How to Become a Journalist
Can you sniff out a story? Do you have an eye for detail and just the right amount of creative flair? Entering the exciting realms of journalism could be for you. This career path is as versatile as it is fulfilling. Before you grab your notebook and get started, here’s everything you need to know.
What does a journalist do?
Think you have what it takes to make it in the world of journalism? If you’ve got a nose for a story and creative flair, you might just be a success. The truth of the matter is that there are many different types of journalism. You could find yourself working on a daily newspaper or sitting on a features desk at a magazine. Regardless of which discipline you choose, here are some of the everyday tasks you may be expected to do:
Needless to say, your role will depend greatly on the type of journalism you do. When you’re looking to specialise in a certain field, be sure to look at the job specifications. That way, you will know what your everyday work will look like ahead of time.
How much does a journalist earn?
Journalism is a broad field, and how much you earn will depend vastly on your chosen path. The three core avenues are broadcast journalism, newspaper journalism, and magazine journalism.
Broadcast journalists start out on a low wage of roughly £14,000. However, experienced professionals in this field make an average of £60,000.
Newspaper journalism, the most traditional form of the art, can be marginally less lucrative. Again, the starting salary averages at £14,000, and you can expect to make an average of £50,000 when you reach a senior position in this industry.
On the other hand, magazine journalists tend to start on a higher salary but don’t reach quite the heights that newspaper and broadcast journalists do. Should you choose to go into this field, you can expect to make around £18,000 when you start out, increasing to roughly £40,000 as you gain experience.
What qualifications are needed to become a journalist?
If you’ve got your heart set on becoming a journalist, let’s take a look at the qualifications you will need. First, you should complete high school and gain A Levels relevant to the media. For example, you may choose to undertake A Level qualifications in graphic design, media, English, creative writing, or IT.
You may be able to start your journalism career at this point by undertaking an internship. For instance, you could become an editorial assistant or start helping out in a newsroom. Gaining a certificate from the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) will give you the legal and technical knowledge needed to have a successful career in journalism. But you don’t need to have this qualification to get started. You can often take this course while on the job.
Want to go down the academic route? There are plenty of options here. You may wish to take a Foundation Diploma in Journalism or a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. Many of these courses are NCTJ accredited, meaning you will become fully qualified for the role. Additionally, postgraduate courses will help you specialise in a field.
Specially designed Journalism qualifications can also equip you with the skills needed to step into this exciting career space. Meanwhile, Journalism courses that cover creative writing, as well as editing and proofreading can also be an excellent way to improve your writing skills before going for that first big role.
What skills are needed to become a journalist?
The field of journalism is highly competitive. As with many creative industries, getting your foot in the door can be particularly challenging. Whether you’re looking to go into news reporting, work in newsrooms at radio stations, or even delve into investigative journalism, the skills you need are the same. You should have the following:
An understanding of current affairs and current events
Shorthand and note-taking proficiency
Brimming with story ideas and pitches
Excellent English language and writing skills
A knowledge of social media and trending news
High level of organisation and speed
As you start to gain experience in journalism, you will naturally gain some of the above skills. It’s worth noting that this is a fast-paced career. You will need to be highly organised if you wish to work for some of the world’s leading media companies. From staff writers to sub-editors, every member of the team has to manage a wealth of tasks each day.
Does becoming a journalist need any work experience?
Whether you’re NCTJ trained or otherwise, you will need to gain work experience before you can land a full-time job. The only way is up when it comes to journalism. You may start out on your school newspaper when you’re young and work your way up to a national newspaper. The best career advice is to take any experience you can get your hands on.
When you’re starting your journalism career, be sure to look far and wide. You may not immediately enter a busy newsroom. Instead, you might find yourself contributing regular articles to a local publication or a news website. The good news is that there are more and more online publications and free magazines you can work for.
Career prospects for a journalist
Journalism is a constantly changing jobs space. The birth of the internet, trending news, and social media have changed the way readers consume content. When it comes to your career prospects, there are many moves you can make. You might start as a newspaper journalist and work your way up to the role of editor. That is a traditional pathway and an honourable one.
However, should you fancy a career shift, you may decide to look into marketing and PR. Drafting press releases takes the same skill set as writing articles. In fact, many of the skills you learn in your training will be transferable. When you’ve completed one of many journalism programs, you might say the sky’s the limit for your career options.