Five Essential Steps for How to Get into Journalism

newspapers hanging up

Once upon a time the world of journalism was a simple place. There was only one medium: print. These days there’s radio, TV, digital and print. Which means, of course, that it’s both perversely harder and easier – but definitely a lot more complicated – to get into depending on your skill set.

If you fancy a career reporting on sporting events, fashion shows, far-flung destinations or news stories, be prepared to get serious. A successful career in journalism isn’t something you just fall into. It’s highly competitive and difficult to get the best jobs. A plan is needed – and then absolute commitment to the long-term goal – if you’re going to have a chance of succeeding.

TL;DR? Here's a quick infographic we've put together to round up a few of our key steps to becoming a journalist:

becoming a journalist infographic

1. Prep Yourself in School and College

It’s never too early to start honing your skills or writing style. Try contacting journalists you look up to and asking them how they got where they are and what the key attributes are that are needed to succeed in such a competitive industry.

Get involved, get writing! Start a blog, for instance. This will give you experience of working with a content management system, ability to develop a style and give you a body of work to provide as examples when you are trying to get that first journalism role.

2. Get a Degree

A good degree is important to getting into journalism whether it be online or in print. The degree doesn’t necessarily have to be English but a good university and grade is important. While at university make sure you’re on the student newspaper, too. This is a great experience that also looks good on application forms.

3. Get Skilled up

Try and think about what will set you apart from every other applicant when applying for journalism jobs. Enrol in courses that teach specifics: look for creative writing, journalism, SEO, writing for the web and using content management systems.

Wanting to get into journalism means you have something to say. As a journalist you will ideally be creating content about what you know. It’s about being an expert and communicating that expertise. So develop a specialism as soon as possible – and then devour it. This will be your point of difference that sets you apart from others.

4. Get Experience

It’s a harsh fact, but if you want to become a journalist you will have to be prepared to work for free. While studying, get internships during the summer holidays – you really can’t afford a summer off if you want your name in print or screen at some point. All the big names in publishing offer internships ranging from 2 weeks to 3 months. These usually don’t pay or if they do they’ll pay for your travel and basic expenses.

Expect to not do a lot of content creation at first. There’s a lot more to journalism than what you actually see published. You’ll be organising folders, answering emails, calling in information from PRs, sourcing contact details and images, and, yes, almost certainly fetching lunches and making a few cups of coffee. As well as gaining experience about how the world of journalism really works, make sure you are gaining contacts and influencing people in a positive way – never underestimate the worth of an amazing reference from the right person further down the line.

5. Get Applying for Roles

Do not sit at home trawling the job sites and wanted ads. Vacant jobs in journalism don’t sit around for long and a lot of the time people are being put forward for the job before it even gets advertised. Ensure you have the point of difference that sets you apart from others, be humble, be pushy and get your CV into the hands of the person who makes the decisions.

If your application is unsuccessful, don’t be disheartened. Keep trying and always get feedback: Why weren’t you considered? What could you have done differently? Who got the role? Then build on this knowledge. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get that role at the Guardian as your first job in journalism, so start somewhere that’s more obtainable. Try smaller media or publishing companies at first. They make for a great place to learn the essential skills that you’ll need to get where you want to be.

Thinking about the next steps of how to get into journalism? Study a journalism diploma online. Or have a look at our English A Level bundles.