How to Become a Journalist: Step-by-step Guide & Career Advice

How to Become a Journalist
Created by CakeResume

The news plays a significant role in the lives of people. It informs, educates, entertains and guides the audience. Because of the news, we can make the best possible decisions about all aspects of our lives. 

Becoming a journalist means that you are committed to finding the truth and helping others to be well-informed of what has been happening in the world we live in. It’s a great yet rewarding responsibility.  

Consider getting into journalism? The very first thing is to decide on your journalism career path among 9 different types as shown below:

  • Broadcast journalism
  • Business journalism
  • Entertainment journalism
  • Investigative journalism
  • Opinion journalism
  • Photojournalism
  • Political journalism
  • Sports journalism
  • Watchdog journalism

Next, let's go over this article to learn more about journalist qualifications and skills, as well as which degree is required to become a journalist. 

What does a journalist do?

In short, journalists create new stories. Generally speaking, there're many opportunities within the journalist career. You can work for different areas of media such as newspapers, magazines, television, or radio.

The duties and responsibilities of a journalist may involve: 

  • Researching to uncover interesting and significant news 
  • Gathering and interpreting data for relevant news stories
  • Conducting interviews to collect more information
  • Editing and revising articles on request 
  • Attending and reporting events to the public 
  • Verifying statements and facts
  • Staying up-to-date with privacy, contempt, and defamation law
  • Coordinating with editors, designers, and photographers to complete the work

How to become a journalist

It's no doubt that becoming a journalist is not easy, whether you are seeking a full-time job at a publication or want to pursue a freelance journalism career. 

Below are the 5 steps to help improve your chances of landing an entry-level journalist position.

🖋 Start early

Regardless of the medium you decide to work in, it's important to start off with a passion for writing and strong writing skills early. Besides reading a lot of books, you can develop and master these skills from courses in English, language arts, humanities, and social studies. 

Free writing is helpful as well. You could get into the habit of writing about your daily activities in your diary, or volunteer to work for your school's TV or radio station. These practices can help build a solid foundation for your journalism career path at the early stage.

🖋 Earn a degree

Meeting journalism education requirements is the next critical step to take if you are wondering how to become a journalist after the 12th grade.  

Typically, journalism positions require a bachelor's degree in English, communications or journalism. 

Taking courses in editing, journalistic ethics, reporting, feature writing, and communications allow you to develop research and writing skills for different media outlets. Depending on your specialization, you can have a chance to dig deeper into broadcast, print, photojournalism, or public relations. 

For those focusing on print or broadcast journalism, you may want to do additional coursework like graphic design, web development, and video production.  

🖋 Build a professional portfolio

Whether you are wondering how to become a freelance journalist or seeking a full-time position, it’s highly recommended you have a professional portfolio to showcase your work. 

Think about it as an effective tool to demonstrate your journalist qualifications and writing skills - not to mention, promote your personal branding. As such, it should include the following elements: 

  • A brief introduction about yourself which emphasizes your passion for writing and enthusiasm for being a journalist
  • Samples of your work that don't need to be paid pieces 
  • Online presence (LinkedIn, Facebook, personal website)
  • Contact information

🖋 Create a strong resume

While a portfolio showcases your proudest with graphs and/or writing samples, a CV/resume summarizes your skills and experience in the text. Almost all media companies will ask you to submit a resume in the first place to see whether you meet their basic journalist requirements. 

Make sure your journalism resume follows a well-arranged, easy-to-read format and include the following information:

  • Contact details
  • Profile summary
  • Education
  • Work experience
  • Skills 
  • Others: languages, certificates, awards, projects, etc.

🖋 Acquire relevant experience 

Here comes the most critical factor determining whether you can land your dream job -  journalism experience.  

So, where and how to find relevant internships or job opportunities: 

  • Job postings:

You can easily seek career opportunities for getting into journalism on the best job search websites like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, Monster, Glassdoor, etc. 

Don't forget to read the job description carefully and tailor your resume to the specific position. Therefore, recruiters can see that you match their journalist requirements and offer you the interview. 

  • Networking:

As an important facet of professional life, networking is more than simply making new friends, but helping you cultivate quality relationships and lead to a job referral. Effective networking can be rewarding, and yet requires courage, motivation, and especially strategy.

Further reading: 10 Pro Tips to Become a Networking Expert

  • Freelance opportunities:

Besides full-time employment, you can also look to gain journalism experience from volunteer work, freelance jobs, or personal projects. These will especially help land a journalist job without a degree. 

Below are the 8 best freelance writing sites: 

Tips for becoming a journalist with and without a degree

Regardless of whether you meet the journalism education requirements as specified in the job posting, these are the winning tips for being a great journalist.

