Everyone knows what a journalist looks like, though the ideal might change from time to time. Clark Kent and Peter Parker (depending on your comic-book preference) were the prototypical journalists, those clever kids who walked into careers at daily papers while spending their free time in spandex. But most journalists don’t walk into jobs like that; most study for a few years, and sometimes as part of a communications degree.
Many universities and colleges offer journalism degrees, though these come in all shapes and sizes. Some colleges offer a two-year certificate in journalism while others have a four-year major dedicated to journalism from a School of Journalism. At many schools, however, journalism is a major that’s offered as part of the School of Communications or the School of Mass Communications. In these fields of study, journalism is the focus of a program that will involve other communications courses.
Keep in mind that all journalism programs -- even if they are all offered from schools as part of a communications or mass communications degree -- will have slightly different core curricula. Consider the University of Texas’s bachelor of journalism from its College of Communication. At the University of Texas, students in journalism must take the core courses for any communications student, including composition courses, studies in American and Texas governments, two American history classes, a social behaviour class and a math class. This is fairly standard in communications degrees, though the specific required courses will change; the degree is designed to give you a broad education.
Choosing a Communications Program
When you’re planning entering university, you may know that you want to be a journalist but you may not have any idea what you want to specialize in. Communications bachelor programs that offer you a broad education with the opportunity to sample a few different fields of study will give you an opportunity to feel out your interests. You may not know it before you apply to school, but you might have a deep interest in history, literature or film, and studying these as part of a communications degree may give you a specialty that you can pursue as a journalist.
Length of Study
Since communications degrees are bachelor programs, most require four years of study, though some post-secondary institutions including the University of Iowa offer a journalism and mass communications minor. University of Iowa’s journalism major includes a placement at a daily newspaper -- another common feature of a communications journalism degree. These placements may occur in summer when you don’t have regular coursework or might take place during a regular study semester, meaning you’ll have to study at least one summer during university.
Living in Canada, Andrew Aarons has been writing professionally since 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ottawa, where he served as a writer and editor for the university newspaper. Aarons is also a certified computer-support technician.