How to Become a Journalist

Journalist
Journalist Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year$63,230
Avg. Pay / hour$30.40
Education4+ Years
Outlook-10.1%

Journalists write articles and reports for newspapers, magazine, and online media outlets.

They also write and present reports for news programs on television.

If you enjoy writing, have a natural curiosity about people and events, and like getting to the source of problems, then you will likely enjoy working as a journalist.

When you become a journalist you will need to be a naturally creative person.

You’ll also need to be tough, and have a strong work ethic.

Journalism can be a competitive field, not just in getting your start, but also once you are working.

Competing networks and newspapers are often working against each other to get the scoop on a particular story.

Education Requirements to Become a Journalist

To become a journalist, you’ll need to get a college degree in this field.

You can attend a specialist journalism school, or complete a four year bachelors degree with a major in journalism.

Another option is to complete a degree in writing or english.

You may be able to secure a job with this degree alone, or need to complete a postgraduate qualification in journalism.

To get work in journalism, you need to build up your portfolio, or clippings.

If you have a school or college newspaper, volunteer to start writing for them and start building your work.

Writing for street magazines is also a good way to get experience.

You may also want to volunteer your time for non-profit organizations.

At this early stage of your career, experience is everything.

Starting a blog on a topic you are interested in is another good way to get your name out there.

Completing internships is essential, try and complete summer work with well regarded newspapers or magazines.

This will help you to meet people in the industry, and start gaining practical experience.

It’s also possible to gain paid freelance work while still at college.

Familiarize yourself with journalism and freelance writing job boards, there are many jobs on here which will give you the opportunity to earn some money and also gain valuable experience.

Journalist Job Description

A journalist writes reports and articles on a wide range of topics.

There is much more to this role than writing, you must also spend time finding things to write about, and then researching and understanding them well.

Journalists work with strict deadlines, if an important event or story happens, you’ll be expected to come in and work, no matter what time of day.

Here are some of the tasks a journalist may find part of their job description:

  • Writing articles and reports
  • Editing written work
  • Researching stories
  • Interviewing people
  • Looking for leads on new stories
  • Communicating with editors and coworkers
  • Meeting deadlines

Some journalists go on to specialize in specific areas.

Some may work as profile writers, interviewing celebrities and other people of interest.

Some become fashion journalists, while others may only write lifestyle pieces or feature articles.

Some journalists become foreign correspondents and work from overseas posts for many years.

Journalism is certainly a career with many different paths that can be taken.

It offers many varied tasks and no two days will ever be the same.

Journalist Salary and Career Path

When you begin your career as a journalist, you can expect to be writing the least important parts of a publication, or be working under the supervision of another journalist.

With experience, you’ll get bigger briefs, be writing features, and eventually be able to source your own work.

Some journalists go on to become freelance writers, editors and sub-editors, or gain work in the publishing industry.

Others become teachers and work within colleges.

Some move into different areas of media, marketing, and public relations.

Here are some other similar careers that may interest you:

When you first become a journalist, you can expect to earn around $30,000 a year, with those with more experience earning closer to the median wage of $45,000.

More experienced journalists can earn upwards of $70,000 or more.

For those with a love of writing and an aptitude for research, becoming a journalist will prove a rewarding career.

Job prospects are good, and employment is secure.

Journalism also offers the option of working freelance later on, or moving into a specialized field.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$63,230
$29K
$35K
$63K
$77K
$120K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$36,770
Alaska$58,370
Arizona$57,310
Arkansas$41,030
California$60,880
Colorado$67,450
Connecticut$82,080
Delaware$63,200
District of Columbia$111,360
Florida$67,940
Georgia$77,610
Hawaii$69,820
Idaho$40,300
Illinois$49,540
Indiana$52,440
Iowa$41,870
Kansas$48,160
Kentucky$51,460
Louisiana$56,800
Maine$45,020
Maryland$58,890
Massachusetts$51,180
Michigan$42,440
Minnesota$48,270
Mississippi$32,340
Missouri$41,020
Montana$33,460
Nebraska$41,930
Nevada$70,420
New Hampshire$51,280
New Jersey$76,110
New Mexico$52,290
New York$95,510
North Carolina$53,580
North Dakota$47,210
Ohio$52,810
Oklahoma$53,620
Oregon$59,130
Pennsylvania$38,710
Rhode Island$73,460
South Carolina$53,890
South Dakota$38,130
Tennessee$49,390
Texas$57,240
Utah$69,360
Vermont$43,910
Virginia$61,340
Washington$58,400
West Virginia$33,840
Wisconsin$44,290
Wyoming$38,460
Puerto Rico$47,580

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $111,360.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $111,360
New York - $95,510
Connecticut - $82,080
Georgia - $77,610
New Jersey - $76,110
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for News Analysts, Reporters, and Journalists, OCC Code 27-3023, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a journalist do?

A journalist is someone whose main aim is to present the news in an objective and well-rounded manner.

The professionals can do that through radio, television, magazines, newspapers, and the internet.

Journalists investigate, collect and then present information as a news story.

There are a lot of different types of journalists – reporters, sub-editors, editors, photojournalists, feature writers, news editors, and so on.

The typical tasks of a journalist would certainly depend on the size of the organization that he or she works for and on the sphere that the professional specializes in.

Reporters, for example, find sources, conduct interviews, and, ultimately, pull together all the information needed to write a news story, while sub-editors take the stories of the reporters and tailor the piece to match a certain audience.

How much do journalists make?

On average, a journalist can make a little more than $37.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to choose this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $21.000 and 65.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the location and so on.

Journalists that work in the District of Columbia and New York, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level journalist can earn around $10.00 per hour, while a top-level professional with plenty of experience can make $31.00 and more per hour.

How much does it cost to become a journalist?

Some aspiring journalists choose to earn an associate’s degree to learn the basics about the field.

However, the majority of professionals have a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

To improve job perspectives, you can go for a master’s degree; that will cost you $6.000-$70.000 per year.

What is the demand for journalists?

Between 2016 and 2026, the journalist job market is expected to shrink by 10.1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That certainly is slower than the average for all occupations in the United States.

The competition in the traditional sector will be intense; moreover, thanks to the development of technology, journalists will be able to take on more tasks, and that will limit the number of new hires.

The industry is mainly concentrated in Florida, New York, and California.

How long does it take to become a journalist?

It will take you 2 years to acquire an associate’s degree, 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree, and 1-2 years to earn a master’s degree.

You can consider seeking an internship during your last years in university to get that on-job experience as the majority of employers prefer the candidates to have at least a few years of experience.

Make sure to decide what area of journalism you want to focus on (print media, radio, television, multi-media…) in advance.

Jamie Willis