Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated December 2010
Studying in the field
Journalism is one of the single most important fields of study that today's graduate student can pursue. After all, as the world has become ever more interconnected, and as the news cycle has become an integral part of the 24-hour-a-day world in which we live and work, keeping people informed about all that is happening in the world, and all the ways in which it affects their lives, is crucial.
Once upon a time, journalism meant working a single beat-crime, national politics, a war-and reporting on it. But today's world has grown so complicated, and so complex, that journalists tend to develop a deep well of knowledge in regards to all the possible tangents pertaining to their area of expertise. And in addition, it is not uncommon for there to be a great deal of crossover in terms of the news outlets that carry journalists' stories. It is, essentially, a world of mixed-media journalism.
Thomas L. Friedman, for example, the esteemed columnist and Middle East expert for The New York Times, is a frequent guest on television news and discussion programs from the United States to Qatar. And Brian Williams, the anchor for the NBC Nightly News, maintains a blog on the network's website. And then there are the independent journalists-freelancers and bloggers-who have become so unbelievably important in recent years.
The lesson here is that journalism is different from how it ever was before. And as a result, journalists, too, are changing. Therefore, a solid educational foundation in the field is key. And a graduate degree in journalism will provide you with the right foundation for a successful career in this most exciting and important of fields.
Your first decision should be in what type of journalism you'd like to specialize: Broadcast, newspaper, magazine-though all of them deal with the news, their methods and the skills required to succeed are quite different. And while there is certainly a good deal of crossover these days, expertise in your specific area is very important.
The classes you will likely take include, but are not limited to, the following: "reporting and writing...deadline writing...covering conflicts...investigative techniques...news editing," and many, many more (Columbia University). And while there are innumerable other areas of general study, the first courses you take will prepare you for a career in the field of journalism no matter what avenue you choose to pursue, be it print, broadcast, or Web.
Later on in your studies, you will have the opportunity to narrow your focus and work on the issues unique to your own specific field of journalism. Graduate school will also provide you with a good base of contacts for when the time comes to try to make your own way in the field as a professional. In addition, your time as a grad student in journalism will also likely be spent working for the various school media outlets, honing your craft and delivering the news to your peers.
Job opportunities in the field
Many journalists begin their careers in smaller markets, honing their skills until they are ready to move onto the next level. So precious few reporters for The New York Times or The Atlantic, for example, start there right out of school. Rather, they find work in smaller markets, working their way up the ladder there until the next opportunity comes along. And when it does, they can be confident that their dues-paying has prepared them for whatever this new situation throws at them.
Job competition is always keen in the field of journalism, but as long as you are willing to make certain sacrifices-such as where you'll live in the beginning, and what you will cover-then you should be able to find a job that matches your professional goals.
As for compensation, it varies tremendously: Television journalists traditionally make a great deal of money in the larger markets but not terribly much in the smaller ones. And while print journalists don't usually make as much as their television counterparts, they can make additional money by writing books about their area of expertise or trying to get their writing syndicated. Just expect to begin your journalism career at a relatively low salary and work your way up from there.
One of the most appealing aspects of a career in journalism is the fact that each day will likely bring something different from the previous one. Of course, this can be both a positive and a negative. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "The work of news analysts, reporters and correspondents is usually hectic. They are under great pressure to meet deadlines. Broadcasts sometimes are aired with little or no time for preparation. Some news analysts, reporters and correspondents work in comfortable, private offices; others work in large rooms filled with the sound of keyboards and computer printers, as well as the voices of other reporters. Curious onlookers, police or other emergency workers can distract those reporting from the scene for radio and television. Covering wars, political uprisings, fires, floods and similar events is often dangerous.
"Working hours vary. Reporters on morning papers often work from late afternoon until midnight. Radio and television reporters usually are assigned to a day or evening shift. Magazine reporters usually work during the day.... Reporters sometimes have to change their work hours to meet a deadline or to follow late-breaking developments. Their work demands long hours, irregular schedules and some travel. Because many stations and networks are on the air 24 hours a day, newscasters can expect to work unusual hours" (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
But as with any field that you choose to go into, all the efforts are ultimately worth it as long as you have a high level of job satisfaction, which is, fortunately, the case with most journalists.