Journalism Degree: An Inside Look


If your heroes growing up were Barbara Walters, Brian Williams, Hunter S. Thompson and Maureen Dowd, then you have certainly come to the right place today. We have used our own journalism skills to sniff out some important information that will help you understand the process of earning a journalism degree. We’ve also included some other interesting things about the field for you since we are feeling generous today. Give it a quick read and let us know what you think.

Journalism Degree

journalism2Journalism changes as the quickly as the world around us does and every journalist has to work extremely hard to stay relevant in the field. Earning a journalism degree is the first step in gaining the appropriate footing that is needed to make your mark in the field and fight hard to stay in the game just as your fellow journalists do.

While working towards earning a degree in journalism, you will have many opportunities to learn cutting edge skills in areas of technology, research, writing, publishing, editing and much more. You can expand upon these important skills by working your way through the different degree levels and will come out the other side with the know how to get started on a career as a journalist.

Journalism Degree Breakdown By Education Level

Going through the complete passes of earning a journalism degree will take about 6 years in total. You will first have to earn an associate’s degree, followed by a bachelor’s degree and rounded out by a master’s degree. We want to take some time to tell you about what you will learn during each degree level, schools that offer this degree and about some of the courses that are available.

Associate’s Degree in Journalism

The first notch on your journalism degree belt is going to come from earning an associate’s degree in journalism. During these early educational days, you will gain a fundamental understanding of how to use communication skills effectively, write in a critical manner and prepare yourself for the next step of your education.

Most colleges that offer associate’s degrees don’t have full journalism programs since students usually transfer to a four year college to earn a bachelor’s degree. We did find some course information from an associate’s degree program with an emphasis in journalism through Georgia Perimeter College. Let’s see what courses are available to enhance your journalism skills!

  • Introduction to Mass Communications: This course offers up the goods on the interesting areas of mass media, philosophies of journalism, history of the trade, important contributors to the profession and problems within the industry.
  • Human Communications: The wide berth of oral communication skills is covered in this course. There is an emphasis on fine tuning intrapersonal and interpersonal skills in small groups as well as in public speaking.
  • Features Writing: Professional writing skills are the main focus of this course with the hope of arming students with excellent writing and reporting skills in the many different areas of journalism. There will be time to practice your skills in the areas if literary and broadcast journalism, article writing for magazines, e-zines, newspapers and other mediums.

Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism

The next phase in earning a complete journalism degree is the bachelor’s degree. During this stage of your education, you will build upon the foundation of knowledge that you started during your first two years of school. Now you will learn and develop the skills necessary to compose articles that are professional caliber that are ready to be published in print or online. During the bachelor’s degree phase, you will begin to get a feel for the particular area of journalism that you would like to specialize in. You will have the potential to work as a journalist in the fields of politics, world and/or local events, natural disasters, crimes and a myriad other of controversial stories.

Indiana University’s Media School is a place to train and educate future journalists with a Bachelor’s in Journalism degree program. There are many super interesting courses to take at IU and we’d like to tell you about them. Hopefully hearing about some potential course options will excite you and give you a boost towards starting the process of earning a journalism degree.

  • Writing for Publication: This is an introductory course that will show you the basics of what you need to know to write effectively for publication. There will be sections of study on learning editorial requirements, researching, preparing you work and examinations of different types of published writing styles
  • Research Techniques for Journalists: A course of this nature will come in handy for media writers as it teaches the basic and best techniques for gathering information for that is needed to write for news releases, newspaper articles, magazine pieces and even blog posts. Researching skills for both internet and non-internet sources will be covered as well
  • Visual Communication: A big part of putting together an exceptional piece of journalism extends the written or spoken words you are presenting. It extends to what your readers or views are seeing and how they feel about it. In this course, you will examine how humans perceive things visually, the psychology of color, principles of design and how to appropriately apply those things to your work via photography, videos and graphics

Master’s Degree in Journalism

The final phase of the journalism degree is to complete your master’s degree! Once you get to this point you will probably be tired, have calluses on your fingers from all the typing you’ve done over past 6 years and should probably think about laying off the coffee for a bit. During you last few years if school, you will focus on the career path that you would like to take in the years to come. There will be many opportunities to develop leadership skills and how to lock in a position as a journalist in national broadcasting, social media management, sports journalism and web design.

We took a look at some of the course options for a students that are earning a Master’s in Journalism degree at Georgetown University. There are some pretty juicy classes available and we think you will be rather interested in some of them.

