CM’s Guide to Getting a Journalism Degree

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“Journalism is a dead industry.” You’ve heard it time and time again but if that’s so true, how are you reading this article? Journalism is alive and well; it’s just taking a different path. As we plunge into a world of technology, those with journalism degrees have moved past just plain reporting and have begun exploring all different types of media. As a journalism major today, you might not actually need anything you learn in school (technology moves fast, guys) but you will gain the skills you need to be limitless. Be warned: journalism is not for the faint of heart. These students are curious, ruthless and competitive – and yes, you can quote us on that.

What You’ll Be Doing 

So much writing. Here’s a little known secret: as a journalism major, you’ll experience more than the intense reporting and editing classes. You’ll take your classes inside a newsroom or news lab usually, and once you leave a normal classroom, you’ll never look back. Try your hand at video, social media, graphic design, newspaper, magazine or even online media classes. Don’t forget the dreaded media law class; it’s impossibly hard but you’ll need it to make it as a journalist.

The Upsides

1. “I’d say that even though I have a job that doesn’t directly relate to journalism, I still see the ways that my classes and internships have positively shaped me. Being in the college helps you see that everyone has a story that you can learn from, and I think that living with that openness and curiosity makes life more interesting. When people toss around quotes or statistics that they’ve heard, I’ll be the first one to research whether or not what they’re saying is true.” – Meaghan Cloherty, University of Florida 2014 graduate. Currently working as a photo retoucher at Desktop Digital Labs in Jacksonville, FL.

2. “Studying journalism teaches skills that are applicable to almost any field. An ability to write clearly and concisely makes an individual marketable. But my student experience as a reporter also required me to approach people with whom I’m unfamiliar, develop appropriate questions and have the confidence to leave my comfort zone. I currently work on a university campus, where it is necessary to speak comfortably with students, many of whom I initially do not know well.” – Melissa Kansky,  Elon University 2013 graduate. Currently working as an Israel Engagement Associate at Brody Jewish Center – Hillel at UVA.

3. “It’s amazing to be able to get hands-on experience in a state-of-the-art facility. You’re so well prepared and skilled in so many areas, and even able to work behind and in front of a camera.” – Talia Medina, University of Florida 2014 graduate. Currently working at the Naples Herald.

The Downsides

1. “I don’t think this is a downside of the major so much as a downside to my experience with the major, but in hindsight, I should have taken on more internships. I was so nervous that I wasn’t good enough, but you have to start somewhere. I’m really happy with the ones I got after sophomore year, but there are so many amazing opportunities for college-level journalists that I should have started sooner.” – Meaghan Cloherty

2. “A big challenge is that while the skills acquired are valued, studying journalism is not the only way to learn such skills. As a result, jobs that journalism majors typically seek are not limited to those with a degree in journalism. This increases job competition and may make it more difficult to get a job. Those with a degree in journalism shouldn’t expect to make much money – at least not initially.” – Melissa Kansky

3. “As a telecom. major, the focus is on TV and radio. While we write our own scripts, we hardly learn AP style and don’t have many writing samples to show future employers. I wish I’d focused more on my writing.” – Talia Medina

Career Opportunities 

To be fair, sometimes after four years in an intensive journalism program, you can’t fathom interviewing another soul. If that’s the case, a degree in journalism still looks impressive to plenty of employers. Your four years as a journalism major will give you skills every career requires; you can do so much with the written word. Another bonus – usually journalism majors have a lot of professional experience, something employers can’t ignore.

1. Reporter

This one is kind of obvious, but still prominent. This job could involve anything from reporting and writing for a publication to utilizing social media and photo journalism. Reporters aren’t limited to just news; they also cover features and trends.

2. Technical Writer 

They write manuals for all of the electronics you hold near and dear. Put those writing skills to use and turn tech speak into something that even the dumbest person could understand.

3. Book Editor

It’s not like you don’t already know everything about grammar. Book editors do everything from reading and evaluating manuscripts to editing text to selecting books to be published and spearheading the design process.

4. Public Relations Agent

There’s a reason public relations and journalism classes in college are so similar. As a PR agent, you interact with journalism and other media groups – something you already know well. This job also involves writing press releases and alerts, keeping contacts and putting together media kits.

5. Content Producer

You can thank the Internet for this one. Every website needs somebody to write its content. This job is only for those who can work under pressure, but you can use you communication skills to create copy for any type of website.

 

Paige Levin is a sophomore studying journalism and political science at the University of Florida. When she’s not re-watching her box set of FRIENDS, you can probably find her talking about Panera mac and cheese (or just food in general). Currently, her interests (or obsessions) lie in everything and anything pop culture, Netflix binge watching, photography, going to concerts, and all of her unfortunately pathetic South Florida sports teams.


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