Study Freelance Reporting: Associate, Training & Online Degree Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate degree or training in freelance reporting? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and freelance reporting training programs.
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Freelance Reporting Associate Degrees and Training at a Glance

A freelance reporter does essentially the same job as a salaried news reporter, but they also pitch story ideas and sell them to media outlets. Training programs in this area primarily consist of journalism courses that teach writing, reporting and thinking skills. They may also cover photography and graphic arts, which play an important part in the presentation of news stories.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that job growth for reporters would decrease 8% between 2010 and 2020. However, the decline in conventional news reporting organizations may be somewhat offset by increased growth in news outlets that disseminate their news and information via the Internet. The BLS predicted that job growth for writers and authors, including those who sell non-fiction content to magazines - such as media columns and news articles or Website content - would increase 6% over the same decade.

Training Associate
Who is this degree for? Individuals enrolled in a liberal arts degree program who seek to enhance it with a journalism certificate and potentially work in the field. Individuals who want to transfer their journalism credits to a 4-year university or who have strong reporting skills and are willing to work for smaller media organizations
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual median salary) - Reporter or Correspondent ($35,000)*
- Writer or Author ($56,000)*
- Public relations specialist ($53,000)*
- The same as training and certificate programs
- Freelance photojournalist ($29,000 - figure applies to all types of photographers)*
- Web writer ($48,000)**
- Copywriter ($42,000)**
Time to Completion 1 year full-time, 2 years full-time in conjunction with a liberal arts degree 2 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements Completion of 15-30 hours of certificate coursework, in areas such as journalism, English, communications, writing and photography or graphic arts - Approximately 30 hours of general studies coursework, such as math, science, history and humanities
- Roughly 30 hours of coursework in journalism
- Participation in the college newspaper or other publication or similar internship
Prerequisites - Requisite SAT scores, ACT scores or placement test
- High school diploma or GED
- High school diploma or GED
- Requisite SAT scores, ACT scores or placement test
- Computer literacy (in some colleges)
Online Availability - Yes, fully or partially online - Yes, fully or partially online

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 median wage), **Salary.com (May 2012 median wage).

Training Programs in Freelance Reporting

Training or certification in journalism can open your job horizons to include public relations, speech writing, photojournalism, Website writing and more. The BLS reports that freelance writers generally work part-time, which makes this training useful for college students who need to work while attending school.

Programs in freelance reporting are often offered as a journalism certificate, earned along with a liberal arts degree. This is not the same as a minor course of study; instead, the certificate program can expose you to the basic concepts of journalism required for news and other reporting jobs. The certificate is a valid credential that can help land you a job as a freelance reporter for smaller media organizations. If, however, you plan to work for a larger media organization, newspaper or publisher, it's likely that the employer will require you to possess a bachelor's degree. Additionally, when applying for jobs, you'll likely compete against bachelor's degree holders.

Pros and Cons

Your ability to market yourself as a freelance reporter often depends heavily upon your writing and reporting skills, as well as the level of initiative you take when finding clients. The better you are at writing, reporting and meeting deadlines, the greater the likelihood that you'll be able to find steady amounts of work.

Pros

  • Graduates who obtain certificates in journalism as part of a broader liberal arts education can compete for jobs with smaller media publications and gain important experience
  • This certification can enhance a liberal arts degree, which can lead to a wide range of employment opportunities
  • Earning this certificate can help you gain acceptance into a bachelor's degree program in journalism at a 4-year university

Cons

  • Certificate programs in journalism are not as focused on reporting as degree programs are, and the offered writing and reporting skills are only part of a general liberal arts degree
  • Larger media organizations usually prefer freelance reporters with a bachelor's degree in journalism
  • You will be competing with freelance reporters who have more experience and education

Courses and Requirements

Courses in a journalism training program are designed to provide you with basic knowledge of the fundamental skills needed to pursue a career in freelance reporting. You'll complete a series of required courses, and possibly electives, in areas such as:

  • Advertising
  • Business
  • Writing news
  • Photojournalism/graphic arts
  • News production/editing

Online Course Info

Online certificate programs from accredited schools are available on a limited basis. Although journalism courses exist that allow you to complete coursework entirely online, many schools instead offer hybrid distance learning programs, which allow you to complete some coursework online and some on-campus. The specific number of courses available online depends on the educational institution offering the classes.

