What Can You Do With a Journalism Degree?

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A journalism degree prepares you for an exciting and important career in media. Quality journalism is an essential function of a free society. Journalists are responsible for speaking truth to power, for determining where truth lies, and for passing that knowledge on to their audience. Journalists conduct research, critically analyze information, and share their findings through public channels. A journalism degree gives you the skills necessary for writing political analyses, investigating corporate malfeasance, and revealing institutional racism, genderism, or classism. Since you can now obtain a bachelor’s or master’s degree in journalism through online courses as well as traditional courses, a journalism degree is more accessible than ever!

A journalism degree gives you the tools to research, analyze, and communicate important news, findings, and stories while connecting with your audience. While writing and editing are important components of an education in journalism, they are not the only skills you will learn. You will also learn research methods, analytical thinking skills, statistics skills, and mass media communication skills.

As media shifts and expands with new technology, the concept of journalism has also expanded beyond the familiar image of a traditional beat reporter. You might work at one of the dwindling numbers of print newspapers, interviewing sources and writing stories. Or you might find a career in an online media organization, doing the same type of work remotely. Other journalism degree holders work as announcers or as analysts who examine and parse the news written by others. If you are detail–driven, you may enjoy working as a copyeditor, cleaning up and polishing the drafts of others. And of course, like every field, journalism always requires teachers to pass the discipline on to a new generation.

It is possible to start your education with an associate degree in journalism. However, an associate degree may not land you a position in the field and is best used as a steppingstone to a higher degree. For most journalism jobs, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in journalism. A bachelor’s degree will allow you to perform entry–level writing, copyediting, or analysis jobs in journalism. With a master’s in journalism, you could lead a news or media organization from an editorial or executive role. With a Ph.D. in journalism, you could participate in groundbreaking research or teach at the university level.

What Kind of Accreditation Should My Degree Program Have?

Accreditation is the process by which colleges and universities are evaluated and validated. Colleges and universities that have earned accreditation have met the standards set by accrediting organizations. These organizations are comprised of faculty from various accredited colleges and universities. Legitimate regional and national accrediting organizations are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Typically, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes the same institutions, although CHEA recognition isn’t mandatory. A college or university must be accredited by a Department of Education-recognized accreditor in order for its students to receive federal financial aid.

For a detailed look at the differences between regional and national accreditation, check out What Do I Need to Know About College Accreditation?

What is Regional Accreditation?
Regional accreditation is the signifier of quality education; this includes the currency of curriculum, credentials of educators, and credibility of degrees. Regional accrediting agencies only accredit institutions in their geographical area.
The Six Regional Accrediting Agencies

To find out if a college or university on your list is regionally accredited, check the Department of Education’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

What Is National Accreditation?
National accreditation is often perceived as a less rigorous standard than regional accreditation and is governed by educational accreditors agencies that are not restricted by region or geography. This means that one such agency can provide accreditation to any college or university in the U.S. that meets its criteria. National accreditation is commonplace among trade schools, religious schools, and for–profit colleges.
 
Most regionally–accredited colleges do not accept or recognize credits or degrees earned from colleges that lack regional accreditation. However, national accreditation may be a useful indicator of quality for students pursuing vocational training, competency-based education, or other education models that operate under a for-profit model.

To learn more about National Accreditation, check out Understanding National Accreditation.

For help safely navigating the For–Profit Sector, check out our Guide to For–Profit Colleges: What You Need to Know.

What is Programmatic Accreditation?
Programmatic accreditation certifies that an institution’s program, department, or college has met the standards of the programmatic accrediting agency. While programmatic accreditation agencies often have national jurisdiction, programmatic accreditation is not institutional national accreditation. In fact, programmatic accreditation often coexists with regional accreditation. In some disciplines, a degree with programmatic accreditation may even be required to earn a license or enter professional practice.
 
