Why major in Journalism?

Our D21 thinks she might be interested in journalism. She’s EIC of the yearbook and won a state wide contest for a piece of narrative non-fiction that she wrote. She’s interested in politics. STEM really not her thing. Of course we want her to study what she likes but she’s very realistic and she really wants to be self-sufficient and worries about job security.

Did some research to find some advice. Some seem to say a top j-program is the best way to go because those students get the best internships and that’s really the best way to get a job out of school. I don’t think most of those schools, though, fit what she wants and she’s also not 100% sure it’s what she wants to study.

The second bit of advice I saw often was to NOT major in communications. That is not a gateway to journalism. Read that there’s a glut of kids majoring in communications. I’ll have to look more closely at the schools on her list that offer a communications major and see if I can figure out what those kids do after graduation. While she currently thinks of journalism as a very narrow field (newspapers, etc), I think she might like PR or advertising or marketing.

The last thing I gleaned from my quick search is that one can be successful majoring in something else -poli sci, a foreign language, English, etc - and get the nitty gritty experience while working at the school newspaper. And that internships are key.
She could certainly go this last route at any of the schools on her list. At one point, Lehigh was on the list. They have journalism. U Denver was on the list briefly and they have journalism too.

Is a degree in journalism important if she discovers it’s what she’d like to pursue? Is the industry even something worth studying so specifically? If not, what other career paths do you all see for someone with her interests?

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Has she looked at Newhouse at Syracuse? The graduates I know did very well coming out of there (one made it to a local news TV station right after graduating).

Anecdotally the ~20 journalists I know (mixture of national newspapers, tech publications and business TV) didn’t do journalism as an undergrad, if they did it at all then it was a grad degree (eg Columbia) but that’s rare. They usually edited or wrote for the college newspaper, many got into the industry 15-20 years ago when it was much healthier.

Apart from those at the very top (eg WSJ, NYT, CNBC) most aren’t happy with the constant layoffs and low pay. Often they have moved to work in PR or data analytics, or even tried to set up their own specialist publication (which is a desperate struggle even for those with a great track record). Or they have a day job as a tech consultant and write on the side.

The student in my kids’ HS class who really wanted to do journalism (and has wealthy parents to support him) is now studying poli sci and focusing mostly on think tank internships as an alternative career path. My S also enjoys writing (majoring in public affairs) and is loving his think tank internship - he’ll probably do a masters and perhaps a PhD in public policy (urban development and regeneration). S has also thought about law school.

Colgate seems to have some interesting options and internships for students…despite not having a journalism major. Worth taking a look at what alumni are doing.

Some of journalism majors I know had a double major in political science and are now working in DC.

Ok. Let’s put it another way. Being successful in traditional journalism is a bit rough these days. In fact, I just talked to two friends in the business and they both basically said to run in the other direction. Both have a ton of experience.

So, what’s a student to do who likes the idea of journalism but wants to pursue a career that’s not as low paying and unpredictable?

@Twoin18 Public policy, law school are good ideas. Anyone else?

My daughter’s friend was a public policy major at a top university and is currently employed. D has a few other friends who came out of very strong schools …one was a double major in political science and journalism, and the other was a political science and English double major. Both were employed at graduation and are living independently.

It seems that a double major in English, political science, and/or policy…combined with a school that has a history of strong internships…might be a solid plan?

The students I referenced above had internships with major news organizations, politicians, state health departments, and well known NYC agencies.

@homerdog take a look at the internship program at the United Nations and see if it looks like something that may be of interest. Two of my daughter’s friends did this and one stayed on following her internship. One was a policy major and one was a double major (English and ?).

I just remembered that Denison has a concentration in Narrative Journalism that can be combined with a major in another subject like Political Science or International Relations. It looks like an interesting program that takes into account how journalism and the job market has changed. I worked for a small-town Gannett paper on the East Coast for four years in my twenties, and it was a wonderful experience. I was just talking with my husband this morning, before I saw your post, about what a shame it is that many of these local papers have kind of faded away. My city editor went on to become the White House correspondent for the Washington Post, but that career path no longer exists. It was interesting to read how the Denison program is trying to deal with that reality. I recall your daughter has been resistant to Denison but she might want to take a look at this.

A journalism degree is not essential these days. A degree or some combo of political science, history, economics or english is a great foundation for any future journalist. That said, a graduate degree from Columbia is gold and will open all kinds of doors. The best thing your daughter can do as an undergrad is get published. There are a million ways to get published these days that will also help her figure what her interests are. Working for a non-profit is another great springboard into journalism.

One of D’s friends was a psychology major. She spent some time teaching abroad after graduation and then accepted a position with a large financial services firm as a paralegal (pays enough to live in NYC). She’s thinking about law school.

She has a friend doing a teaching program (think NYC Teaching Fellows, Teach for America - no education major required). The salaries in NYC are actually decent. This friend plans to apply to educational policy masters programs.

There are a lot of career paths available for people with your D’s interests. Keep in mind that many follow a zig-zag rather than a direct career path while they figure it out.

Coming late to this discussion (thanks to the new CC format, haha). So my D has decided to change majors to journalism. I have a number of friends in journalism and writing, including some very senior roles in organizations like AP, Reuters and Bloomberg, specialist publications, national titles in a smaller country, and corporate. In fact I just realized that I don’t know anyone who did a journalism degree who is not employed in a role that utilizes it in some way. Interestingly I was in the “this is a career path that is fraught with uncertainty now” because the landscape has changed so much over the past couple of decades. My husband, who works for a very large corporate, is far more prosaic and points out that large corporations always have jobs for people who can write well. The college my D is at both has a well regarded journalism program, and requires that all journalism majors double major in something else - which I’m very happy about. So I’m still a little nervous but on board with it (not that it’s my choice anyway!), and happy she is majoring in something she’s passionate about.

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Was in the same situation as your daughter a month ago!

This is key. Majoring in journalism is not as important as working on college papers and doing internships where she can learn the skills on the job, according to my internship coordinators, journalism teachers and professional journalists I reached out to for advice. Encourage her to pick schools where she can switch majors and can be a good fit.

Absolutely. If she knew what field of journalism she would go into – politics, for instance – she would major in political science and in something else that piques her interest. Internships tailored to said field would perhaps look favorably upon her.

I’m with you on PR, advertising and marketing. Has she looked into publishing?

I have a degree in Journalism, with a minor in PR from many years ago. I was a journalist for several years and then went into marketing. I am currently a CMO, but have worked in agencies and for individual companies over the years. I still write for our local newspaper.

If you look on Indeed or Glassdoor you’ll often see that companies will be looking for someone for either an internal or external Communications position, and will stipulate that the ideal candidate will have a degree in marketing, journalism, communications or PR–they are looking for someone who can write well and is creative, usually.

When I am hiring people, that’s what I look for, as well. Journalism can be a broad and interesting field, and it’s a great idea, as has been mentioned, to include a minor in Poli Sci or some other discipline, too.

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