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Careers Centre

Journalism

Sector Overview

This page has been written by Liz Batterham, the relevant Careers Adviser for this occupational area. To see how you can meet Liz, or any of our advisers, visit our website.

Journalism is an exciting, challenging and competitive industry in which to work. No one day is the same as the next. Journalists know the news before anyone else and they have reports filmed and stories written before most people are even aware of the event. Journalism in the 21st century is fast changing and full of opportunity. New technology and new publishing platforms mean more people read news reports than ever before, and those reports are sourced, written and broadcast at faster speed than ever before. Once magazines and newspapers had daily, weekly and monthly deadlines; now every moment is a deadline for publishing on the web. All journalists now need to know how to work across all publishing platforms, in print, online and broadcast. In the course of one day a multimedia journalist can be expected to write a blog, film a short video piece for web publication and file an in-depth, 500-word report for print. Versatility is essential.

There are around 60,000 journalists in the UK. More than half of the UK’s journalists are employed in London and the South East. Journalists working outside London are much more likely to work in regional and local newspapers. Those working in London are more likely to work for international media organisations, national newspapers, business magazines, on-line or for a news agency. The North West has a higher proportion of journalists working in radio (both national and regional/local) and national TV.

Eighty-three per cent of new entrants did a period of work experience or an internship before gaining their first paid job. [Source: National Council for the Training of Journalists].

Journalists can be hired or freelance.

 

Journalism attributes/skills profile

 

Key attributes/skills needed for the role Where you could develop these skills or attributes
Very confident and articulate communication skills This is most likely to be developed and evidenced through your academic studies and work experience.
Ability to research topics quickly and effectively with meticulous attention to facts and details
Ability to manage time and work well under pressure

CAPOD regularly runs courses covering these skills within its Professional Skills Curriculum.

Taking on positions of responsibility in student-run societies based on your areas of interest such as The Foreign Affairs Society or The European Society, will give you the chance to put them into practice and network to build up your contacts.
Good team-working, organisational and project management skills.
Self-motivation, drive, determination and a passion for exposing stories and delivering information to the public
Ability to develop and nurture a diverse range of contacts and a keen desire to produce original journalism, driven by a strong sense of curiosity
A genuine passion for and knowledge of news and current affairs
Evidence of your writing ability If you have published material online or in print this will give you a head start when impressing future employers. Develop your online presence through LinkedIn, Twitter, setting up your own website to use as a portfolio or blogging. Experience working with The Saint, The Sinner, The Stand or The Tribe  will demonstrate these skills.
Ability to stay calm while working under pressure and to remain resilient, flexible and adaptable in the face of rapidly changing circumstances, long shifts and setbacks
Ability to tell stories fairly, accurately, simply and engagingly, in a way that is accessible to a wide variety of audiences across a range of platforms

Other key attributes/skills demanded for the role: do you possess them?

  • A tough character – ability to handle criticism and constructively build on it and the confidence to pitch to senior editors.
  • Ability to draw on creative writing and storytelling skills.
  • Have knowledge and awareness of producing cross platform content and developing ideas

 

Nature of sector or roles

Common journalism career opportunities include jobs for reporters, writers and editors. These professionals often fill more than one role depending on the size of the publication. As an independent journalist, a person may also come up with other ways of presenting news items to an audience, such as through social media, video, or interactive materials.

Finding your niche with so many choices in journalism can seem daunting, particularly with the vast number of online magazines and newspapers. You may want to focus on a particular area such as education, fashion journalism, sports or financial journalism. However, it’s worth broadly considering the type of journalism you want to aim for:


Typical employers of journalists include:

 

Networks - why and how to use them

Networking is particularly important and can help you succeed with your applications. If you have been in contact with someone working for the organisation then you have extra information to back up your case for why they should employ you. Use social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (many organisations have their own page) to connect with organisations. Recent St Andrews graduates have gone on to work for BBC Scotland and The Huffington Post. Alumni can make extremely useful contacts, giving you an "edge" with your applications and interviews. There are several ways to make contact with alumni.

How to gain experience/internships

Journalism opportunities

Relevant work experience is essential for a career in journalism. Potential employers will definitely expect to see evidence on your application that you have undertaken work experience. Additionally, some postgraduate courses in journalism will only grant places to those who have had some work experience placements.

Many opportunities will not be advertised, so it’s crucial that you are proactive and make speculative applications to find opportunities.

There are many ways to improve your skills and increase your chances of getting a journalism job - here are a few ideas to get you started:

 

Opportunity / organisationDetails
Opportunities in St Andrews Get involved in student media at St Andrews - write for student publications (eg The Saint, the Sinner, The Stand, The Tribe) or contact STAR - St Andrews Radio
Digital Political Journals Your Middle East and Global Politics actively welcome contributions from St Andrews students: the editorial team have St Andrews connections.
The Telegraph Offers work experience placements across the group, including journalism. They also offer fully paid internships (£300 a week) across the group.
The Guardian
  • Offers a limited number of short editorial experience opportunities throughout the year to those dedicated to a career in journalism. These placements at the Guardian and Observer are unpaid, voluntary and range in duration from a few days to a maximum of two weeks. Priority is given to students from the GMG Scott Trust Bursary Scheme, the Positive Action Scheme, and winners of the Guardian Student Media Awards.
  • The Guardian also hosts regular Insight into Journalism days for those who are exploring whether to pursue a career in this field.
BBC The BBC offers a variety of placements (including journalism) across various locations in the UK.
Sky Offers a wide variety of internships and work experience.
Thomson Reuters Offers global journalism internships.
The Mirror Offers placements across a variety of departments. For queries about work experience email: HR@mgn.co.uk
Creative Access provides paid, full-time internship opportunities in the creative industries for talented young people from under-represented black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
The Sports Journalists' Association Lists a number of newspapers and magazines which offer relevant work experience.
Darrow

Darrow offers a spectrum of intelligent analysis on the arts, politics and more. If you have an idea for an article and would like to write for Darrow complete the registration form.

