Journalism, Degrees and Jobs

From the Inbox: I’ve always been curious, is it possible to find work as a journalist without a degree? — Anonymous

I’d like to think it shouldn’t matter. Unlike being a doctor or a lawyer, there aren’t license or degree requirements for practicing journalism.

It might harder to initially get your foot in the door but if you have the skills and the portfolio, people will (or should) look at that before checking out where or where you didn’t go to school.

Here’s what Joe Grimm once wrote at Poynter:

Some great journalists working today do not have college degrees. Few of the people working around them give it much thought or even know their degree status. It is all about “what have you done lately?”

Magda Abu-Fadil, a foreign correspondent and director of the Journalism Training Program at the American University of Beirut, doesn’t believe a journalism degree should be required but notes the realities of the job market in this interview with the International Journalists’ Network.

I don’t know if it’s worth all the money spent going to journalism school today since the landscape is changing so fast and we’re in a race against time with all the new technology, but it’s definitely worth investing in a degree since most employers still require it.

Mindy McAdams, who teaches journalism at the University of Florida, once indicated that the internship process is probably more important than the degree:

These challenges do not erase the simple fact that most journalism jobs are off-limits to all applicants who have not completed at least one internship. No internships = no job. It really is that simple. Many students, it seems, refuse to believe this applies to them. These are usually the students who are obsessed with getting high grades — as if anyone in a newsroom would ever care what grade you got in any class! (No one but a graduate school cares what your grades were.)

Hope this helps, and good luck. — Michael

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Michael Cervieri

Michael Cervieri is the creator of the Future Journalism Project where he explores better ways to produce, consume and understand the news. He has taught Internet and Mobile communication technologies at both the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the university’s School of International and Public Affairs. (Twitter | Contact)