Becoming a Reporter: Job Description & Salary Information

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A reporter's average annual income is roughly $45,800. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career outlook to find out if becoming a reporter is right for you.
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Pros and Cons: Becoming a Reporter

If you enjoy educating the community about current events, consider a career as a reporter, also known as a journalist. Check out these pros and cons to help you decide a career as a reporter is a good fit for you.

PROS of Becoming a Reporter
Growing online market*
Smaller communities may have better employment opportunities*
Opportunities to specialize in a particular subject of interest*
Multiple areas to enter including television, print, online and radio*

CONS of Becoming a Reporter
Waning employment growth due to less viewership and readership (14% decline expected for 2012-2022)*
Working evening hours are common since news can happen at anytime*
Dangerous work conditions if assigned to report on natural disasters or wars*
Freelance work may result in unstable salary*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Occupational Information

Job Description

A reporter's goal is to provide an accurate story that the public can easily understand. When you first receive an assignment, you perform research to learn the facts of the story. This can involve arranging interviews with people associated with the event, such as witnesses or experts, and fact checking. Stories are assembled according to the media platform they're presented on, and news agencies may require reporters to present the stories on more than one platform. As a reporter, you may specialize in a certain field, such as education or the environment, or take on general assignments on a range of subjects.

Salary and Outlook Information

Reporters earned average salaries of approximately $45,800, according to May 2014 data by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The data showed that organizations of social advocates paid the most with average annual incomes of around $76,210 for reporters. Industries that hired the most reporters included newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishers, as well as radio and television broadcasting companies.

Reporters with job experience may have the most opportunities. Competition is keenest in large cities and at publications with high circulation rates. Novice reporters may find it easier to get their foot in the door in smaller communities. Although 2012-2022 figures indicate a dwindling employment rate of 14% for reporters, broadcast news analyst employment is expected to change only little, according to the BLS. These professionals provide their own interpretations of current events, whereas reporters typically present the objective facts.

Career Requirements

Education

A bachelor's degree is generally the minimum amount of education reporters need; journalism and communications are ideal majors for aspiring reporters. Journalism students often learn about a broad range of subjects to make them knowledgeable about the various subjects they may end up reporting on. A communication or journalism graduate program is beneficial if you already have a bachelor's degree in a different field.

What Do Employers Want?

Employers look for reporters who can communicate coherently and are comfortable tracking down sources and interviewing them. They also look for candidates with plenty of experience in the field. As a student you can acquire multiple internships with news companies and work on your campus newspaper, radio or news show. Below are examples of what employers are looking for from April 2012 job postings.

  • A newspaper in Ohio sought a reporter with a bachelor's degree - preferably in journalism or communications - and a familiarity of online social media.
  • In Florida, a newspaper wanted a reporter with strong multimedia skills, an engaging writing style and strong news sense.
  • A West Virginia newspaper looked for a reporter with a bachelor's degree in journalism with photography, videography, Web and social media skills.
  • A news station in Washington D.C. hired for a reporter with 3-5 years of on-air experience who could shoot, edit and produce stories for multiple media platforms.

Standing out as a Reporter

Taking the time to develop skills in a specific niche can help set you apart from other reporters. For example, if you have immersed yourself in politics, sports or foreign affairs, then you possess specialized knowledge that not all reporters have. Additionally, you can create a portfolio to show employers your skills. One way to present your portfolio is through an online platform, such as a website or blog, which also indicates to employers that you possess technology skills - something that can prove beneficial as online markets continue growing.

Other Career Choices

Photographer

If you're interested in photographing people, places and events instead of writing about them, consider becoming a photographer. Education requirements typically depend on the type of photography performed; portrait photographers don't typically need degrees, while photojournalists and industrial/scientific photographers usually need bachelor's degrees. Job prospects vary greatly depending on the type of photography you want to specialize in.

BLS 2010-2020 projections indicated that an average 13% growth rate is expected for all photographers, but wedding photographers and commercial photographers are likely to see the most growth. Self-employed photographers are projected to increase by 15%. However, news photographers are expected to see a 30% decline in employment during this time period. Photographer with advanced technical skills, such as digital video and photo editing, may have an edge over their competition. As of May 2011, the BLS reported average salaries for photographers were approximately $37,000.

Public Relations Specialist

If you're looking for a career with better job prospects, consider becoming a public relations specialist. These professionals typically work for companies in order to create positive public images for them. A bachelor's degree in journalism can provide you with relevant skills as well as majors in public relations, communications, English and business. Employment growth projections by the BLS showed a 23% increase for public relations specialists during 2010-2020. You can increase your employability by becoming proficient in social media. As of May 2011, public relations specialists earned average salaries of about $60,000, reported the BLS.

Popular Schools

  • Campus and Online Programs
    1. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. - New Media Journalism
      • Master of Fine Arts - Media Design
      • Master of Fine Arts - Creative Writing
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Sportscasting (Campus)
      • BS - Media Communications (Campus)
      • BS - Sportscasting
      • B.S. - Sports Marketing and Media
      • Bachelor of Fine Arts - Creative Writing for Entertainment
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    3. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
  • Campus Locations:
    5. CDI College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Diploma in Business and Digital Marketing
  • Athens, GA

    University of Georgia

  • Knoxville, TN

    The University of Tennessee

  • Online Programs Available
    8. Penn Foster Career School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma: Freelance Writer

Featured Schools

Full Sail University

  • M.S. - New Media Journalism
  • Master of Fine Arts - Media Design
  • BS - Sportscasting (Campus)
  • BS - Media Communications (Campus)

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

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American University

  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration

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Grand Canyon University

  • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education

What is your highest level of education?

CDI College

  • Diploma in Business and Digital Marketing

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Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma: Freelance Writer

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