Getting Ahead with This Training

If you're pursuing a certificate in conjunction with a liberal art degree, try to select a degree area that relates to the type of stories on which you'd like to report. For example, if you plan to cover financial news, a degree in business or finance could be a good fit, while if you're interested in covering current political affairs, a political science degree could be advantageous.

Another way to get ahead is to work for a college newspaper or complete an internship with a news organization to gain valuable hands-on experience. Key skills that you could develop include determining which events are newsworthy, accurately gathering and presenting facts, producing broadcasts or formatting newspapers, as well as learning how to meet deadlines.

Associate Degree in Freelance Reporting

Most associate degree programs in journalism are designed to provide the option for you to transfer your credits to a 4-year degree program in journalism. However, you may be able to obtain freelance reporting work with smaller media organizations or the growing pool of independent news reporting outlets with only an associate degree.

Associate degree programs in journalism offer a solid foundation in newsgathering, writing, editing and publication of news and events. While enrolled, you have the opportunity to learn about the ethical requirements associated with journalism and about the various mediums where news stories are published or broadcast. As part of the program, you could be required to meet deadlines and might learn about a wide variety of communication methods.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Most community colleges offering an associate degree in journalism have open enrollment, meaning most applicants are accepted. Once you've obtained your associate degree, you may be able to transfer your credits to a university into which you couldn't previously gain admittance
  • In addition to journalism classes, you'll take general studies courses, which can help prepare you to cover a wider array of stories and subjects
  • An associate degree in journalism can prepare you to write for smaller media organizations or the growing number of independent media organizations

Cons

  • The number of available reporting jobs is declining*
  • A bachelor's degree in journalism is the preferred level of education required by most employers*
  • Freelance reporters and writers have to continually struggle to develop articles and sell them, and smaller or independent media outlets typically pay less then major media outlets

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

In addition to writing skills, reporters, whether they are freelance or salaried, are generally expected to have a broad base of knowledge in history, current events, science, the humanities and other subjects that form the foundation of news reporting. Curriculum requirements in the journalism portion of your degree program could include:

  • Newswriting
  • News reporting
  • Editing
  • Graphic arts/photojournalism
  • Editing/publication design
  • Communication
  • Public relations

Online Course Info

Associate degrees in journalism are available online from accredited schools. Additionally, certain colleges offer 50% or more of their journalism courses online, and many colleges are expanding their online offerings. However, if you wish to participate in an internship or want to write for the school paper, attending an on-campus program could increase the chances that you'll have access to these opportunities.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Gaining hands-on experience can assist you in obtaining work as a reporter, according the BLS. Thus, if the school you're attending offers internship opportunities with local newspapers or publishing companies, it's important to take advantage the opportunity. Another way to build relevant experience is to write for a school or community newspaper.

Since jobs are increasingly being offered by online publications, you can potentially improve your job prospects by developing skills applicable to this area. Colleges often offer relevant elective courses, in areas such as Web design, graphics production or social media.

Degree Alternatives

Besides print journalism, colleges offer courses in broadcast journalism. You may decide to direct your writing skills to broadcast journalism, which includes television, radio and Internet streaming of news programming.

Online publications are exerting increasing dominance in the news and magazine publication market, and these media outlets require candidates who are experienced in the unique skills required for Website design and publication, social media, blogging, podcasting and e-publications. Schools are designing communication degree programs to accommodate this growing demand, and enrolling in one of them could be beneficial to your career goals.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • A.S. General Studies - Communications
      • A.S. General Studies - Communications
  • New Albany, IN

    Indiana University

  • Rock Springs, WY

    Western Wyoming Community College

  • Snyder, TX

    Western Texas College

  • Chula Vista, CA

    Southwestern College

  • Scottsbluff, NE

    Western Nebraska Community College

  • Parkersburg, WV

    West Virginia University at Parkersburg

  • Paducah, KY

    West Kentucky Community and Technical College

  • Ann Arbor, MI

    Washtenaw Community College

  • Lake Wales, FL

    Warner University

Featured Schools

The schools and programs listed below are popular educational options, and tuition varies based on program and location

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • A.S. General Studies - Communications

What is your highest level of education?

Western Wyoming Community College

Western Texas College

Southwestern College

Western Nebraska Community College

West Virginia University at Parkersburg

West Kentucky Community and Technical College