  • Audio Storytelling: This course is important for journalism majors that intend to work in radio or TV as a journalist. The core principles of how to piece together audio in a way to present an interesting story to your viewer or listen are covered. Students will also have the chance to work on interviewing skills, field recording techniques and the proper uses of multi-track audio production
  • Covering the World – International Reporting: If you are interested in pursuing a journalism career that will take you to the world beyond our borders, then this is a course that is right up your alley. This course will show students how to report from other countries and will also examine how to report on other countries while remaining on American soil
  • Data Reporting: This is a skills based course that allows students to work at their comfort level and through hands-on work. The study of how to acquire, evaluate and analyze data that comes from a variety of sources is covered here and the goal is for participants to become as comfortable working with the data as possible

College Checklist

Now that we’ve told you about the degree process level by level, we want to give you a short checklist. The checklist that we are going to give you today is meant as an guide of things to think about when considering colleges to earn your degree. So, without further ado, here is your college checklist:

  • Is the journalism department at the college you wish to attend accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications?
  • Is there an internship program available and will the school help me find one?
  • Are the professors experienced enough in the areas that matter most to be?
  • What are the course options and are they inline with my journalistic plans and writing style?
  • Does the school have a newspaper and where can I get a copy to check it out?
  • Are there other options available to work on my journalism skill? Is there a campus radio station and/or TV station?
  • Is all of the technology available to students up-to-date and are they equipped with the most current computer software programs.

Tips For Journalism Students

There is a lot of information flying around about all of the different degrees available for students. It can be difficult to wade through the information, especially when some of it is confusing and contradicting to something else you heard. We are going to make it easy for you and take out the confusing stuff. We’ve nailed down the top five tips for journalism students and we’re going to share them with you now!

Don’t Major in Communications

If you want to be a real deal journalist, earn a journalism degree. Majoring in a communications degree will stunt your future career because they are so broad and far reaching. Editors are leery of hiring journalists with communications degree because they are unsure of what they know and do not know.

You Don’t Have to Get a Journalism Degree

We know this slightly contradicts what we just said, but hear us out for a moment. Sure, earning a journalism degree is going to be the absolute best way to develop your skills and knowledge base, but you major in something else (with the exception of communications). You can shoot for a degree in English or creative writing and try to gain as much experience as possible through writing or reporting with the right mediums.

Gain Work Experience

It’s super important to journalism students to gt work experience wherever and whenever you can find it. You can write for the school newspaper, local newspaper as a freelancer and you can start your own blog. Having a ton of work experience behind, no matter how small the assignments, will be your ticket to your first job after graduation.

A School is a School

You don’t have to attend the best of the best schools in the country to gain an advantage over the competition once you start working. Your future employer knows this and doesn’t look at a resume to see if you went to Yale or Temple University. You are going to make or break your college education, not the name of your college. You will get out of your journalism degree what you put into it.

Find Professors With Experience

Hopefully you can find a professor that has real journalistic chops and can teach you more than what your course materials. You want a professor that has real experience in the field that can guide you from the classroom to the newsroom.

Iconic Journalists that Every Journalism Student Should Know

As a journalism degree student you will learn how drastic the changes are that the field is undergoing and how important the balance between traditional concepts and newer ones is. As a tribute to the changing face of journalism, we want to tell you about some of the most iconic journalists that students should know about. Each of these men and women shaped the field and have proven that success can be had when you work hard and never stop reaching for the next rung in the journalistic ladder.

Bob Woodward

You may recognize the name Bob Woodward from his groundbreaking work during the Nixon era when he hit the ground running with the Watergate scandal that involved the infamous unknown source, Deep Throat. Woodward is easily one of the most celebrated and influential journalists of the 20th and 21st centuries. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer due to his amazing reporting for the Washington Post where is covered many things, but most notably Watergate and the September11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Woodward branched out from newspaper journalism and made his mark in the book world with 15 books either written by him personally or as a contributor. We’d also like to note that of these 15 books, 12 went on to be #1 best-sellers.

Barbara Walters

When you think of female journalists that paved the way for the rest of us, you will probably think of Barbara Walters first. Walters has made a name for herself and made history throughout her journalism career where she worked as a news broadcaster who helped to redefine the face of media coverage and investigation. Walters was like a dog with a bone when a major breaking story was on the horizon and making sure that she was the first person to get an interview. As host and co-host of The Today Show, The View, 20/20 and ABC Evening News, she interviewed countless headline makers like Boris Yeltsin, Margaret Thatcher, Michael Jackson, King Hussein of Jordan, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia as well as nearly every president that was elected during her time.

