For people passionate about getting the truth out, a journalism degree is a good fit. Journalism programs equip students with the right skills to communicate stories, ideas, and viewpoints across a wide variety of media. These range from traditional tri-media to digital platforms. Essential skills being taught include writing, editing, and even technical production skills. These entail operating various equipment for filming and editing. It is embedded in the wider communication degree programs.
Moreover, journalism students are also taught important operational principles behind their chosen paths. These include journalism management, communication law, media ethics, contemporary issues, and foreign policy.
In this article, you will get to know more about what a student works on to get a journalism degree. This not only includes the scope of study and the available jobs afterward but also the cost of education. In this way, you will have a better idea of what you’re getting into should you choose to study journalism.
A Journalism Degree program teaches students the ins and outs of journalism practiced in a wide variety of contexts and media. A broad journalism definition would cover fundamental skills that involve writing, editing, broadcasting, and technical production aspects. Moreover, students are introduced to critical concepts in journalism. These include media law, ethics, and public policy issues.
Students are introduced to the styles and practices in various journalism areas. These include sports reporting, visual journalism, and even corporate communication like PR and strategic communication. And, writing is the bedrock of the discipline. But, journalism is more than just writing or a writing style.
Sheridan Burns (2002), Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University, emphasized in her book Understanding Journalism that writing journalistically is not the “same as being able to do it.” Journalism practice, she added, “consists of a series of ill-structured problems that are resolved by a series of decisions.” And, “every decision is at once an ethical decision, a professional decision and a commercial decision.”
Journalists carry a more or less shared ethos or even an ideology that provides them with their identity and duties to their professions. This ideological make-up includes notions of service and credibility.
Mark Deuze, a Professor of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam, emphasized this in his 2005 paper, What is Journalism? Professional identity and ideology of journalists.
He stated, after surveying scholarly literature, that journalist think of themselves as public servants. They “provide a public service (as watchdogs or ‘news-hounds,’ active collectors and disseminators of information). And, they do this with objectivity. They see themselves as “impartial, neutral, objective, fair, and (thus) credible.” This ideology and professional integrity carry journalists on the frontlines of fearless reporting as there can be constant interference that can sometimes reach violent heights.
In a study commissioned by the Council of Europe with the support of various organizations including the International News Safety Institute and the Association of European Journalists among others, it was found that there are constant threats to press freedom.
The study, Unwarranted interference, fear and self-censorship among journalists in the Council of Europe member states, was penned by Marilyn Clark and Anna Grech from the University of Malta. While conducting it, the authors found that unwarranted interference is experienced to a significant degree. They found that among their surveyed journalists, 50% were arrested, investigated, threatened with persecution, or actually prosecuted under defamation laws. Around 39% “reported being subjected to targeted surveillance and a significant 76 per cent did not feel sufficiently protected against such surveillance (Clark & Grech, 2017).”
So, students in journalism school are trained to assimilate the journalistic ideology and assume these ideals into their professional identity. This is also to prepare them for the possible dangers of the profession.
Source: Clark & Grech, 2017
There are abundant options of what you can do with a journalism degree. The skills that you will learn in journalism school can be applied in many fields of communication. So, you can work for the press, private for-profit companies, non-profits, and the government. Moreover, skills can also translate well into other non-traditional jobs such as a content writer or a publicist. Also, one can become an author as well.
Journalism and related communication degrees are very popular in the United States. Pre-COVID numbers show that in the 2018 to 2019 academic year, 92,528 bachelor’s degrees were awarded (NCES, 2020). This is the sixth-most number of degrees granted. The top being degrees in business with 390,563 earned.
Source: NCES, 2020
Journalism degrees and other communication majors can cost quite a lot. Aside from classes and lectures, there are usually on-the-field requirements like internships, productions, and the like. So, the tuition fee is not the only thing that journalism and communication studies majors have to worry about. Many times, they have to buy their own equipment and materials for such requirements.
