Becoming a journalist requires broad competencies in writing, communication, Web development and the liberal arts. Course in these topics, especially when they involve practical experience in journalism, are useful for a journalism career. While general knowledge is important, journalism students often specialize in a particular aspect of the field, whether print, online, radio or television media.
Writing and English
Many journalism bachelor's degree programs, such as the University of Texas' Moody School of Communication's program, for example, require a course in English composition. The Medill School at Northwestern University also requires a course in reporting and writing. Even for journalists not planning to work in print media, being able to write competently is a necessary skill. Many journalists in radio and film, for example, write scripts that are read on air. The Poynter Institute, an independent journalism school, also emphasizes the need to learn strong editing skills. These include the ability to self-edit without the assistance of a separate editor, and to write concisely for on-air reporting.
Broad Liberal Arts
Journalists need to be able to ask intelligent questions about a wide variety of issues to cover breaking news on a disease outbreak, a political crisis or a historic athletic event, for example. Political science, economics, biology, psychology and a wide variety of other courses in a broad-based liberal arts program can help journalists accumulate this knowledge. Many journalism undergraduate programs require students to take this sort of broad curriculum. Even after college, the learning continues: the Poynter Institute offers continuing education training programs on a range of topics, from "reporting on sexual violence" to "handling race and ethnicity."
Journalists need to master a variety of technological skills. This is even true of journalists in print media, who need to master page design and editing programs. Courses in film production, radio broadcasting and print publishing are all a necessary part of a comprehensive journalism curriculum. Many journalism schools offer these classes, with American University offering a digital skills course, and Northwestern's Medill School offering a media design course, for example. Training courses in search engine optimization and social media also may play a role.
Internships and Fellowships
A practical experience or internship course will help students round out the knowledge they acquire through courses in writing, digital production and the liberal arts. Fellowships are another option that allow students to gain skills while building their resumes. The Society for Professional Journalists offers several fellowships and awards that allow students to find a special journalism niche. These include the New America Award, which honors a student who explores an issue relevant to immigration or ethnicity in America. The Heroes of the 50 States: The State Government Hall of Fame honors a journalist who reports on state-level government. Internships, fellowships and other work experiences like these abound, and can be found at a school's career center, or at journalism organizations such as the Poynter Institute.
- Northwestern University: Medill School of Journalism: Undergraduate Journalism Curriculum
- University of Texas at Austin: Moody College of Communication: Bachelor of Journalism
- American University: BA Journalism Degree and Course Requirements
- Poynter Institute: Training: Training by Topic
- Journalism Education Association: Standards for Journalism Educators
- Society of Professional Journalists: SPJ Awards
Kevin Wandrei has written extensively on higher education. His work has been published with Kaplan, Textbooks.com, and Shmoop, Inc., among others. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at Cornell University.