As a Journalist you will research, write, edit and present information.You'll publish and present news stories through the use of words and/or pictures to a target audience. There are many different types of journalist and many different areas in which you could work.
Video: - Louise: Journalist - Magazine
Video: - Julia: Journalist - Newspaper
Video: - Shriti: Journalist - Radio/Television
You role as a Journalist is to bring the news by words and/or pictures to a target audience. You'll do this mainly through newspapers, magazines, online publications, radio and television.
You will carry out research that involves collecting information, investigating stories and following up 'leads'. For example, you could talk to personal contacts; read articles and reports; carry out online research; and interview people face-to-face, over the telephone and by email.
Most Journalists begin their careers covering news, but some will go on to specialise in particular topics, such as:
- the arts
You'll need to create and maintain a 'contacts book', listing details of people who might be useful sources of stories and quotes.
When you have finished their research, you'll write the report or article for publication or broadcast.
You will work to strict deadlines, which can sometimes mean producing a story within a matter of hours. Another Journalist (known as a Sub-Editor) may edit your copy, but you will be expected to make sure that your reports are accurate and fit the house style of the publication.
You might work with Photographers, Editors, TV/Radio Crews or Designers - often depending on which area of journalism you work in.
If you choose to write online articles you may also get involved with web building, blogging, podcasting, social media and mobile technology.
Sometimes you may need to travel long distances, nationally or internationally, with your work - and often at short notice.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Journalist, you'll need:
- an excellent writing style
- good spelling, grammar and punctuation
- an interest in and knowledge of the subject you're writing about
- the ability to meet deadlines and keep calm under pressure
- to be curious and determined
- good communication and listening skills, particularly when interviewing people
- IT skills, for example, in desktop publishing software
- the ability to take criticism from the Editor or reader
A knowledge of shorthand is very useful.
Journalists who write for online publications might need basic web skills, for example, knowledge of content management systems.
Freelance Journalists benefit from business and marketing skills to promote and sell their article ideas to Editors.
You might need a driving licence for some positions.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £25,000 - £28,000
- With experience: £30,500 - £37,000
- Senior Journalists earn £41,000 - £45,000
Rates for freelance Journalists vary depending on whether they work on a shift or commissioned basis. Generally, national newspaper shifts are from around £150 - £300 a shift. You can find a useful guide to freelance rates on the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) website.
You may face long periods without work. To help, you may be able to claim benefits. Take a look at our information article on
Hours of work
You might have to work long, irregular hours, with early starts, late finishes and weekend work.
Where could I work?
Employers are local, regional and national newspapers, as well as magazines and the broadcast media, including websites.
Other employers are local and national government departments and large commercial and industrial companies, in which a Journalist may produce in-house publications. Some work in book publishing or public relations.
There are opportunities for Journalists in towns and cities throughout the UK.
There are also opportunities for Journalists to work in other countries, for example, as a foreign correspondent.
Journalists can work as self-employed freelancers.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in local, regional and national newspapers. Vacancies also appear on websites such as 'Hold the Front Page' and the 'Press Gazette', and there are specialist job boards such as journalism.co.uk. General job boards might also carry journalism vacancies.
There are specialist recruitment agencies that deal with journalism and publishing vacancies.
It's a good idea to build up a network of relevant contacts, as not all journalism jobs are advertised.
Entry Routes and Training
Entry routes and training
An Advanced Level Apprenticeship is a great place to start.
Other routes into journalism can vary depending on which branch you choose to follow. To get into the newspaper industry, there are often two routes: direct entry, and pre-entry through a college/university course.
Direct entry is when you are recruited by regional or local newspapers and carry out their basic training under the terms of a training contract. This route is becoming rarer all the time.
Most companies will provide you with distance learning materials, and register you with the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).
Pre-entry, the much more common route, is when you start work after doing a full-time, vocational training course, for both post A level students and graduates.