Journalism degree tuition varies from institution to institution. Among the best schools for communication, the net price of attending can range from $10,085 to $37,521 (Niche, 2021). The average net price of attending is $20,885 and the median net price of attending is $20,785. And, it is good to note that these do not cover the room and board. Moreover, the acceptance rates among the best schools range from 4% to 78% with an average of 26% and a median of 17%.
The cost can also vary when you are in-state or out-of-state (Affordable Schools, 2020). Among the most affordable schools in the US, in-state tuition fees can range from $6,346 to $13,988 with an average of $9,037 and a median cost of $7,447. Out-of-state tuition fees range from $8,346 to $14,932 with an average of $13,287 and a median of $14,006. Also, among these, the student-to-teacher ratio can range from 11:1 to 20:1 with an average of 16:1 and a median of 17:1.
You can also choose to pursue a journalism degree through online programs. The most affordable online journalism degree programs cost from $6,006 to $11,700 with an average cost of $10,138 and a median of $11,067 (OnlineU, 2020).
Depending on your personal values, a journalism degree may be worth it. For people that are passionate about pure journalism, then it is a no-brainer. Also, for those that want to be specialists in some area like science journalism or sports journalism, then this might just be the best major when it comes to fulfillment.
However, for people that are looking to get paid very well, a pure journalism track might not be the best for them. However, as mentioned, there is a long list of job options for journalism graduates who do not want to pursue a pure journalism career. And, these can be very lucrative as well. They can work for brands, powerful individuals, non-profits, and governments.
Generally, journalists are valued by the American public (Jurkowitz & Mitchell, 2020). About 73% of Americans value journalists as watchdogs of elected officials. Moreover, 83% of Democrats or Democratic-leaning Americans and 61% of Republicans and Republican-leaning citizens also think the same way. However, the job market is not that good for journalism majors as many would expect. Journalism degree jobs are getting fewer.
There are negative outlooks for the journalism job market, especially in traditional media. Today, there are only about 44,700 journalists in the US (CareerExplorer, 2021). The market was expected to shrink by -10.1% between 2016 to 2026. Also, BLS (in Study.com, 2021) data show that from 2019 to 2029, the number of reporters and correspondents will decrease by 11%.
This is because of consolidations and mergers in the broadcasting and publishing sectors. So, working journalists are expected to spread themselves more thinly to cover more assignments.
On the other hand, experts predict that there will be more opportunities for aspiring journalists with new media skills. The freelancers of today and the future will likely have more job opportunities and projects. This is especially applicable to those with new media skills and specializations in economics, science, politics, and technology. Additionally, the demand for web content is also expected to be higher as the world becomes more digital. So, journalists can take jobs as content writers or creators.
Furthermore, if the job market for traditional journalism is tight, graduates can take jobs in PR and advertising. In the table below, are the top 14 jobs for journalism majors (Indeed, 2020).
Source: Indeed, 2020
According to Salary.com (2021), the median annual salary for entry-level journalists is $37,525 in the US. Payscale.com (2021) pegs the median annual salary at $41,000 with the average salary at $41,160. The base pay, according to Glassdoor (2021), ranges from $28,000 to $97,000 per year. Common health benefits include medical (73%), Dental (58%), and Vision (45%).
Like other disciplines, there are different journalism degree types. Also, they vary in the average length of time required to complete, academic and vocational focus, cost, earning potential, and career paths (Eastwood, 2018). The types of degrees are (i) associate degree, (ii) bachelor’s degree, (iii) master’s degree, (iv) doctoral degree, and (v) degree certificate.
The Associate Degree in Journalism usually lasts for two years for full-time students. Associate degree programs prepare and train students for various job opportunities in media and communications. They will gain more knowledge about the media market and gain skills, including journalism approaches (Study.com, 2021).
