Journalists occupy a crucial position in U.S. society, gathering information, relating stories, and broadcasting news that keeps the public informed on topics such as local, State, national, and international events; the actions of public officials, corporate executives, special-interest groups, and other people of power and influence; and communicate points of view on current issues that affect public life.
Journalists fall into a number of specialized categories. Newscasters present news stories, communicate on the air with live reporters, and explain video images and other transmissions. Weathercasters report on the current and forecasted state of the weather using information from satellites, weather services, and weather bureaus. Sportscasters present news about sports, including interviews with sports stars and descriptions of sporting events. Reporters investigate news stories, interview people, examine documents, and take notes and photographs at a scene; then they organize this material and write stories for print or broadcast. News correspondents are stationed in large U.S. or foreign cities and report on news that happens in that city.
Journalists must have good physical and emotional stamina to deal with the more challenging aspects of the occupation such as tight deadlines, irregular hours, and dangerous assignments. They should have persistence, initiative, poise, resourcefulness, and a good memory. They must be comfortable with many new people and new places. On-air positions require a pleasant voice and attractive appearance.
In 2002, journalists earned a median annual salary of $30,510. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $17,620, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $69,450.
Training and Education
For a majority of journalism jobs, most employers prefer to hire applicants who have a bachelor’s degree in journalism or mass communications. Some employers hire applicants who have majored in other subjects. Employers also prefer applicants who have gained experience through school newspapers or school broadcasting stations, or who have completed internships. Some larger organizations prefer applicants who have a degree in a specialty such as economics, political science, or business. Over 400 colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degree programs in journalism, including courses in liberal arts, mass media, basic reporting and copy editing, history of journalism, and press law and ethics.
Community and junior colleges offer other options for journalism credit that can usually be transferred to a 4-year institution. 120 schools offered master’s degree programs in journalism, and 35 offered a Ph.D. degree. Graduate programs are designed to prepare graduates either for news careers or for careers such as journalism teachers, researchers, theorists, and advertising and public relations workers. An excellent way to prepare for a journalism career while in high school is to take courses such as English, journalism, and social studies. College liberal arts programs in English, sociology, political science, economics, history, and psychology can also form a solid foundation. Practical experience is just as important as education when employers make hiring decisions. Many students have already gained experience by the time they graduate through internships or part-time summer jobs.
In 2002, journalists held about 66,000 jobs. 60% worked for newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers. 25% worked in radio and television broadcasting. Only 4,100 were self-employed.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of journalists is expected to increase more slowly than the average. This will be due to mergers, consolidations, and closures of newspapers, as well as a decrease in circulation, increased expenses, and a decline in advertising profits. The highest amount of opportunity will be in smalltown and suburban newspapers and radio and television stations.
For more information on a career as a journalist, please see our directory of schools offering Media Training