April 6, 2003

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The percentage of journalists with at least a college bachelor’s degree continues to increase. It’s clear that the four-year bachelor’s degree has become the minimum qualification necessary for being hired as a full-time journalist in most traditional mainstream U.S. news media. Only about 11 percent of all full-time journalists working for traditional news media in the United States do not have at least a bachelor’s degree.

Of those with a degree, 36.2 percent were journalism majors in college, a slight drop from 39.4 percent in 1992 and 39.8 percent in 1982. When those who majored in radio-TV, telecommunication, mass communication, or communication are added, the percentage increases significantly to 49.5 percent in 2002, about what it was in 1992. In other words, about half of all U.S. journalists with college degrees have majored in journalism or communication. The largest proportion of journalism majors is found in daily newspapers (43.2 percent), followed by the wire services (36.2 percent), weekly newspapers (32 percent), television (30.6 percent), radio (22.4 percent), and newsmagazines (19.4 percent).

U.S. journalists are much more likely to have earned college degrees than the overall adult population in the United States (89.3 percent vs. 25.6 percent) and the overall U.S. civilian labor force (30.4 percent).

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Bill Mitchell is a Poynter Affiliate who most recently led Poynter’s entrepreneurial and international programs and served as a member of its faculty. Previously, Bill…
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