Government Reporter Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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A government reporter's mean annual salary is around $45,800. Is the job worth the education requirements? Get salary information and the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a government reporter is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Government Reporter Career

Government reporters specialize in covering notable and newsworthy stories about local, regional, state or federal government. Check out the following pros and cons to see if a career as a government reporter is a good match for you.

Pros of a Government Reporter Career
Varied daily activities (reporters may cover breaking news stories, political meetings and local events)*
Can work anywhere in the United States or abroad*
Possibility of interviewing and meeting high-profile figures*
Advanced degree is not required*

Cons of a Government Reporter Career
Lack of job growth for reporters and correspondents (8 percent decline expected from 2014-2024)*
Fierce competition for jobs in major cities and at large publications, broadcast stations and national magazines*
Major broadcasters and publications usually require several years of experience*
Irregular work hours often include late nights, weekends and holidays*
High pressure to meet deadlines*

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

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Reporters investigate news tips and gather information for print or online publications, radio stations or television stations. Other tasks include taking notes, interviewing people, observing events and writing stories.

Your official job title may dictate your particular duties. Government reporters working at small town or community publications may be required to cover general news stories, in addition to government-related ones. Conversely, reporters working in large cities or at major publications may work solely on public policy and government-related stories.

Salary Information and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all types of reporters made an average salary of about $45,800 as of May 2014. Where you work affects the average salary you can make as a government reporter. For example, reporters who work in broadcasting tend to make higher wages than those working at print publications. Broadcasting reporters earned a mean yearly wage of just over $49,640. In contrast, reporters who worked for newspaper, periodical and book publishing companies made a lower mean salary of about $40,810 per year.

You can expect higher wages and more competition for jobs in a large city. The BLS projected a moderate decline in employment from 2014-2024, with reporter and correspondent jobs decreasing by 8 percent. These growth patterns are partially due to the decline of print journalism and the subsequent downsizing of many news companies.

What Are the Requirements?

Employers look for applicants with a bachelor's degree in journalism or communications, although some employers hire applicants with different majors. Degree programs can teach you fundamental skills in article writing, editing, journalistic ethics and effective research methods.

Passion and writing ability are key qualities for government reporters, but having experience in the field is also essential. The BLS states that many employers view practical experience as one of the most important assets for applicants. You might work for your college newspaper, radio station or broadcasting station. You can also apply to an internship or a summer job at a local news organization or publication.

What Employers Expect

Having extra skills may give you an edge in a fiercely competitive job market. Many employers look for reporters with a strong background or knowledge of politics and government, as well as photography or graphic design skills. The job postings below can give you an idea of what some real employers looked for in March 2012:

  • An online news organization in Washington, D.C., looked for a reporter with two years of reporting experience to cover politics and government in Virginia. Reporters were expected to write 1-3 articles weekly, all centered around political issues and figures in Virginia.
  • A small daily newspaper in South Dakota requested a full-time reporter to cover state government and politics. The newspaper looked for a candidate with a journalism background and preferred applicants with page editing and digital photography skills.
  • An online legal news wire service in Washington, D.C., sought a full-time reporter with at least two years of experience or an advanced journalism degree to cover regulatory and legislative affairs. The reporter would submit two stories daily and keep track of developments in Congress and at federal agencies.
  • The New York-based office of a national community news company wanted a reporter with access to a car, a passion for local news and a strong background in journalism. The ideal candidate for this full-time position would report on various news subjects, including local government and politics.
  • A small newspaper in Texas looked for a government accountability reporter with strong clips and preferably two years of experience. Photography skills were a plus; the employer requested that applicants submit a résumé and five published clips.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

You can increase your marketability by gaining skills that allow you to work in several capacities for a news station or publication. News organizations increasingly rely on multimedia content that combines written articles with photography, video and social media platforms. While you don't need to master all of these skills, being familiar with the following concepts can give you a leg up on the competition.

  • Online media concepts such as search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Social media
  • Digital photography
  • Videography
  • Page editing
  • Legal and political terminology

Other Careers to Consider

Editor

If you're interested in a writing-related career that includes some supervisory duties, you might enjoy working as an editor. In this profession, you review, edit and rewrite the work produced by writers. Additional tasks may include reviewing story ideas, planning content for publications, overseeing production and identifying new talent. Applicants with strong writing skills and a bachelor's degree in journalism or communication are ideally suited for the job.

Keep in mind that more people are attracted to the profession than the number of job openings, and many employers are downsizing. The BLS projected that jobs would increase only one percent from 2010-2020. As of May 2011, the median annual wage for editors was around $52,000.

Public Relations Specialist

If you're looking for another communications-related career, public relations specialists manage the public profiles of businesses, organizations and individuals. Common responsibilities include drafting press releases, working directly with media contacts and arranging events for clients to interact with the public. Employers prefer applicants with strong communication and written skills.

While there is strong competition for public relations jobs, the BLS expected faster-than-average employment growth of 21% from 2010-2020. The median annual salary for public relations specialists was about $53,000 as of May 2011.

Popular Schools

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    1. American University

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      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
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    2. The Art Institutes

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    3. Purdue University

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    4. Johns Hopkins University

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    5. Full Sail University

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      • M.S. - Public Relations
      • Master of Fine Arts - Media Design
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    6. Colorado Technical University

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      • BS - Business Administration - Marketing
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    7. Colorado State University Global

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    8. Seton Hall University

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    9. Concordia University Portland

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    10. Penn Foster High School

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Featured Schools

American University

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

What is your highest level of education?

The Art Institutes

  • Advertising (BFA)
  • Advertising (BS)
  • Advertising (AS)

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts in Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • M.S. - Public Relations
  • Master of Fine Arts - Media Design
  • B.S. - Media Communications

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • BS - Business Administration - Marketing
  • BS - Business Administration - Digital Marketing

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Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Communication
  • BS - Marketing

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Seton Hall University

  • Master of Business Administration - Marketing

What is your highest level of education?