Becoming a Photojournalist: Job Description & Salary

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Get the truth about a photojournalist's salary, education requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of being a photojournalist.
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A Photojournalist Career: Pros and Cons

A photojournalist tells a story through pictures and needs to be technologically proficient in digital media, including video and sound, as well as the Internet and social media outlets. Read the pros and cons of a photojournalist career to see if it's the right fit for you.

Pros of a Photojournalist Career
Could work from anywhere because newsworthy things happen around the world*
This is a career field that inspires creativity**
The advancement of digital technology is making it easier to become skilled as a photographer**
As a photographer, you can choose to work on a freelance basis**

Cons of a Photojournalist Career
36% job decline for news photographers expected from 2012-2022 as a result of a decline in the newspaper industry**
Experience working with other forms of multimedia besides just still photography is becoming more necessary*
May work early mornings, late nights and weekends**
Expect out-of-pocket costs every 6-12 months to keep up with quickly advancing camera technology*

Sources: *National Press Photographers Association, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Photojournalists, also referred to as news photographers, use still photography and other digital media in creating newsworthy stories for the public. Photojournalists should be creative while possessing solid technical knowledge in the field of photography. In addition to still photography, photojournalists are often responsible for delivering information by using various social media outlets across the Internet. A photojournalist might work with multimedia, such as video, sound and digital media.

Salary and Job Outlook Info

In July 2015, PayScale.com reported an annual salary range of about $27,000-$61,000 for the 10th-90th percentile in this profession, with a median salary of $39,323. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an employment decrease of 36% was expected from 2012-2022 due to an anticipated decline in the newspaper industry.

Career Skills and Requirements

Education Requirements

While being a photographer does not usually require a degree, photojournalists benefit from having a bachelor's or master's degree in journalism or communication. A bachelor's degree program in journalism with a focus on photojournalism helps you gain the basic skills needed to integrate various multimedia formats besides still photography in the reporting of a story. A master's degree program can offer more advanced training and education in the use of the vast majority of digital technologies available to the photojournalist.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Although photojournalists will spend a lot of their time working with still photography, many employers are looking for someone who can use other technologies, such as video or the Internet, to report stories. Because newsworthy happenings occur at any time, photojournalists need to be willing to work early mornings and late nights. Below are a few job postings for photojournalists from April 2012:

  • A communications company in South Carolina is looking for someone with an associate degree and two to five years of experience. In addition, the candidate must have writing and video editing skills and be able to supervise other photography staff members.
  • A major national network affiliate in Salt Lake City, Utah, is looking for a creative photojournalist willing to work a variety of shifts, including nights and weekends. They should have experience using a live news truck, and a good driving record is required.
  • A broadcasting company in San Diego, California, is looking for a news photographer with at least three years of experience to work full-time. Experience is preferred within the news industry. The candidate should also be comfortable flying in a helicopter.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Because employers require experience, you would be wise to create your own professional portfolio. Some degree programs include doing so as part of the program

Joining professional organizations can also offer benefits. The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) doesn't have any special requirements, such as experience or an exam, aside from a yearly membership fee. But by becoming a member, you are given access to publications that could assist you in advancing your career while allowing you the opportunity to network with other professionals in the field. The American Society of Media Photographers is another professional organization that you might consider joining. Requirements for membership include publishing your work within the last three years, with the majority of your income coming from such work.

Alternative Career Paths

Photographer

If the declining job outlook reported by the BLS for photojournalists has made you rethink the profession as a career, you can still utilize your interest and talent by working as a professional photographer. In general, the photography business was predicted to do much better by the BLS, with a projected employment growth of 13% from 2010 to 2020. Photographers can work freelance or for companies offering professional portrait work to customers interested in baby, child or family photos. Professional photographers can also be responsible for taking all the photos at weddings and other large events. Photographers also work in advertising, among other fields. According to the BLS, photographers overall earned a median salary of almost $29,000, as of May 2011.

Self-Enrichment Teacher

As a self-enrichment teacher, you can use your photography skills and creative ability to help people gain their own skills in photography. Self-enrichment teachers typically teach classes that aren't applicable to a degree. Self-enrichment teachers might only need a high school diploma, but they are often required to have relatable experience. The BLS anticipated a 20% job growth from 2010 to 2020. The median salary for self-enrichment education teachers as of May 2011 was approximately $36,000.

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Featured Schools

The Art Institutes

  • Digital Photography (BFA)
  • Digital Photography (AAS)
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What is your highest level of education?

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?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts in Science Writing

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

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

What is your age?

Grand Canyon University

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

What is your highest level of education?

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?