there is formal journalism certification online from the Journalism Education Association.
Journalism Education Association (JEA)
The Journalism Education Association offers a credentialed certificate in journalism online for those professionals engaged in scholastic media professions. This credential is known as the Certified Journalism Educator (CJE) designation. The CJE demonstrates a professional as a highly qualified individual that is recognized in the United States and internationally. The CJE exam covers the essential journalistic areas and is valid for 60 months, with renewable options.
Most students and working learners need help in paying for their college degrees. One of the primary ways to help fund one’s tuition expenses is to research and apply to those organizations and schools that offer scholarships.
In fact, those seeking a degree in journalism have an advantage in that they can use their journalistic skills to find available scholarships – the same skills one would use as a professional journalist. There are a variety of journalism major scholarships available across the nation.
These scholarships for journalism majors are offered for various purposes, some merit-based, while others are needs-based. More specifically, there are journalism scholarships for high school seniors as well as black journalism scholarships.
Students enrolled in journalism school can apply for the Mike Reynolds Scholarship, an assignment editor from Iowa who died in his 40s from cancer. This scholarship honors his memory.
Students interested in pursuing sports reporting journalism degree can opt to apply for the Prato Sports Reporting Scholarship, a scholarship honoring Lou Prato, a professor of journalism and the Sports Museum Director at Penn State University.
Journalism students with a Latino heritage can check out the Joel Garcia Memorial Scholarship, available to students pursuing journalism as full-time students. Award recipients must maintain their commitment to the field of journalism and give back to their communities.
An example of one of the black journalism scholarships would include the NABJ – the National Association of Black Journalists offers a variety of scholarships which does require membership in the professional organization and full-time enrollment as a student. Here are two other examples of scholarships for journalism majors –
- The American Copy Editors Society
- The Society of Professional Journalists
- The National Press Club
- The Association for Women in Sports Media
- James Alan Cox Scholarship
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