How do I get into a career in journalism?

Here’s how to become a journalist for a newspaper, broadcaster, magazine or website. Find out about the qualifications you’ll need and employers you could work for.

Journalists can work for newspapers but also for TV stations, radio stations, magazines and websites. Most people starting journalism careers are graduates but there are a few apprenticeships available too. Working as a journalist is a popular job choice; be aware what experience and qualifications you need so you can beat the competition.

Qualifications you need for a career in journalism

Common routes into journalism are to take an undergraduate degree in journalism, or to take an undergraduate degree in a different subject followed by a postgraduate journalism qualification. Either way, make sure that the course you choose is accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) if you want to work for a UK-based news organisation. At both levels, there are degrees available in different areas, eg newspaper journalism, broadcast journalism and magazine journalism. Alternatively, it is sometimes possible to get in with a non-journalism degree and no journalism postgraduate qualifications, or with an apprenticeship or similar programme instead of a degree.

  • To be hired as a reporter with a newspaper, broadcaster or current affairs news website you normally need either a journalism degree or an unrelated degree followed by postgraduate course in journalism.
  • It is quite common for lifestyle and business magazines and websites to employ graduate reporters who don’t have journalism degrees but who do have lots of relevant writing experience.
  • If you don’t want to go to university, there are limited numbers of journalism apprenticeships available for school leavers who want to work for newspapers or broadcast companies.

Find out about how to choose the best degree for a career in journalism.

Junior reporter – your first journalism job

The most typical first job is as a junior reporter, working on any stories that are allocated to you. This tends to be on a long-term contract rather than a short-term one, which should give you some degree of security and isn’t always the case in other parts of the media. However, your salary is likely to be fairly low.

Some reporters freelance for more than one news organisation, although this is more common once you have experience and contacts.

UK employers who hire journalists

Popular employers offering jobs as junior reporters or trainee journalists include:

  • TV broadcasting: BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky
  • Radio broadcasting: BBC, Bauer City Network, Kiss Network
  • National newspapers/online news: News Corp (The Sun, The Times), Guardian Media Group (The Guardian, The Observer), Telegraph Media Group (The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph), DMGT (Daily Mail, Sunday Mail, Metro), Trinity Mirror (Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Daily Record), ESI (independent.co.uk), Johnstone Press (i newspaper)
  • Local newspapers/online news: Trinity Mirror/Local World Ltd, Archant, Johnstone Press and Newsquest
  • Consumer magazine/digital publishers: Imagine (based in Bournemouth – Real Crime, Explore History and Retro Gamer); Immediate Media (Bristol, London, Manchester – Top Gear, Radio Times, BBC Wildlife, Lonely Planet Traveller, Urban Cyclist, Simply Sewing); Bauer Media (Empire, Heat, Top Sante, Your Horse); DC Thomson – Aberdeen (Beano, Thunderbirds Are Go, Noddy)
  • Business magazine/digital publishers: RBI (based in Surrey – Flight Global, New Scientist, Expert HR, Estates Gazette); Sift Media (Bristol – accountingweb, mycustomer, businesszone, hrzone).

Many professional bodies publish magazines aimed at their members and clients. For example The Law Society publishes The Law Society Gazette and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has People Management.

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