Walter Cronkite

Known as “the most trusted man in America”, Walter Conkrite set the bar pretty high for other journalists during his broadcasting journalism career. He was the primary anchor of the Evening News from 1962 to 1981, during which he reported on some of the most historical events of the 20th century. Cronkite covered the first man on the moon, Watergate, Iran Hostage Crisis, Vietnam War, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr and many other monumental events. He was definitely the master of his own destiny and took things into his own hands after dropping out of the University of Texas after his junior year. He worked hard to become the name and face that America turned to during some of our nations biggest events.

Margaret Fuller

Breaking the mold of what a journalist was thought to be all the way back in 1840, Margaret Fuller began her career as an editor of The Dial and later moved on to work for the New York Tribune where she became the countries first full time book reviewer and later the Tribune’s first female editor. Fuller was one of our country’s first female journalists and she made sure that her presence was known with her feisty temperament and steadfast commitment to her work as a feminist int eh women’s rights movement. Rumor has it that Fuller became the inspiration behind Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, Hester Prynne from his classic 1850 novel, The Scarlet Letter. It is believed that Fuller’s own in your face personality served as a prototype for Prynne, not her activity between the sheets!

Anderson Cooper

The silver fox of the journalism world is without a doubt, Anderson Cooper. He is probably one of the best examples of how to change and adapt to the changing media industry and is long, powerful career serves as a testament to it. Cooper got his first taste of journalism while he worked for Channel One, a TV news show that was seen in middle and high school classrooms around the country. Foreign borders couldn’t hold Cooper back from pursuing his dreams of reporting on breaking news stories. He traveled a lot in his early career with fake foreign press passes so that he could report on situations in Burma and Vietnam. He was later able to sell his videos and get his first real journalism job…and a real press pass. Many of us know him from his years working with CNN where he reported from the field as well as from his desk as host of Anderson Cooper 360.

Peter Jennings

Peter Jennings had a long and thriving career as a journalist until he was forced to retire after a tragic battle with lung cancer in 2005. His career began his reporting career in the 1960’s when he served as a correspondent for some of the most intense situations in modern history. After spending years in the field reporting on events like the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Vietnam War and the Israeli Olympian assassinations in Munich, Jennings decided to return to the anchor desk. He served as the lead anchor is ABC’s World News Tonight from 1983 to 2005 and was awarded 16 Emmys and two George Foster Peabody Awards for his hard hitting news stories.

Sarah Josepha Hale

We’re happy to add another barrier breaking female journalist to our list with Sarah Josepha Hale. She made waves as a novelist, vocal abolitionist and editor of the Boston based Ladies Magazine. Some little known facts about Hale are that she was an integral element in the founding of Vassar College and in the recognition of the Thanksgiving holiday. She is the creative mind behind the indelible nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and she helped in the preservation of George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon.

Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen made a name for herself soon after her 1974 graduation from Barnard College. She is a novelist, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and glass ceiling breaker. Quindlen has journalism credits to her name from the New York Post, Newsweek and the New York Times. She has reached success in each facet of her career and has even transitioned effortlessly into the movie business where three of her five best-selling books have been made into films.

You Know You’re a Journalism Student When…

journalism3Once you begin your journey to earn a journalism degree you will start to look at things from a different perspective. There will be times when you think to yourself, “you know you’re a journalism student when…” We are going to look at a few funny examples of when this thought may cross your mind now. You know you are a journalism student when…

  • You treat your AP Stylebook like it is your Bible
  • You count on spell-check to catch your mistakes even though you know you should edit yourself instead
  • You are so used to hearing the word “deadline” in your classes, internship and job that you mumble the word in your sleep
  • You forget that Anderson Cooper, Christiane Amanpour and Brian Williams are not your peers even though you think guys could totally be BFF’s of the journalism world
  • You totally fangirl out when the news of your journalistic idol coming to your school is announced
  • You check your word count compulsively and high five yourself when you finally reach it
  • Your phone becomes a glorified paperweight when you have a deadline due because who has time to plug in the charger?
  • You’re not joining the profession for the fame and fortune
  • You quickly cover your eyes and ears when your voice or package is played back
  • You would do anything to get an IV drip of coffee going every day all day
  • You’re always wondering if you should share your articles with others
  • You can’t remember when the last time you slept for more than five hours

Sources and Recommended Reading

Usually a good journalist never reveals their sources, but we are going to break that rule today and share our favorites with you.

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