What Is a Journalism Degree?

by Melissa Sartore
• 6 min read
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Journalism degrees give students practical experience in gathering credible sources, determining the truth, writing concisely and effectively, and relaying valuable and engaging stories to the public

Journalists deliver information through online video, television broadcasts, and print media. Journalism degrees train individuals to research and communicate information to the public in a responsible, coherent manner.

These professionals report on current events and explore issues like institutional racism, genderism, and classism at local, national, and international levels. By reporting evidence-based news and maintaining honest, informed personas, journalists build their reputations for accountability within the profession and the media.

The knowledge and skills developed through a journalism degree also transfer to careers across disciplines and industries. This guide covers types of journalism degrees, educational pathways, and available career trajectories.

What Kinds of Journalism Degrees Are There?

Most journalism positions require a bachelor's degree, but some schools offer associate degrees to help students enter the field. An associate degree in journalism covers foundational topics, while a bachelor's degree explores the discipline more broadly. To specialize further, students can pursue graduate degrees in journalism.

A master's degree in journalism also offers a pathway for individuals looking to enter specific specialties within the profession. For example, an undergraduate degree in finance combined with a master's degree in journalism equips students to report on the finance industry. Similarly, incorporating international affairs coursework in a journalism degree prepares learners to work in global journalism.

A graduate degree in journalism also helps current journalism professionals advance within the field. Continued study keeps journalists current in the latest technologies, trends, and changes in print, broadcast, and online media.


Associate Degree in Journalism

An associate degree in journalism generally requires two years of coursework. Students learn how to investigate, prepare, and present information in print and video formats. A journalism associate degree also introduces learners to different markets and specializations in the field.

As students explore the profession, they develop an understanding of written and verbal communication skills, media ethics, and how to build relationships. Earning an associate degree in journalism qualifies graduates for entry-level roles with media outlets. It also serves as a pathway to a bachelor's degree — the preferred level of education for most journalism professions.


Bachelor's Degree in Journalism

A bachelor's degree in journalism equips students for roles as reporters, broadcasters, and media production professionals. Coursework spans four years, with introductory coursework in English, communication, and storytelling. Bachelor's-level enrollees explore visual, online, and written media while honing the soft and hard skills needed to thrive in the field.

During a bachelor's degree in journalism, students gain insight into topics like interviewing techniques, multiculturalism and the media, and communication ethics. Learners may also study media relations, copy editing, and advertising. Bachelor's degrees also incorporate experiential learning opportunities, like internships, to offer graduates a competitive edge in the job market.

What's the Difference Between a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a Bachelor of Science in Journalism?

Some schools offer bachelor of arts (BA) degrees in journalism, while others offer bachelor of science (BS) degrees in journalism. Many schools offer both, with overlapping curricula: Both BA and BS degrees in journalism train students in news writing, journalism law and ethics, editing and management, and news in society.

The difference is that a BA in journalism emphasizes the humanities, often incorporating a foreign language requirement into the program, which best serves individuals seeking employment as international journalists, television news reporters, or photojournalists. A BS in journalism includes more math and science coursework, including courses in statistics, making them ideal for students who want to work in science journalism, online communications, and media technology.


Master's Degree in Journalism

A full-time student can earn a master's degree in journalism in about two years. Part-time learners typically complete journalism master's degrees in 3-4 years.

The core master's curriculum covers more complex journalism topics than a bachelor's program does, helping journalism professionals advance their careers and develop specialties. A master's degree in journalism also incorporates practical experiences and projects designed to build a professional portfolio.

By studying public relations, emerging media technologies, and business reporting, enrollees can focus on specific media formats, study different types of journalism, or work toward becoming journalism instructors.


Doctoral Degree in Journalism

A doctorate in journalism emphasizes multidisciplinary aspects of communication, people, and media. Coursework focuses on the relationships between people and media; how media functions in political and social contexts; and the role of journalism in both history and current culture. Enrollees also do research work, ultimately preparing and presenting a dissertation.

A doctoral degree in journalism can last as few as three years, although some students take four years or more. Graduates with doctorates in journalism can pursue careers as journalism professors, multimedia company executives, and entrepreneurs.

Accreditation for Journalism Programs

Accreditation attests to a school's academic quality and rigor, adherence to the accrediting body's standards and policies, and overall educational climate. Colleges and universities in the United States typically hold regional or national accreditation, with the regional form carrying more merit for liberal arts degrees. Students should always ensure the accreditation status of any prospective school, as it can affect transfer opportunities and financial aid options.

Individual programs and departments may also receive accreditation from agencies tasked with overseeing degrees in specific disciplines. The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications accredits journalism and mass communication programs.

What Can I Do With a Journalism Degree?

A journalism degree prepares students for careers across media platforms. Learners can pursue roles as reporters, fact-checkers, and content creators. Journalism specializations include:

  • Broadcast journalism
  • News editing and producing
  • Investigative journalism
  • Feature and magazine journalism
  • Multimedia journalism
  • Photojournalism
  • International journalism
  • Sports journalism
  • Data journalism
  • Freelance writing
  • Content management and marketing

Careers for journalism majors are not limited to one field. A degree in journalism can also lead to positions in publishing, education, business, and research.

Journalism Career Outlooks
Career Median Annual Salary (2020) Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)
Public Relations Specialists $118,430 9%
Technical Writers $74,650 7%
Writers and Authors $67,120 -2%
Editors $63,400 -7%
Radio and Television Broadcasters $49,300 -11%
Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers $37,900 -11%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Organizations

NABJ trains and advocates on behalf of Black journalists and media professionals. This association hosts events, provides career information, and offers annual awards and fellowships. Members have access to leadership and mentorship programs, publications, and discounts on conferences and programs. NAHJ has more than 3,300 members, working together to recognize and advance Hispanics working in the news industry. Member benefits include access to the NAHJ media and career expo, online directories and workshops, monthly newsletters, and networking opportunities at local and national levels. Formed in 1951, AWM celebrates and supports women working in media. This organization offers professional development opportunities, events, virtual gatherings, and recognition programs. Additional benefits include access to the AWM job board, an interview series, and industry publications. Founded in 1926, IFJ unites 6,000 journalists and media professionals worldwide. IFJ supports journalist unions in their efforts to fight for fair pay and labor rights. As part of its advocacy for the freedom of political and cultural expression, IFJ also organizes social justice and affiliate campaigns and projects. As the most broad-based journalism organization in the United States, SPJ inspires, educates, and creates ethical journalists. Dedicated to defending free journalism and information exchange, SPJ offers members access to its growing online community, training videos and webinars, and career and professional development resources.

Frequently Asked Questions

true What Kind of Salary Can I Earn With a Journalism Degree?

Salaries for individuals with journalism degrees vary by level of education, experience, and industry. In 2020, broadcasters earned median annual salaries over $49,000, while public relations specialists earned more than $118,000.

Is Journalism Hard to Get Into?

Journalism is a competitive field. With a degree in journalism, students can earn positions in media, business, education, and other economic sectors.

What Does a Journalism Intern Do?

During a journalism internship, individuals learn the practical, everyday aspects of a career in media. They assist reporters, broadcasters, and other media professionals, developing their own interview, writing, and communication skills along the way.

Melissa Sartore holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her BA and MA in history are from Western Illinois University. A medievalist by training, she has published on outlawry in medieval England with additional publications on outlaws in popular culture and across geographic and historical boundaries.

Header Image Credit: MangoStar_Studio | Getty Images

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