💡 Decide a specialization.

To get into journalism, you need to be passionate about writing, have strong critical thinking skills, and know how to express your thoughts clearly. But it’s not easy to write about everything. Choose a journalism career path as a general news reporter or a journalist with a focus on specific topics to develop your skills and knowledge more effectively: 

  • Local news
  • Sports
  • Global events
  • Politics
  • Sports
  • Weather
  • Real estate
  • Lifestyle
  • Investigation

💡 Become an expert in your chosen field.

In fact, it's highly recommended you cover one or just a few subjects that are best suited to your interests, knowledge, and skills. By becoming an expert in your chosen field, you can deliver insightful, engaging pieces, and thus be offered opportunities for career advancement.

  • How to become a broadcast journalist

If you want to get into journalism as a broadcast reporter, make sure you've done a degree in journalism or communications. A postgraduate qualification in broadcast journalism or interactive media is also preferred for your career advancement. 

To be a broadcast journalist, you need to get familiar with different people from various cultural, economic, and religious backgrounds. This way, you can become knowledgeable in different cultural and social practices, as well as understand people in a global context.

  • How to become an investigative journalist

Investigative journalism requires you to research and report a single topic deeply. A major in communication, mass media, journalism, English, political science, or international relations is helpful for those who want to become an investigative journalist.

  • How to become a sports journalist

As a thrilling yet competitive job prospect, sports journalism takes more than just a passion for sports to stay in the industry. Besides great writing skills and quality journalism experience, you need to have great observation skills, an eye for accuracy, and the willingness to frequent travel. 

  • How to become a travel journalist

The top travel journalist qualifications include a bachelor's degree in journalism, communications, or travel and tourism. However, more and more freelancers are paid to be travel writers and sell their stories nowadays. What you need to have is excellent writing and photography skills, the ability to travel abroad, and in-depth knowledge of that place in terms of geography, history, culture, etc.

  • How to become a music journalist

A bachelor's degree in journalism or a music-related field is considered the minimum journalist education for this job. However, freelance writers with solid reporting skills, a keen interest in music, and thorough knowledge of music genres can also become successful music journalists.

💡 Knowing what skills you need to be a journalist.

In addition to writing and reporting skills, here are 10 essential skills and qualities you'll need for your journalist career:

  • Research skills
  • Story-telling skills 
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Active listener
  • Strong ethics
  • Social media savvy
  • Attention to detail 
  • Curiosity
  • Open-mindedness
  • Time management

💡 Sharpen your journalism skills on a daily basis.

Whether you just start out in journalism or have secured a job, check out the advice below to improve your skills as a journalists day by day:

  • Watch news channels for better exposure
  • Read books and newspapers every day
  • Follow industry experts on social media, especially LinkedIn
  • Take online classes if relevant to your specialization or 
  • Keep your professional portfolio up-to-date
  • Write for school newspapers 
  • Keep your own blog
  • Try journalism internship

FAQs about being a journalist

1. How long does it take to become a journalist?

Normally, it takes 3-4 years to complete a degree in journalism or in a related field with a major in journalism, followed by a 6-month or one-year internship. During that time, you will receive instruction and gain experience in practical journalism under the supervision of senior journalists.

2. Do I need a license to work as a journalist? 

This depends on where in the world you're based. In some countries having “freedom of speech and press”, it is not mandatory to obtain a license to pursue a journalism career. Nevertheless, you may need a specific license or certificate to achieve higher positions such as publisher, editor, or columnist. 

3. How much do journalists make?

Once again, the answer lies in the country - not to mention, journalism experience, skills, employer, and more. In general, journalism is considered a not-high-paid profession, at least not in the beginning despite long working hours and a lot of pressure. 

Check out the following stats for more details:

4. What are the benefits of being a journalist?

Getting into journalism allows you to travel and work in many different locations, meet many new people and hear about their stories, and especially learn how to get out of your comfort zone. You also have a chance to be among the first people to know when a big news story is about to break. These make your journalism career never get boring. 

5. What are the challenges of being a journalist?

Despite many benefits, a notoriously fast-paced field like journalism definitely has its fair share of challenges. These include: 

  • Long, unusual hours - particularly for the newbies who are tasked with less-desirable assignments. 
  • High competition for a steady journalist job in a high-profile company
  • A constantly-shifting media landscape, requiring you to consistently learn about new technologies and new writing techniques. 

With CakeResume, you can easily create a resume online, free download your resume in PDF, and utilize ATS-compliant templates to create a resume. Create your resume online (free download) now and land your dream job!

--- Originally written by  May Luong ---

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