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Journalist Career Path: How to Start Your Journey

Written by: Hilbert College   •  Mar 19, 2024
A journalist conducting a live interview.

Journalist Career Path: How to Start Your Journey

Although their work is evolving in a news environment increasingly focused on digital news, journalists continue to play a critical role in keeping the public abreast of what’s going on in the world—and why. Perhaps that’s why journalists report strong levels of job satisfaction and pride in their work.

A 2022 survey from Pew Research Center showed that 70% of U.S. journalists were somewhat or very satisfied with their jobs. Among these journalists, 70% often were excited about their work. A total of 77% indicated that, given the chance to start their careers again, they’d still pursue journalism roles.

Those interested in pursuing this important and fulfilling career should understand the steps they’ll need to prepare for the role. Today’s journalist career path generally begins by earning a bachelor’s degree focused on storytelling and creative thinking for the rapidly changing news industry.

What Does a Journalist Do?

Journalists may work in various roles that share the latest news about current events and other information of interest. These professionals are generally responsible for researching, investigating and writing articles. In many cases, their work also focuses on visual storytelling through media such as photos, video or graphics.

As storytellers, journalists report on local, national and international news. Their stories may be about topics ranging from government corruption to celebrity weddings, and from business deals to recreational trends. 

Journalists’ work may appear in a broad range of print, online and broadcast news outlets, including the following:

  • Newspapers
  • Television
  • Blogs
  • Podcasts
  • Radio
  • Magazines
  • Social media

Journalist Job Responsibilities

The responsibilities of journalists vary according to their roles. Generally, however, their work includes the following:

  • Researching topics as assigned by an editor or a news director
  • Uncovering article ideas to suggest to editors
  • Establishing relationships with people who can be sources for news articles
  • Analyzing data to uncover newsworthy trends
  • Interviewing people who can provide information for an article
  • Writing stories, taking photographs or creating scripts for news platforms
  • Reviewing draft articles for accuracy and grammar

Journalist Work Environment

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides information about who employed journalists in 2022. These employers, and the percentage of journalists who work for them, are as follows:

  • Newspaper publishers: 26%
  • Self-employment: 25%
  • Streaming services, social networks and other digital content providers: 22%
  • Television stations: 15%
  • Radio stations: 3%

Regardless of who their employers are, journalists often spend much of their time working in the field to gather comments from sources, attend events or conduct investigations.

How to Start on the Journalist Career Path 

The path to becoming a journalist typically starts with earning a bachelor’s degree, but experience and skills development are also important parts of career preparation. Below are key steps in the journalist career path.

Pursue a Degree

Journalists generally hold a bachelor’s degree in journalism, communication or a related subject, such as English. Degree programs in journalism and communication focus on subjects such as journalistic ethics and interviewing techniques. Important subjects for aspiring journalists to learn about include the following:

  • Strategic communications
  • Media industry trends
  • Writing and editing
  • Visual storytelling

Many journalism and communication degree programs offer students the opportunity to concentrate on one type of journalism, such as graphic design or multimedia. These concentrations emphasize the knowledge and skills that can help them excel in those specific roles.

Gain Experience

The next step in the journalist career path is gaining experience in the field. Most employers prefer to hire journalists who’ve completed a practicum or an internship, which provides exposure to real-world professional scenarios. Working for a school’s student-run media outlets, such as newspapers or television stations, is another opportunity to get journalism experience.

Develop Skills

Another step on the journey toward becoming a journalist is developing the skills that the career requires. While each type of journalism job calls on its own set of abilities, from newswriting for investigative journalists to graphic design for designers, the following skills are useful in all roles in this field:

  • Communication: Conveying information clearly through articles, videos and other media

  • Technology: Meeting the demands of a digital landscape through the use of multimedia communication tools

  • Interpersonal Skills: Establishing trust and building relationships with potential sources and other journalists

  • Time Management: Working on tight deadlines in an effort to publish a story before other news outlets

  • Persistence: Showing a willingness to continue pursuing information despite any challenges encountered in doing so

  • Stamina: Working sometimes long hours and at a fast pace

  • Research: Culling information from sources such as public records and other published sources to inform the contents of a story

Create a Portfolio

Practicum, internship and student media roles can provide aspiring journalists with work samples, such as written articles or on-air news stories, that they can include in their portfolios. Portfolios, which are typically online, include examples of the work that journalists have produced; employers often request these portfolios as proof of a journalism job applicant’s strengths, skills and style.

Different Types of Journalists 

Whether interested in working with the written word, video production or visual communication, anyone interested in a journalist career path can choose from various types of roles. Below are four of those careers.

Multimedia Journalist

Today’s digital landscape often requires journalists to use multiple methods of reporting. Multimedia journalists are well suited for this work, sharing news on various different news platforms—from blogs to television shows. They tell stories through the use of:

  • Written content
  • Graphic design
  • Photos
  • Audio and video recordings

Investigative Journalist

Investigative journalists may produce content for print, online or broadcast media outlets. They work to uncover hidden or secret information about people or organizations, such as criminal activity or questionable business practices. 

These journalists conduct in-depth research, conduct interviews and check facts to establish the credibility of their findings. Then they share this information, often through a series of lengthy stories that delve into the information they’ve discovered.

Online Journalist

Digital newspapers, blogs and social media are examples of media outlets featuring the work of online journalists. The instant availability of online information—in contrast with the lengthy production process for print publications—makes online journalism the perfect fit for quickly sharing news alerts. Online journalists, similar to those working in other types of journalism, strive to deliver objective and accurate information.


While some of their responsibilities may overlap with those of other journalists, reporters focus less on research and compiling news to share and more on sharing that information with the public. A broadcast reporter, for example, typically follows outlines of materials that production teams produce, presenting that news during in-studio segments. 

Take the First Step on Your Journalist Career Path

If you’re interested in a valuable and fulfilling career, consider taking the first step on the journalist career path. That starts with exploring how Hilbert College Global’s online Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Digital Media and Communication degree program can help you prepare.

The program features a well-rounded curriculum with opportunities to concentrate on communication specializations such as graphic design and multimedia journalism. You’ll develop your journalism skills under the guidance of faculty members who have decades of real-world experience in communication. Also, you’ll do so in a flexible online format whose asynchronous courses have six start dates throughout the year.

Discover how Hilbert College Global’s online BA in Digital Media and Communication can steer you to success in your journalist career path.

Recommended Readings

5 Types of Digital Media

Marketing vs. Communications: Degree Comparison

What Can You Do With a Communications Degree?


Houston Chronicle, “How to Make a Journalistic Portfolio”

Indeed, “A Day in the Life of a Journalist (With Duties and FAQs)”

Indeed, Journalist vs. Reporter Career: What Is the Difference?

Indeed, Learn About Being a Journalist

Indeed, “9 Most Popular Types of Journalism Careers to Explore”

Indeed, What Does a Journalist Do?”

Pew Research Center, “Journalists Express High Job Satisfaction But Are Concerned About the State of the News Industry”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, News Analysts, Reporters and Journalists

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