November 24, 2009

Every year, I hear from people who wonder whether they need a degree to work in journalism.

One question went like this:

“I have had several years’ worth of experience writing freelance for commercial magazines as well as working full-time as a staff writer for an internationally distributed religious magazine. I am also the editor of a small newsletter.

“I have plenty of experience in many areas of the job, including working under deadline. … Is this enough, or is it impossible to get a job in journalism without a degree?”

My answer is no, it’s not impossible. A person who already has some experience does not need a degree to work in journalism, but it is going to be very hard, especially today, to break in without one.

Some great journalists working today do not have college degrees. Few of the people working around them give it much thought or even know their degree status. It is all about “what have you done lately?” Many of the pros broke into the business because they were hired while they were going to school.

Some figured that if they were going to school to break into journalism and then they fell in, they might as well stop going to school. Others simply became too busy with their jobs to keep up with college.

But several journalists I know wound up finishing their degrees later. It didn’t make them better journalists, but it helped them achieve personal goals. The bottom-line message to me is that to compete in today’s climate and to feel complete, get that degree. In this droopy economy, in fact, some are choosing the school route to sustain some career momentum.

Of course, never, ever inflate your resume to make college attendance look like completion. That will get you bounced out of any field.

E-mail me your career questions. I’ll send you an answer soon.

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Joe Grimm is a visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He runs the JobsPage Website. From that, he published…
Joe Grimm

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