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How to Become a Journalist – University Choices Abound!

You want to become a journalist so you started compiling your portfolio (hard copy or online blog posts, newspaper articles, photos and everything else in this cross-platform digital era) while still at secondary school. Now you are armed with it and ready for university-level interviews for courses, where required. If they are not necessary they may edge you a claim for a place based on courses where places are limited. But what course do you opt to study?

There are two routes open to you as you work out how to become a journalist.

  1. Study Media/Journalism/Communications at BA level and these days you need to do a Masters degree too!
  2. Study for any BA-level degree you like (Computer Science, International Relations, Business, any single degree you want) and then do a Masters degree in media , (digital) communications or journalism etc.

Though you have your heart set on becoming a journalist now, note that not everyone who enters the field will remain in it until the end of their working life. Some will enjoy careers in today’s ever-changing media environment – eg cross-platform broadcasting for major corporations such as Sky, CNN, EuroNews, France 24, Al-Jazeera or the BBC while others will join well-known newspapers or internet/tech companies that are increasingly becoming major media players.

It’s worth thinking about the longer term. Typically, many people start out in the media (as reporters, photographers, editors etc) but some plan to move into creative writing (fiction) or screenwriting. People opting for this route might choose to study a BA in arts – languages and literature topics – before following their dream.

Yet others move into corporate communications in business and for these people an undergraduate degree in Business, Marketing, PR & Advertising or related fields (followed by a Masters degree in media) makes a good starting point for how to become a journalist first and yet have choices to enter business communication roles in the near future.

The fields of politics and media are quite close to each other so many study communications/media or international relations at undergrad level and then, after a Masters in Media, they enter political communications (think House of Cards press operations). And some enter the actual political field itself by running for elected office on the strength of their media profile.

Law and journalism/media are also quite closely related fields (media workers have to know about issues such as libel, defamation, copyright, media rules and regulations, court reporting, privacy and general contract law) so some people study law at either undergraduate or postgraduate level and enter the legal field after they decide to specialise.

Then there’s academia for those who wish to study the media field all the way through from undergraduate to doctorate level. You’ve cracked how to become a journalist and after a time want to move on to specialised research and/or teaching in the communications field at university or school level.

As you can gauge there are many undergrad options open to you with more scope to specialise in a field doing a Masters and/or PhD once the first steps are made. No one route is the only one. The university and college options are yours to choose. And, in today’s world, young people are best placed to embrace the myriad changes taking place in the global media sector.

Author: Mary O’Carroll

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