For Current Students
If you have not yet visited UMass Career Services, you should plan a visit there as soon as possible. The Career Services website offers many resources for career planning, including a career plan for students to follow year by year. We have found that students are more successful at finding a job when they graduate if they have followed the year by year plan as outlined here.
For Graduating Seniors
Where should I begin to look?
By the time you are ready to graduate, you should be prepared to work in the news media in a variety of different ways. When you’re first starting out, you should think broadly about where you might gain the most experience. Local newspapers, tv and radio stations and small magazines are often the best place to start. While most new graduates want to go immediately to the major newspapers and media markets, more opportunities exist in the smaller and medium-sized markets. Unlike what we hear about the major newspapers, many small newspapers and alternative weeklies are growing or at least holding their own, so employment opportunities are encouraging in these areas. The same is true for the smaller broadcast markets in both radio and television.
What do I need before beginning the job search?
You should have an up-to-date resumé including any journalism-related experience you’ve acquired, e.g., internships, co-ops, campus media. If you have not yet done an internship and there is still enough time, arrange an internship before graduation. Or look into a post-graduate internship or the “Second Chance” Co-op Program through Career Services.
You should also have a well-written cover letter and writing portfolio or a media package of your best work ready to be sent out to prospective employers. Employers will gauge your ability through your work samples, so be sure they are without typos or other mistakes and are presented in an attractive, professional manner. Your portfolio should be journalistic—meaning, reported work—not a collection of essays or opinion pieces.
For help in writing your resumé and cover letter, as well as preparing for the interview process, go to UMass Career Services.
In addition to the resumé, cover letter and portfolio, what else can I do to prepare myself for the job search?
Read websites and publications, watch television stations or listen to radio stations where you are interested in working, especially prior to writing your cover letter and going on an interview.
Continue to keep abreast of the news of the day, both locally and globally. This will help you in your interviews as well as your early days on the job.
Try to keep up to date with the news industry. Blogs, webzines, community access television, and alternative newspapers all offer great opportunities for future careers in journalism.
Get proficient in multimedia (i.e., convergent) technology. These are skills employers are seeking and increasingly requiring. Learn to use the technology needed for creating and maintaining news websites. Learn to record sound and edit video. If there is still time, take a Journalism course in convergent technology. If there is not, seek out workshops, courses or individuals who will teach you these skills. Basic computer skills are also essential.
I really want to work for a magazine. What are the employment prospects and how should I begin working toward that goal?
Magazines remain one of the most challenging areas to break into. Over time, you may be able to find your way into these publications. Magazines, especially the monthlies, hire few staff writers. The best preparation to immediately start writing for a magazine is to start as a freelance writer for a regional magazine (as opposed to a national or international) or at an alternative weekly newspaper.
There are thousands of magazines that cover every subject imaginable so there are virtually unlimited outlets to pursue. Try to find a publication with similar interests to your own and develop a specialty. Finding a niche helps you find stories and sell them to editors.
Freelancing can be challenging. You don’t earn a regular paycheck, and the pay, when you do get it, can be very little. Average rates for a moderately successful freelancer range from $1-2 per word. You don’t receive any employment benefits, such as health insurance or retirement. So you will probably need to find other employment, at least on a part-time or temporary basis, while you pursue freelancing for magazines. Freelancers may eventually be able to obtain lucrative contracts with magazines to deliver a set number of stories per year and make a decent salary.
Should I go to graduate school for journalism immediately after getting my Bachelor’s Degree?
Most Journalism graduate schools will suggest that you work in the field for a few years prior to attending graduate school. The average age for graduate students studying journalism is 32.