Education and Training Requirements

High School

You'll need a broad-based education to be a successful columnist, so take a college prep curriculum in high school. Concentrate on English and journalism classes that will help you develop research, writing, and speaking skills. Keep your computer and Internet skills up to date with computer science courses, and learn how to use social media. History, psychology, science, and math should round out your education. Are you interested in a particular topic, such as sports, politics, or developments in medicine? Then take classes that will help you develop your knowledge in that area. In the future, you'll be able to draw on this knowledge when you write your column.

Postsecondary Training

As is the case for other journalists, at least a bachelor's degree in journalism is often required, although some journalists graduate with degrees in political science, history, English, or other fields. Experience may be gained by writing for the college or university newspaper and through a summer internship at a newspaper or other publication. It also may be helpful to submit freelance opinion columns to local or national publications. The more published articles, called "clips," you can show to prospective employers, the better.

Other Education or Training

A variety of webinars, conference seminars, digital journalism training sessions, and other continuing education opportunities are offered by professional associations such as the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Topics include writing, interviewing, social media, and technology. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification or licensing requirements for columnists.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Any experience volunteering or working as a writer will be useful for those who aspire to enter the field. Contact local newspapers and magazines, community organizations, religious groups, or local businesses, and other organizations that require the skills of writers.

Being a columnist requires similar characteristics to those required for being a reporter: curiosity, a genuine interest in people, the ability to write clearly and succinctly, and the strength to thrive under deadline pressure. But as a columnist, you will also require a certain wit and wisdom, the compunction to express strong opinions, and the ability to take apart an issue and debate it.

Columnists must also play a major role in promoting their work to the public because many people are now writing columns, blogs, and other types of articles. Columnists who are skilled at using the Internet, social media tools, and search engine optimization and marketing techniques have a better chance of attracting new readers than columnists who do not have these skills.