How Long Do You Go to School to Be a Journalist?

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Most journalists complete college degrees and internships before getting started professionally.
Most journalists complete college degrees and internships before getting started professionally. (Image: NA/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Journalists work for newspapers, magazines, radio stations, TV stations and websites to create informative or entertaining material for consumers. Breaking news stories, touching human-interest tales, restaurant reviews and celebrity features are all examples of the work journalists might produce. Because the industry is competitive, most journalists complete years of education to prepare for these careers. Expect to complete formal schooling in addition to practical experience.

High School

Earning a high school diploma is a minimum requirement for potential journalists. If you’re in high school and already know that you’d like to become a journalist, take challenging English courses that require extensive reading and writing assignments. This will sharpen your writing skills and help you learn to read quickly and critically. Join the school newspaper, work on the yearbook staff, help produce the school’s morning bulletin via TV station or intercom, or help video-record athletic events and theater productions. Speech and debate classes give you practice in public speaking, thinking on your feet, and engaging in meaningful, fast-paced dialogue.

College

The vast majority of journalists hold a college degree from a four-year program at a college or university. Some schools offer communication or journalism degrees. These classes provide a basic foundation on the role of mass media in society. They examine challenges associated with journalism assignments, such as accuracy and bias, and provide practical experience in producing a college newspaper, radio program, or online magazine. Not all future journalists major in journalism; some students may find it helpful to major in the subject area that they hope to cover professionally one day. For example, studying computer science or biomechanics might help you get a job as a science writer.

Graduate School

Some journalists return to school after earning a four-year degree in order to earn a master’s degree or doctorate degree in journalism. Programs can range from 10 months to several years, incorporating theory-based classes with practical assignments and research projects. Earning a graduate degree in journalism can help enhance your resume if you’d like to one day teach journalism to high school or college students. Some journalists return to graduate school to acquire new skills, or to transition to another journalism sector, such as switching from print to online journalism.

Internships

Finishing school is only part of the story for journalists. Most editors, publishers or producers don’t want to hire someone who has never written a story, given a new report on camera, or photographed art to accompany articles. Many journalists get their start by completing paid or unpaid internships, often with local newspapers, community magazines, or local radio or TV stations. It’s possible to earn college credit for completing some journalism internships. Working internships can help you gain practical experience and make connections in the field.

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