Alternative Paths For Your Journalism Degree

Published: Oct 25, 2016

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In 1995, I sat in my Intro to Journalism class at Baruch College when my professor Bridgett Davis imparted some words of wisdom on us all. She informed us that there was little money to be made in journalism and that success would only be achieved through some serious hard work. 

Fast forward to 2007 — it was 7 a.m. on a Monday morning in the Bronx, and I was early to work, preparing for that day’s deadline when one of the sales managers walked over to my desk. He was the only other person who came in as early as I, and we would often discuss the state of affairs at the newspaper. “There’s no more money in print journalism,” he told me.

Having a degree in journalism, I didn’t want to hear that there was no money to be made in the field, especially when it is all I ever wanted to do after hearing from my first-grade writing teacher that I had a special aptitude for the career. I really never considered any alternatives until I had to start thinking about my future. 

For those worried about their own careers in journalism, know that there is still a strong need for news writers, especially on the community level and in the political realm. However, if you are looking at your finances and want to follow a path more conducive to strengthening your wallet, there are some alternative career options you may want to consider:

Public Relations: In a previous blog about switching careers, I mentioned my own journey from journalism to public relations. If you’re looking to leave journalism, public relations is a natural fit, because the two work hand in hand to create many of the stories you read in the paper each day.  Obviously, there are differences. In public relations, the press releases you write are stories, but they are not objective, because the whole idea is to promote a brand. In PR, you also reach out to contacts, but instead of trying to get a quote for a story, you talk to a reporter and try to sell them on writing a story about your brand. And, when you’re a journalist, your every instinct is to get to the bottom of the truth for your readers. However, in public relations, the only stories you want in public circulation are positive stories — the rest of the time, you’re playing defense trying to convince reporters their stories are not worth pursuing. Regardless of these differences, I have found the learning curve to be rather easy due to my journalism background. I picked up on the rest pretty quickly. 

Marketing: As a former journalist, I found myself gravitating a lot toward marketing, especially as I was embarking on my public relations career and trying to find new ways to promote companies outside traditional media outlets. There is a natural symmetry between journalism and marketing due to the heavy reliance on content in both. Twitter offered me an opportunity to use the skills I learned in writing headlines to create compelling and engaging content in 140 characters or less. The same could be said about the opportunity to showcase the skills I obtained in writing leads when crafting a Facebook or LinkedIn post. And journalists make great content marketing professionals, because they are trained writers who are inquisitive, know how to conduct research and interviews, and are fantastic storytellers who can craft a piece without it sounding like an advertisement, all before a given deadline.

Teaching: In eight years as a community journalist, I have always thought about what it might be like to teach journalism at the high-school level or as an adjunct professor at a college. There is so much you learn as a journalism student beyond just how to craft a story for specific beats, including how to develop contacts, how to handle controversial subject matters, how to adapt your questions to unexpected answers in an interview, how to discover potential follow-up stories, etc. When you become an expert in any field, there is always the option to teach what you have learned to the next generation. 

Textbook Writer: You do not need to go into teaching to use your journalism degree in the education field. Companies often hire journalists as textbook writers due to the intense workload and deadlines associated with the field. As a textbook writer, you will find yourself using many journalistic skills, including conducting interviews and delving into research to obtain the information you need for a particular subject. Being a textbook writer gives you an opportunity to use your skills to write about a number of different subjects and interests. And there is a lot of work still available in textbook writing thanks to students — from grammar school all the way through college and graduate studies — who rely on these books for their classes.

Lawyer (Or a Banker… Or a… ): Yes, this is not the typical career path, but our very own Law Editor Matt Moody obtained a B.S. in Journalism from the University of Florida before getting his J.D. from Georgetown Law.  And now he celebrates the best of both worlds, writing about the legal profession while also analyzing the industry through our rankings. If you haven’t read some of the law blogs at Vault, check them out. They are a great example of how you can use your journalism skills to write about other career paths you may have chosen. This means you can work in banking, pharmaceuticals, etc., and use your journalism degree to write promotional copy in-house for your company, or write a blog on the side to showcase your expertise in the field. A journalism degree doesn’t limit you to a career at a newspaper, television studio, or magazine.

Author… Or Even a Screenwriter: You’re a writer, and writing is what you like to do. Every journalist has dreamt of writing a book. Columnists compile a number of entries with exclusive new content to create books, and other journalists follow their passion for writing by creating everything from fictional stories to biographies… and in the case of some journalists, political commentary based loosely on facts, but rooted more in fiction. I have been saying, “I really need to finish that book” for years now, and I happen to know someone who did just that. Bridgett M. Davis, my professor from my Intro to Journalism class, wrote two critically acclaimed books — Shifting Through Neutral and Into the Go-Slow — as well as a highly praised independent film — Naked Acts.

It’s all about hustling, and if you’re up for it, a degree in journalism and a strong ability to write open the door to a realm of possibilities. 

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