Common courses in the program include news reporting, digital production, editing, ethics, media law, and graphic design. Moreover, there is also a focus on many types of writing, including creative, business, and technical writing.
General courses may also be included in the humanities, English, science, and math fields. Practical training is also provided in photography, desktop publishing, and content creation. Some general courses and specialized courses can carry over to bachelor’s programs. So, learning delivery can be a mix of lectures and practical skill-building activities.
Entry-level jobs: copywriter, publicist, journalist, writer, and correspondent.
Usually, a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism lasts for four years. Students can choose between a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree. The former has more focus on the humanities and the arts while the latter focuses on math and science. Programs usually combine courses in writing, communications, and journalism.
Common courses include newspaper writing, expository writing, journalistic research, news analysis, communications law, and reporting (Study.com, 2021). Other courses may include media management, broadcast journalism, television news writing, multimedia story coverage, and many more.
Other related courses are also made available to open the doors to specialization. These include courses in politics, the sciences, and economics, among others. There are also internship programs that other schools consider as journalism degree prerequisites. So, a mix of in-person lectures and practical field activities are included.
Entry-level jobs: news reporter, magazine writer, media researcher, PR specialist, and photojournalist
A Master’s Degree in Journalism focuses on preparing students for a deeper understanding of journalism and communication in general. It takes an average of two years to complete. Programs provide a deeper grasp of the fundamental principles behind the media industry and its role in society. Furthermore, it provides opportunities for students to specialize in particular fields.
Courses generally offered include information theory, radio journalism, television journalism, digital and information media, and investigative journalism (Study.com, 2021). A popular specialization is in broadcast journalism.
In this specialization, skills such as on-air interview techniques, production, and field reporting are also given priority. Methods of education delivery include individual work, projects, and, of course, lectures.
High-level positions: associate news producer, news program researcher, media consultant, and radio news program reporter
Doctoral Programs in Journalism are focused on people with experience in news, broadcasting, and media to further expand their expertise (Study.com, 2021). On average, it takes around four years to complete. Moreover, the curriculum is based on research and theory. So, it is very flexible. In addition, students will be able to create their own plans for their very own desired concentration.
Common courses include the history of media and culture, mass communication history, ethical issues in journalism, advertising theory, and telecommunication law. Also, students can choose courses and research focusing on contemporary, issues such as gender inequality and the freedom of the press.
Generally, Doctoral Programs in Journalism deliver theory classes for a deeper understanding of undergraduate programs. So, they may include mass media research, freedom of expression theory, and even mass communications teaching. Also, a dissertation is required.
High-level positions: media analysts, advertising specialists, research consultants, and university journalism professors
A Certificate in Journalism Degree Program usually takes one to two years of study to complete. And, they are focused on getting journalism professionals to upgrade their skills and knowledge. Specific areas for training include cultural journalism, advocacy and immersion journalism, and feature-writing (Study.com, 2021).
Specialized courses include headline writing, copy editing, investigative journalism, refined writing for publications, and business journalism. Students enrolled will be able to improve on their writing styles, research techniques, and analysis.
So, a mix of lectures and practical-skills building are employed in education delivery.
Entry-level jobs: PR specialist, blogger, technical writer, and broadcast journalist
In this section, we will take a look into the general requirements to get into journalism programs. These include the minimum SAT or ACT score, minimum GPA, and other skill requirements.
Higher-learning institutions require students to provide proof of graduation or an equivalent certificate for them to proceed with their enrollment. This can be their high school diploma or a GED transcript, and other certifications available. This will inform schools whether a student can be accepted. Of course, there are other requirements and they vary from school to school.
A minimum GPA is required depending on the institution. For instance, American University requires 120 credit hours with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.00 on a 4.00 scale. Also, there are coursework requirements and they, again, vary for different schools. Here is a sample below.