The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) is the leading programmatic accreditor for journalism degrees. ACEJMC evaluates journalism and mass communications programs in colleges and universities. There are currently 117 professional journalism programs in the U.S. and abroad with ACEJMC accreditation. A program that is accredited by ACEJMC may offer more scholarships, funding, or internships than a program without this accreditation. Lacking accreditation by ACEJMC is not necessarily a deal–breaker for a school, but this accreditation can be a strong indicator of quality. Absent ACEJMC accreditation, your college or university’s regional accreditation is sufficient to indicate program quality and credibility.

The easiest way to determine accreditation status is to contact your school of choice, or visit the website for any of the above accreditation agencies. Each provides a searchable database of accredited institutions and degree programs. You can also look at the Department of Education’s database of all recognized accreditors within its purview.

Or, to learn a little more about navigating the tricky accreditation landscape, check out Accreditation of Colleges and Universities: Who’s Accrediting the Accreditors?

What Kinds of Journalism Degrees Are There?

Associate Degree in Journalism

An associate in journalism degree generally requires 60 credit–hours and can be obtained in about two years. In this program, you’ll take the normal gamut of core courses such as English, mathematics, and life sciences, along with courses specifically related to journalism. Those courses may cover topics such as ethics in journalism, media law, editing, and feature writing. Generally, an associate in journalism degree is not sufficient to start a career as a journalist. Most journalism jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree. However, an associate degree is a good steppingstone toward your bachelor’s degree in journalism. Because these degrees are often offered by community colleges, this can be a cost–effective way to start your education. Just be sure that your school is accredited so that your credits and diploma will transfer.

What Journalism Courses Will I Take in an Associate Program ?

  • Copyediting
  • Desktop Publishing
  • Feature Writing
  • Introduction to Composition
  • Mass Communication
  • Newspaper Reporting

Bachelor of Journalism

A bachelor’s degree in journalism is typically a four–year program, generally requiring 120 credit–hours for completion. In most cases, this degree serves as the minimum requirement for working in the field of journalism. You’ll learn how to conduct research, write feature articles, and speak to an audience. You’ll also learn skills such as analytical thinking, interview techniques, and investigative reporting. These skills can help you compete in the job market, even if you don’t ultimately choose to become a journalist. In addition to the career possibilities in the field of journalism, such as writer, copyeditor, or reporter, you could also find work in fields such as public relations, marketing, or advertising. These fields require similar skills as journalism and often pay higher salaries. A bachelor’s degree in journalism can be the end of your postsecondary education, or you can go on to obtain a master’s or doctorate in journalism.

What Journalism Courses Will I Take in a Bachelor’s Program ?

  • Copyediting
  • Digital Journalism
  • Global Journalism
  • Introduction to Journalism
  • Media and Politics
  • Social Media Communication

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

Some schools offer both a bachelor of arts (BA) and bachelor of science (BS) in journalism. It can be hard to know which is preferable. The good news is that no matter which you choose, you will receive the same education in journalism and mass communication. The difference is primarily in the secondary courses you’ll be required to complete. With BA, you’ll focus on liberal arts courses such as English, art, and history. With a BS degree, your secondary courses will be more math– and science–oriented. Both are perfectly valid degrees; which you choose depends on your overall interests.

Master’s in Journalism

A master’s in journalism is a graduate journalism degree that typically takes about two years to obtain. Journalism masters delve into strategies for various communication media, such as newspapers, social media, and online organizations. Many master’s in journalism programs also offer students a chance to specialize in one specific area of journalism, such as health communication, interactive media, media management, or investigative research. These programs typically require students to write and defend a thesis, in addition to completing rigorous and advanced coursework. A master’s in journalism can prepare you to be a reporter, a public relations specialist, or an editor in a news media organization. This journalism degree is typically required to teach journalism in middle or high schools as well. And if you plan to undertake a doctorate degree in journalism, a master’s degree in journalism is a necessity.

What Journalism Courses Will I Take in a Master’s Program ?