If you have completed a full-time journalism course before starting in employment, you'll probably enter into an 18-month training contract. At the end of the 18 months, you might be expected to sit the NCTJ National Qualification in Journalism (see below).
The best way to get into magazine journalism is to follow formal training, such as that provided by the NCTJ. Some people work their way up from positions such as editorial assistant.
Some National Radio/Television Journalists start their careers by working on newspapers or in local radio. Or you can apply to television companies for a place on their in-house training schemes (if they run one).
Most entrants are graduates, as competition for jobs is fierce. There are a number of degrees in journalism. However, it's possible to enter with a degree in another subject. Some subjects are more widely recognised and better regarded than others. For example, employers often question the suitability of media studies courses, especially where the applicant has no journalism work experience.
If you want to specialise in a particular area, such as fashion, music or science, a degree in a relevant area will be useful (or sometimes essential, as can be the case for scientific and medical journalists).
The NCTJ provides qualifications for pre-entry trainee Journalists, as well as professional qualifications for working Journalists.
- the diploma in journalism gives trainee Journalists the knowledge and skills they need for professional entry-level journalism
- the National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) is for trainee Journalists with at least 18 months' employment, allowing them to achieve senior status as a Journalist. The NQJ is available in four areas: Reporters; Press Photographers and Photojournalists; Sub-Editors; and Sports Reporters.
The Professional Publishers Association (PPA) and the Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC) also approve courses.
NCTJ approved training covers news writing, media law, public affairs and shorthand.
Because there is intense competition for courses, training places and job vacancies, you should develop knowledge and skills through relevant work experience. Most colleges will only grant places to applicants who have already been on a brief work experience placement.
You could gain experience on a free local paper, local radio or hospital radio station, or university student magazine, for example. Employers might ask to see a portfolio of this work, which shows your potential and commitment to become a journalist.
Previous experience writing articles such as in sport, music or computing would be really useful for this career.
Progression is often to a larger publication or organisation. Some Journalists become freelancers; others move into management roles, or become Editors or Producers.
Some Journalists switch to a different media platform, for example, from print to broadcast.
Most people enter after completing a full-time vocational training course. This route is known as pre-entry training. The minimum entry requirement for a course is usually 5 GCSEs and 2 A levels. However, some courses are for graduates only.
To get onto an Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you'll usually need 5 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, including English and maths, or to have completed an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.
Some adults move into journalism after a career in another area, such as sport, music or computing. They then become specialists in writing about these subjects.
If you don't have the qualifications you usually need to enter a degree, foundation degree or HND course, you might be able to start one after completing a college or university Access course, such as Access to Journalism.
You don't usually need any qualifications to start an Access course, but you should check individual course details.
There are fast-track (usually 18-22 week) courses in the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) Diploma in Journalism. To enter, you might need a degree or A levels; some course providers accept people without these qualifications if they have journalism experience or an employer's sponsorship.
The NCTJ offers its Diploma in Journalism by distance learning.
The London School of Journalism also offers distance learning courses in journalism.
Sponsorship is available from the Journalism Diversity Fund and the George Viner Memorial Fund Trust for people from ethnically and socially diverse backgrounds.
Other sponsorship is available from:
- Arts and Humanities Research Council.
- BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme.
- Guardian Media Group, Scott Trust.
Freelance working is common in many areas of journalism.
Skills for the creative industries
Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ)
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ)
Tel: 020 78433700
Professional Publishers Association (PPA)
Journalism Diversity Fund
BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme
Guardian Media Group (GMG)
Press Gazette: Journalism Today
Hold the Front Page
NUJ Freelance Fees Guide
Northern Ireland Screen
Northern Ireland Enquiries
London School of Journalism (LSJ)
Tel: 020 7432 8140
George Viner Memorial Fund
Careers in Journalism
Publisher: NUJ Training
Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ)
Tel: 020 7252 1187
Newspaper Society (NS)
Scottish Newspaper Society (SNS)
Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC)