careers journalist

Journalist Jobs

Journalist jobs… did you know?

Extra! Extra! Are you curious about what’s going on in the world and keen to get the story out there? Have your finger on the button of daily events and trends as a journalist.

You could work on anything from newspapers and magazines to successful online blogs and TV shows (including the news). You could cover fashion, sport, the sparkly world of celebrities or local/national news. There’s always a new angle to find on a news item that’s on everyone’s lips. If you’re lucky (and persevere) you could be the one to break a new story and get the scoop of the year.

Words are your super-power and you use them to get to the heart of the issue. You’ll be able to switch styles from neutral and professional to conversational and opinionated. Whoever you write for, you’ll know what their audience is looking for and how you can create copy that makes someone sit up, pay attention and tell all their friends about what they just read.

Journalism is changing, and you’re as likely to find work online as you are in a magazine office or newsroom. Your flexibility, curiosity and passion for communicating via the written word will see you through.

Industry: Creative and Design

Journalist job trends

How much money can you make as a journalist?

£18,500 – £40,000 (UK average)

Recent labour market information says you can earn on average between £18,000 and £40,000 a year as a journalist in the UK.

Your starting salary can vary because of factors like level of experience, training, location or the size of the company. Your salary as a journalist will increase over time as you build skills, knowledge, experience and contacts in your little black book of networking opportunities.

What entry qualifications and training do you need for this job?

School, college and training

You don’t need any formal qualifications to become a journalist. You just need to be able to prove you can write in a way that makes people want to read.

However, formal qualifications can help you build your practical knowledge about the evolving world of journalism. Qualifications can also help your CV or pitch stand out – along with a portfolio of bylines (or written pieces crediting you as the writer) on publications that are relevant or that prospective employers have heard of.

One thing you’ll really need to get ahead in journalism is a love of words, and your formal qualifications may reflect that.

Along with GCSEs and potentially A-levels (or the equivalent) in English, you may consider further education.

Example qualifications might include an HND/HNC, foundation degree or degree.

Example journalism qualifications might include:

  • Media and journalism
  • English literature
  • Magazine journalism and publishing

Marketing is a suitable subject to get a grounding qualification in, as the world of journalism is very competitive. Employers may look favourably on you if they can see you have a strong social following who are likely to read what you’ve written, simply because you’re the one who wrote it. They will also appreciate a journalist who can help to market the content they write.

Courses in media and journalism will also help you build confidence in storytelling and wordsmithery across a range of media, including digital media and video. No doubt you’ve seen how popular video is as a means of spreading information these days.

Whichever English-related courses you go for, you’ll pick up vital skills in research, understanding key concepts and messages in written work, and written communication.

Apprenticeships

Some journalists get started in this career through an apprenticeship. You’ll typically get structured training while you work and earn, and industry-recognised qualifications.

You’ll find all kinds of journalism-related apprenticeships available from a wide variety of providers. These can include journalism, media and marketing apprenticeships. Large providers offer a greater variety of training schemes – for example, the BBC has a digital journalism apprenticeship available.

A Trailblazer Level 3 junior journalist apprenticeship is also now available, which combines college learning with on-the-job-training. This apprenticeship has been developed by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).

While at school or college, speak to your careers advisor about useful training and/or courses for you to take and find out more about the types of career routes available.

Career progression

As both a staff writer and/or freelance journalist you’ll see your fees and salary grow with time and experience, especially once readers begin to get familiar with your name. You can also specialise in areas like investigative journalism or being a foreign correspondent, because you’ve proven your skill over time.

As your experience grows, editors are more likely to give you high-profile pieces to handle, like a magazine cover story, or interviewing an A-list star or politician.

You can progress to take on a position as a sub-editor or editor, or start your own publication.
You can either work as a staff writer for a single publication, or freelance and have your work published in multiple places.

What experience do you need for journalism jobs?

Work experience

Work experience is very useful for this role, because any employer or publication thinking of hiring wants to see that you can write well about interesting things in a way that makes readers care about what you say.

Start writing as soon as you can! You might feel shy about showing your work to other people at first, so it’s good to get into the habit of sharing your written work.

Some ways to build work experience as a journalist:

Start your own blog. Aim to write well and often about topics you’re passionate about, and aim to grow your audience.

Get involved with the school or college paper to gain journalistic and/or editorial experience. These papers can be a great way to further a range of skills, from interviewing people to doing research. You could aim to write reviews of local gigs and events, bring important issues to light (like covering national anti-bullying campaigns), or hit the streets with a camera and brush up on your photo-journalism.

Seek work shadowing or work placements in the offices of publications. It doesn’t have to be at a national publication – you might be able to get practical insights and work experience at your local paper. It will still be really useful experience and look great on your CV.

What skills do you need for journalism jobs?

Useful skills to highlight to your employer when applying for jobs like this one include:

  • Fantastic writing and communication skills
  • Research skills and the ability to absorb information quickly
  • Self-belief skills, and being able to make people feel relaxed and open
  • IT skills to be confident with media technology including laptop/computer keyboards and social apps

Vocational qualifications and work experience will help you build these skills over time.

What does a journalist do?

Some day-to-day job responsibilities include:

  • Attending meetings to plan content and come up with ideas for stories to cover
  • Attending events like press conferences and court sessions when needed
  • Suggesting and pitching ideas for content
  • Carrying out research and interviews (by email, phone or face-to-face) to collect accurate information – this may involve transcribing notes from recorded audio interviews
  • Typing up stories and news in a way that matches the house style of the publication
  • Meeting tight deadlines and strict word counts for news and features when needed
  • Keeping on top of the latest trends and events in the field of interest you most often write about.

Some examples of journalism job types:

  • News reporter (covering news stories for one or more publications)
  • Feature writer (producing longform pieces that cover a single topic and usually aren’t time-sensitive in the way that the latest news is)
  • Columnist/commentator (producing a regular column in one or more publications, much like a celebrity blogger, or producing opinion pieces on what’s going on in the world)
  • Photojournalist (telling a story through the photos you take of a situation – this might involve foreign travel)
  • Broadcast journalist (you could work behind or in front of the TV camera to cover anything from traffic and sport to the news and weather)
  • Foreign correspondent (once you’ve built up contacts and experience as a reporter you could be asked to travel overseas to cover international stories)
  • Investigative journalist (is it important to you to seek the truth, whatever it takes, and do your part to make the world a more fair and just place? As an investigative journalist, you’ll uncover the dirt and get to the bottom of secrets which others may be trying to hide, from human trafficking to wrongful convictions of innocent people on Death Row).

You may work a standard working week as a staff writer, but your time can be much more flexible if you work as a freelance journalist. You’ll also need to work hard and use your initiative to chase up leads, especially if you freelance.

You’ll need to pay attention to spelling mistakes and grammar. You’ll also need to pay a lot of attention to the accuracy of your information, and think about the meaning behind each word to get your exact message across. For example, a ‘rabble’ sounds more aggressive than a ‘crowd’.

Your first steps into journalism jobs

Journalist jobs are advertised under different job titles. When you’re looking on job boards, look for the following types of job:

  • Junior reporter / writer / journalist
  • Apprentice/trainee journalist
  • Junior content editor
  • Paid journalism internship
  • Paid blogger

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