September 23, 2009

Q. Teaching journalism at the college level seems like a legitimate post-journalism career, should I decide I want or need a Plan B. I like teaching, I like journalism and I really like the idea of summers off. But I only have a master’s degree and, from what I can tell, full-time tenure track journalism positions require a doctorate degree.

So two questions: Why is a doctorate necessary to teach journalism? And how can a working (50-plus hours a week) journalist acquire a doctorate while still working?


Maybe I’d Know if I had a Ph.D.

A. OK, let me try to untangle this for you.

Within a journalism department, there are several types or levels of instructors from part-time adjuncts to tenured professors who hold doctorates. One need not have a doctorate to teach college students. Depending on the program, one need not necessarily have a doctorate to win tenure.

However, in some programs, a doctorate or another terminal degree, like a law degree, is key to getting the top jobs.

Teaching is only one responsibility for a journalism faculty member. Some professors are as dedicated to expanding knowledge through research, writing for peer-reviewed journals, or service to the field, university or community as others are to teaching.

If the day comes when you want to teach, you will have to search around for a program that lets you teach with just a master’s degree.

As for question No. 2, I do not know how someone who is busy working 50 hours a week can earn a doctorate. Doctorates tend not to be part-time pursuits. The good news is that it just might not be necessary for what you want to do.

Questions about school: We get a lot of questions about how the classroom and newsroom fit together. Send me your question and I will get right on it. Poynter also has live educator chats every Thursday at 1 p.m. EDT, which may be of help.

Coming Wednesday: Join us for a free live chat at 1 p.m. EDT with a journalist who moved to Dubai to pursue a career in journalism.

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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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