  • Fundamentals of Journalism
  • Feature Writing for Online Media
  • Mass Media Production
  • Quantitative Research
  • Societal Specializations in Race and Gender
  • Visual Media

What’s the Difference Between a Master of Journalism and a Master of Mass Communication?

As you research journalism degree programs, you are likely to see the term "mass communication" pop up frequently. Some schools may offer one program but not the other; some schools offer both. While they are similar, each program has its own focus. A master’s in journalism tends to emphasize theory and research, and to produce graduates who are adept at conveying stories effectively through writing or speech. On the other hand, a master’s in mass communications tends to focus more on applied skills in spreading messages to a broad audience. Which you choose depends on what you want to do with your degree. If you’d rather be a reporter on the front lines, collecting info from sources or writing carefully crafted articles designed to sway emotions and beliefs, you’re probably better off with a master’s in journalism. If, on the other hand, you’re more interested in being an analyst or advisor who can help organizations use media most effectively, then a master’s in mass communications might be the best choice for you.

Doctorate in Journalism

A doctorate in journalism is a terminal degree, and gives you the opportunity to focus on an area of specialization within the broader field. If you want to perform original research in journalism, or prepare to teach as a professor, a Ph.D. in journalism will be required. Journalism doctorate programs vary from school to school, but typically require two years of advanced coursework before passing comprehensive examinations. You’ll also have to write and defend a dissertation before receiving your degree. This process usually takes between five and seven years to complete. In that time, you’ll also be producing your own body of work to take with you into future job searches.

What Journalism Courses Will I Take in a Doctoral Program ?

  • Independent Research
  • Mass Communication Theory
  • Media Psychology
  • Quantitative and Qualitative Methods
  • Statistics

What Kind of Licensing or Certification Do You Need?

There is typically no license or certification required to be a journalist. Due to the nature of journalism, it is generally considered unwise for countries or institutions to require licensing for journalists. Principles such as freedom of the press suggest that journalists should not be restricted by a licensing committee, which could potentially be biased. In some special circumstances, such as with the White House press pool or in military reporting, journalists may be required to pass background checks or to obtain various levels of clearance.

Teaching Certification

As noted in the master’s degree section above, if you plan on becoming a journalism teacher in a public school setting, you must earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree, as well as complete a teaching certification program. In many cases, your undergraduate program will include the courses required to earn your teaching certification. If that is not the case — or if you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree in an alternate field — you can enter a standalone teaching certification program. This will provide you with the coursework and experience needed to earn licensure in your state. (Bear in mind that some states require you to have a master’s degree in education before you can enter your certification program. Contact the Department of Education in your state to learn more). Depending on the amount of coursework you’ve completed up to this point, your certification program could take between one and two years to complete.

TARTHERE

Once this is complete, you will qualify to sit for the licensing exam in your state. Some states use a national exam like , while others employ their own licensing examination.

Once again, we would advise visiting the Department of Education for your state to find out more.

What Can You Do With a Journalism Degree?

If you are wondering, “What can I do with a journalism degree?” there are plenty of options. Your journalism degree can be the key to a challenging and exciting job in Media and Communications. For more detail, check out a few of these top journalism degree jobs:

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

Your journalism degree could open the door to a career in media and communications. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides median annual salary information as of 2018 for these top journalism degree jobs:

Career Median Salary
Announcers $31,990
Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts $43,490
Fundraisers $56,950
Editors $59,480
Public Relations Specialists $60,000
Writers and Authors $62,170
Technical Writers $71,850

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Are There Professional Journalism Associations or Societies You Should Join?

Professional associations are a fantastic way to make connections in your field, learn about valuable seminars or certifications, and improve your own credentials. The association or associations you choose to join will depend to an extent on the career path you take. Look for journalism associations that correspond with your academic or professional concentration.

Below is a small sampling of journalism associations and societies. This is in no way comprehensive, so be sure to look for other groups that may be a good fit for you. The American Media Institute’s list of Professional Journalism Organizations is a great resource for finding journalism associations or societies that match your goals.

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