Majoring in Journalism: Everything you need to know

Majoring in journalism: What you need to know

Choosing a major is hard. You’re 17-18 years old and you’ve spent the last 12 years having to ask permission to go to the bathroom, and now all of a sudden you’re supposed to know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life.

Let me be the first to say: It is OK if you don’t know.

I know for a fact that most people go to college unsure of what they want to do. I’m going to be a senior this fall, and I’m still not 100% sure.  It’s fine. That is what our twenties are for: figuring out what makes us happy.

That being said, I know choosing a major is something you have to do. And, I know that there really isn’t all that much information out there on exactly what each major entails. So, that’s what I’m going to do today.

I am a journalism major. Specifically, broadcast journalism, but what I am going to say can be applied to most journalism areas. Today I’m going to share with you everything I know about the degree, from what classes you will take to what jobs you will be qualified for!

Majoring in journalism: What you need to know

How do I know if journalism is for me?

Journalism, compared to other majors like pre-med or nursing, is very broad. It covers a wide variety of topics and can encompass many different types of people. But, there are a few things I think you need to enjoy if you want to be successful in journalism and love what you do:

  • Writing. Journalism is all about communicating effectively, whether it be on air, in person or on paper. To be a good journalist you need to love writing and be willing to do it every day.
  • Talking to people. Good journalists are always talking to people for interviews, or just to learn about people and gather story ideas. If you love having conversations with community members and learning their stories, you will be a great journalist.
  • Keeping up on current events. Obviously, journalists need to be up-to-date on what is going on in the world so their reporting can be informed and timely.
  • Learning about your community. Journalists need to be informed about what is going on in their community in order to find the best story ideas. This might mean anything from attending city council meetings in your spare time, to going to parks and making conversation with the local community.
  • Able to work under deadline pressure. Journalism is incredibly deadline-oriented. You need to be ready to get that script done before the 5 o’clock show, and be able to work without letting the stress of the deadline affect the quality of your work.
  • Open to change. Plans can change at the drop of a hat when you’re a journalist. You may have been working on a story for the past six hours, but if breaking news happens, you need to OK with dropping everything and driving to that house fire at any moment in the day.
  • Helping others. At its core, journalism is about helping people stay informed about what is happening in the world around them. If you are driven by the thought of helping people, exposing corruption and finding the truth, you will love journalism.

Majoring in journalism: What you need to know

What classes will I take as a journalism major?

You will take so many classes during your time at university, and each school is unique and may focus on different things. However, there are a few types of classes that every journalism major will have to complete.

  • English. Journalists need to know how to communicate ideas effectively to their community, and English will help you learn how to master the English language.
  • Reporting. This is when you actually get to go out and cover current events in your area. You will learn how to come up with relevant and timely story ideas, how to interview community members, how to write either scripts or web articles and much more.
  • History of journalism. This class is boring, but necessary. You will learn about how the profession evolved, from the printing press all the way to social media.
  • Communication law. In this class, you will learn all the laws surrounding communications, and how not to unknowingly break the law. This includes things like how to know if you’re legally allowed to record a phone call and copyright law.
  • Journalism ethics. This course may be combined with comm law. Basically, it will go beyond the hard-and-fast laws and teach you about how to use your intuition in reporting, and how to make ethical decisions. For example, if you should release a victim’s name just because the police gave it to you.
  • Cross-cultural journalism. This class will teach you about how to report on different races, ethnicities and religions. You will learn about biases that  people might have, and how to put those aside when reporting in order to be as impartial as possible.

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Majoring in journalism: What you need to know

What jobs can I get with a journalism degree?

What I love about journalism is that it is so broad, and it allows you to try out so many different career paths. Some majors prepare you for one job only. But, with a journalism degree, there are hundreds of different types of jobs that are open to you! These are some of the main career paths I have seen graduates go down:

  • Reporter. This one is pretty obvious, but I wanted to mention it anyway. Within journalism, you can go into print/digital, broadcast, investigative, political reporting, business journalism, and many others as well. The opportunities are basically endless.
  • Producer. In a broadcast station, this is the person who works behind the scenes to pull off the show. He or she will write a lot of the content for the show, decide what news stories are most important and work in the booth to make sure the show runs smoothly.
  • Anchor. This is the person you see on TV when you watch the news. This person needs to understand news and enjoy writing, as well as be comfortable on camera.
  • Public Relations. PR is all about communicating effectively with the public. In this job you can be in charge of planning events, writing press releases, pitching reporters and much more. With a journalism degree you will understand how reporters think, which will really help when you are trying to pitch them a story!
  • Social Media. I would say this job is a cross between marketing and public relations. If you love social media and communicating with others this job would be perfect for you, and a journalism degree will teach you all the skills you need to be a great social media director!
  • Magazine writer. If you love writing but aren’t so crazy about news and current events, this would be perfect for you! Magazine writers get to write about a huge variety of topics like makeup, entertainment and fashion, depending on what magazine you work for.
  • Marketing. A journalism degree will equip you with the skills of a great communicator, and you will understand how to get a certain reaction from your target audience. These skills will make you a great marketer.
  • Corporate communications. This is similar to public relations. You will work on communication between your company and the public, as well as between employees. This can range from writing the company newsletter to giving public statements and much more.
  • Writer. If you dream of working on your own time and freelancing, journalism is great because it teaches you how to be a great writer. This skill can translate into any kind of writing job.
  • Law school. If you’re thinking about going to law school, journalism is one of the best undergraduate degrees you can get! To be a lawyer, you need to know how to get your point across to the judge and jury. And, with a journalism degree, you will be an excellent communicator!

This post by no means encompasses all possible jobs you can get with a journalism degree – the possibilities are endless! Being a journalism major will prepare you for any career that encompasses writing and communicating. If you have a job or want to have a job that isn’t on this list, let me know, I would love to hear about it!