Bolivia Unlimited (formerly Bolivian Express)

An organisation founded by Oxford graduates in 2010 and Bolivian journalists - based out of La Paz, Bolivia, in South America. We are dedicated to promoting journalism, intercultural exchange, and Bolivian culture to the English-speaking world. We run 1-3 month internship programmes in journalism, documentary production or Spanish, designed for students interested in learning Spanish and getting an insight into the world of print or video journalism. NB these positions are unpaid and the programmes incur a cost.

Social Media
  • Follow Twitter and Facebook pages of organisations you're interested in. Often these may be the only place they advertise work experience opportunities.
  • Pick a specific theme on a topic that interests you and write a regular blog.

Making speculative applications

Work experience or work shadowing may not be easy to get but is invaluable - even if it's for a short time. Remember that many opportunities will not be advertised, so don't underestimate the value of making speculative applications.

Here are a few tips to help you in your search:

Additional resources

Job search websites

The following websites include listings of relevant internship opportunities:

How to get a (graduate) job

Entry routes in to journalism

Entry requirements can sometimes differ slightly (depending on which area of journalism you are interested in), but in general entry paths to journalism can be direct entry or pre-entry. Direct entry is where you train on the job, for example with a local newspaper, and pre-entry is where you train at college or university.

Places on formal training schemes are limited and competition is very strong.

The Chartered Institute of Journalists has some good advice on routes into journalism

Make sure your CV is up-to-date, and, if, necessary, have it checked over by a careers adviser. Remember that many journalism jobs are never advertised, but are filled by speculative approaches from prospective journalists.


Useful articles:

Print Journalism: Newspapers

Many would-be journalists aspire to work on a national paper although it is common to begin on a local or regional paper before moving to a national. Some nationals do offer trainee positions including:

Most national newspapers do not recruit annually nor publicise their schemes so your investigative skills will be required to track the openings down! Regional newspapers frequently have trainee journalist positions, although some require candidates to already hold a pre-entry NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) qualification. Find UK newspapers on The Paper Boy.

Print Journalism: Magazine Journalism

Consumer magazines occasionally advertise for trainee journalists with most publishers advertising in their own publications or websites, advertising in The Guardian, Press Gazette or just recruiting people who have undertaken (usually unpaid) work experience with them first. The specialist financial press recruit actively but often look for graduates in economics or politics. Some magazines and journals also look for writers with specialist knowledge, eg New Scientist. Specialist postgraduate courses exist in periodicals journalism.

Broadcasting Journalism: TV and Radio

Employers of broadcast journalists include:

Employers from the radio sector include BBC national and regional stations, as well as local and national commercial radio stations. For contact details, see the RadioCentre.

Press Agencies: journalism openings

Independent press agencies - also known as news wires - supply general interest or specialist news, features or pictures to news media. There are several leading press agencies, including Agence France Presse (based in Paris), Associated Press and United Press International (both based in the U.S.), Thomson Reuters and the British-based Press Association. See the National Association of Press Agencies for further details.

Job search websites

The following websites publicise vacancies in the journalism and media sectors:

Applications, interviews and assessment centres

According to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) In journalism, there is no "one size fits all" CV. It's all about what you can do, how to make yourself look interesting and why you are the right person for the job. It is, however, essential that you make sure that your spelling and grammar in both a CV and covering letter are perfect. Have them looked over by a careers adviser before sending them in.

Keep up-to-date with the industry and current affairs - you may be asked for your opinions on these at an interview.

The following websites offer some good advice and guidance on writing CVs and covering letter and attending interviews:

Applications


Interviews

Relevant Postgraduate Study

There is a wide range of postgraduate courses available which cover many areas of journalism, including newspapers, broadcast journalism, on-line and sport. Journograds has compiled a helpful list of journalism master’s degrees that are available throughout the UK, along with their most recent cost information. Although the list is not exhaustive it’s a useful place to start before doing further research.

If you are interested in taking a course - contact the institution or try to visit before making an application. Assess what you may gain from such a course before committing yourself to considerable expense and ask questions about how successful these courses have been in gaining jobs for their past students.

Check to see that those courses you are considering are recognised by the relevant training bodies. See the National Council for the Training of Journalists or Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC) websites for a list of accredited degrees and postgraduate courses. You should check with colleges or universities for exact entry requirements.

People in the industry have sharply opposing views on the value of further study – while some view it as a very useful experience, others don’t. It is useful to talk to any contacts you know (or get to know) in the industry and seek their views.

Useful links

 

For further information on researching and planning for a postgraduate qualification, please visit the postgraduate study page.

Key UK links and resources

Careers Centre resources

Online

Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:

GoinGlobal

Books:

 

General journalism/media careers information

Professional Bodies, Trade Organisations & Journals/Magazines

 

 

USA resources

Vault

The USA job market and recruitment timetables, for both internships and graduate jobs, for sectors of employment often differ from the UK.

The Careers Centre subscribes to the reputable independent USA careers information and vacancy provider Vault. The link below will take you directly to Vault subscription resources which cover this sector. You may find further useful and relevant resources linked from there as well.

 

Internships USA

 

Internships in the US - journalism

This list is by no means exhaustive. It is simply designed to serve as a starting point.