(Tuition and Fees Only)
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Different universities and institutions have different requirements for minimum SAT or ACT scores. For instance, Duke, Tufts, and the University of Chicago accept average ACT scores of 32 to 35. Additionally, they also have core academic recommendations. For example, these three universities generally look for candidates with four years of English, four years of Advanced Math, 4 years of Laboratory Science, four years of World Language, and three years of Social Science (ETHS, 2017).
Moreover, there are other requirements including letters of recommendation. The number also depends on the school. Plus, international students need to present their TOEFL or IELTS certification to prove that they are proficient in English. Institutions may also require letters of intent and the necessary forms and fees. So, candidates need to check individual schools for their particular requirements. It is also best for undergraduate applicants to check with their guidance counselors.
Different skills are required and/or recommended for different journalism and communication programs. Recommended journalism degree skills include writing, deep computer literacy, graphic design, video and audio production experience, and collaborative skills. However, these basic skills can certainly be learned and enhanced in the program.
Most importantly, journalism students are already expected to be open-minded critical thinkers that can entertain an idea without actually believing it. This is an important skill. It is because journalists are expected to view and express things using different angles according to various optimization strategies that in turn depend on “the people’s momentary (news) mood and purpose (Harambam et. al., 2018)–something being used by recommender algorithms. Harabam and colleagues (2018) couched five common recommender strategies into anthromorphisized personaes:
So, a journalism student is expected to be very flexible. They are trained to wear many hats and, more importantly, understand the myriad of factors that make media creation and consumption work. This is why critical thinking is an essential skill to possess and developed by journalism students.
Journalism Degree programs vary from school to school. Most, if not all, offer general courses that would give students a good idea of the media market and the journalism profession. However, some offer specialized majors. In this section, we will look at important factors to consider when applying for a specific Journalism Degree Program.
There are many available specializations in the field of journalism and communication studies. They include Broadcast Journalism, Public Relations, News Journalism, Print Publications, and many more. So, if you are gunning for a position in a particular sector of the media industry, then you must get to know the programs that will give you the best chance of achieving your goal.
Also, it is best to check whether and where a degree is accepted or accredited. The most common and most recognized accreditation in the US is regional accreditation (Back to College, 2021). There are six geographic regions with their particular agencies in the US. So, if you want to see whether an institution’s program is accredited, just search for the name of the institution on these agencies’ websites.
For instance, if you live in New York, then you check The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools website. If you want to enroll in a program in North Carolina, you should check the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools website.
It is also important to check on an institution’s student-to-teacher ratio. This information will inform you on how well a program or the university, in general, can provide academic support and guidance. Essentially you want a lower student-to-teacher ratio. In this way, you will have more chances of working under or side-by-side with your professors. In the setup, mentorship will be easier to come by.
Moreover, you should also inquire about the available financial aid options in your target schools. This is so that you will be able to know how much of the tuition and board you’ll be shouldering. If you are a fresh high school graduate, you can also ask your guidance counselor if he or she knows of organizations that help students in their specific fields.
Communication studies is a wide field. There are many majors related to journalism. It is because these related majors require, more or less, the same skills and understanding. In Journalism, there are four concentrations and five related majors in the broader media communications field (College Factual, 2021).
Source: College Factual, 2021
We hope that this guide helped you find out whether you want to get a journalism degree and where you could get it. Again, note that journalism, in practice, is embedded in the broader communication field. A journalism degree will help you build competencies to work in various sectors of the media industry. You will not only be limited to news, print, or broadcast. You will able to work with new digital media and even go freelance.
However, it is also best to keep in mind that many experts have grim outlooks on the media job market in general. This is especially true for traditional media where consolidations and mergers are happening. Estimates of the dip, as mentioned, will continue until 2029. However, content marketing is pretty much the norm in many industries (this includes traditional news media), so journalism graduates can likely find work in non-news-related corporate settings.
If you are planning to work in the non-journalism-related corporate world, it would also be best to check out business degree programs. Having a good grasp of how business works will only help you improve your communication skills in the corporate world.