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A career guide to becoming a Journalist 

Published: Friday 16th October 2020

Working as a journalist can be an exciting career. There are a number of different types of journalism you can enter, such as newspaper, magazine and broadcast journalism. Whilst similar, there will be differences between your duties in these roles. As a journalist, you will be expected to have excellent writing and editing skills.  

The role also involves dealing with people from very different backgrounds, meaning good interpersonal skills are also important for journalist jobs. You could be specialising in one particular field, such as for a sports magazine, or more varied, generalised content, such as for a local weekly newspaper. Whilst many journalist jobs remain office-based, there are growing opportunities for remote working, whilst the nature of the role means you may also have to travel regularly.  

What does a Journalist do? 

Your exact duties as a journalist will depend heavily on the type of publication you work for. For example, your daily routine at a national daily newspaper is likely to be very different to if you are working for a specialist monthly finance magazine. Publications are varied, meaning there are often many different types of journalist jobs available. Different types of publication include local and national newspapers, trade publications, specialist interests and healthy living.  

Young female journalist with microphone working on city street

For large newspapers, you may be writing about one specific area, such as economics or showbusiness, or across many different topics for a smaller, regional newspaper. Journalist jobs can involve many different tasks, including Interviewing people face to face and over the telephone, taking photographs and copyediting, publishing work directly onto a website or attending events and reporting on them.

How to become a Journalist 

There are a number of different ways you can become a journalist. As such, journalist job requirements will change depending on the specifics of a role. One of the most important things to do is write. Prospective employers will want to see evidence of your writing, regardless of your qualifications. You will need to show work that has been published, this can include your own blog or with a student newspaper. People wanting to be journalists are also encouraged to seek our employment opportunities, particularly for those starting out. Any journalist experience you can get, even voluntary, will help you when looking for a full-time position. This can include local radio stations and newspapers, as well as guest blogging on a website.  

In terms of journalist job requirements, many employers will be looking for candidates with a university degree. Whilst this is generally in areas such as journalism or creative writing, some specialised sectors prefer degrees in a related field. For example, the field of medical writing often require candidates to have a degree in a science related area rather than journalism. Popular journalism courses include a Level 3 diploma with the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) which can be completed online in just two years. As competition for journalism jobs increases, post-graduate courses have begun to appear, varying in length from five to 12 months.   

male journalist in trendy glasses happy to finishing work on book review

Journalist salaries and career development 

Working in journalism can provide excellent career opportunities. Many journalists begin at local newspapers before moving onto larger regional and national publications. Others specialise in a particular area, such as business or sports. Once you are fully trained and have some experience as a journalist you will be able to move towards more senior-level positions. These can include roles such as senior reporter or chief sports’ writer. Journalist jobs will provide you with valuable transferrable skills and experience. As such, you will have opportunities to move into other sectors should you wish. The most common include marketing, advertising and public relations 

In terms of salaries, many entry-level journalist jobs offer low starting wages. The NCTJ says trainee journalist salaries range between £12,000 – £15,000, depending on the type of publication you are working for. Magazine journalists can see higher initial wages, partly due to their need for specialist knowledge of a certain sector. Once you have gained experience, journalist jobs offer salaries of around £25,000, rising up to £35,000 for those with more than ten-years of experience. From here, you can move towards more senior-level roles, such as head of department and editor-in-chief.  

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