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How to Get into Journalism Majors in the US as an International Student

How to Get into Journalism Majors in the US as an International Student

Article written by Justine Creteur.

Are you thinking of joining the world of journalism? Where do you begin?

From classwork to internships, we are here to help you navigate the ins and outs of the Fourth Estate.

Why should you study journalism?

As a journalism student, you learn how to research and share stories. You master analytical skills that will later be useful in every sector you choose to work in. As a journalist, you also have the added benefits of building a network with people outside your comfort zone and never having 9-to-5 workdays!

“It allows you to learn real-world skills needed in every industry, like writing, researching, reporting, storytelling, collaborating, and presenting.”

Because these skills come with a certain intersectionality, studying journalism doesn’t mean you have to end up a journalist.

What can you do with a journalism degree?

Though with a journalism degree you can end up in tons of different fields, such as psychology, law, communications, public relations, marketing, publishing, television writing, and many others, journalism students who aspire to become journalists also have a wide range of options within their industry.

Some of these include:

  • Presenter / Broadcast journalist
  • Reporter
  • Writer / Copywriter
  • Web content manager
  • Political advisor
  • Editorial assistant
  • Television producer
  • Photographer
  • And many more!

What does studying journalism actually mean?

Most schools in the US offer two types of tracks. On one hand, you can choose to pursue print journalism, which focuses on editorial work and mastering writing skills. On the other hand, you can go for a broadcasting degree, which highlights multimedia classes and interviewing skills. Regardless, you will find common classes in both disciplines.

Some of these include:

  • Journalism Ethics and Law
  • News Writing and Reporting
  • Feature Writing
  • Photojournalism
  • First to know all the important news around you
  • Mass Media Law
  • Corporate Relations / Public Relations.

“No panic though; bear in mind that you don’t need The New York Times to follow you on Twitter to get published.”

Studying journalism will also mean pursuing work experience outside of university, either as a freelance writer, part-time/full-time intern, or contributor. Speaking to your professors about your career aspirations will help you target the right jobs for you. Another recommendation is to get as many published clips as possible. Getting published will put your name out there and help you form connections with future employers. No panic though; bear in mind that you don’t need The New York Times to follow you on Twitter to get published. First, check out your local newspapers and email them asking if they need any contributions. Smaller papers are always looking for writers and a constant flow of content.

Where should you study journalism?

We have combined a list of programs using the top lists of Google, Niche, CollegeFactual, and CollegeGazette to come up with our own personalized list:

  • Emerson College
  • UT Austin
  • University of Missouri-Columbia
  • Northwestern University
  • New York University
  • Boston University
  • University of Maryland - College Park
  • University of Southern California
  • George Washington University
  • Syracuse University.

Though these are all great programs, researching them and looking at the coursework offered in the journalism departments will help you target the right school for you. For example, some schools offer classes that are more geared towards sports journalism or coding, whereas others focus on international affairs or politics. Focus on what you hope to report on, what makes your heart boil, and it will lead you to the right school.

What are some myths and hard truths about journalism?

Because we live in the era of fake news, many journalists live under the scrutiny of the media. We are here to debunk or validate some of these widely held beliefs (and show you others!).

#1 — When you study journalism, you have to become a journalist.

FALSE. You will quickly realize that most students in journalism don’t actually enter the field, they usually double-major in another area that interests them and want to pursue a career in, or attend graduate school to specialize. You have so much flexibility to decide where and in what field you want to work, so take advantage of the skills you can learn in this degree.

#2 — Journalism is dying.

TRUE. Unfortunately, the journalism industry is rapidly changing, and newspapers no longer have the budgets to keep up. But this also means that journalists now explore and adapt to other career options — freelance writing pay is on the rise, and many utilize social media platforms that newspapers are not adept at.

#3 — Regardless if you studied journalism, you will end up at an entry-level job with professionals who haven’t studied it.

TRUE and FALSE. It is true that many jobs in copywriting and editorial teams are also filled with students who have studied English, communications, public relations, marketing, etc. However, the degree allows you to get more internships at newspapers, magazines, etc. during your college years, and those give you a leg up compared to other applicants. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what you want to do with your degree. You can double-major and get a leg up from learning valuable expertise in a subject matter you want to write up, or do internships, or build connections, and so on.

Why it may not be for you

Though there are many pros to studying journalism, some may choose another field for a variety of reasons. There is a certain personality type associated with the world of journalists, and it may not be for you. Here are a couple of points that may deter you:

  • Newsrooms follow a strict business model
  • You are always on the run
  • It demands a high level of patience in your long-term career goals.

"Studying journalism doesn’t mean you have to end up a journalist."

Why the degree may not be suited for you:

  • It requires a lot of networking and internships
  • It doesn’t necessarily give you a leg up in the industry… until a certain point.

Application process

  1. Introspection - Think about what you like to do, who you want to be, what you like to write/research about.
  2. Research Programs - Visit the journalism buildings when visiting schools.
  3. Apply for programs - Usually, applications involve, in addition to writing personal essays, short answer questions, references, etc., an essay question about a world topic that interests you. If you write in a journalistic style, you’ll already get bonus points.
  4. Extracurriculars - Show leadership and writing proficiency outside school (newspaper, freelance writing for local newspapers, etc.).
  5. Get into your dream school!

Would like to learn more about journalism? Watch our Millie's Guide to Journalism (US) and Journalism (UK) webinars.