A journalist or reporter gathers information on news, current affairs, important events and matters of public interest and writes articles about them for newspapers, magazines and the internet.
Newspaper journalists report on events for a local, regional or national newspaper.
Magazine journalists write longer articles of general interest for a weekly or monthly trade or business journal or consumer magazine.
Broadcast journalists (See Broadcast Journalist) write reports for radio and television, adapt it for speech and may present it on air.
Online journalists produce reports and articles for the internet, most commonly for news websites.
You could be:
interviewing people either face to face, by telephone or email
looking for, researching and investigating possible stories
attending court cases, press conferences and other important events and reporting on them
recording interviews and meetings using shorthand or a recording device
producing copy (the article or report) in the style required and to deadline
working on the news desk, answering phones and dealing with breaking stories
researching media for ideas or following up potential leads for new stories, and submitting to an editor for approval
possibly specialising in the arts, business, crime, economics and finance, education, foreign affairs, health, politics, science and technology, social affairs or sport
carrying out sub-editing, (See Sub-editor - Journalism) which can involve checking articles for accuracy, legality and the correct use of English as well as writing headlines and designing pages.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual salaries may vary, depending on:
where you work
the kind of publication you work for
the demand for the job.
Starting pay for trainee journalists in a local news organisation can be from £13,000 to £15,000 a year upwards. This can then rise with experience up to between £24,000 and £40,000 a year. Very successful journalists can earn more than £60,000 a year, and even higher in the top jobs in national organisations.
If you are freelance you will negotiate a fee for each piece of work you do. You can get advice from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) about fees.
You would normally work from an open plan office which can be busy and noisy, or sometimes from home.
Hours vary widely. Few journalists work regular 9.00am - 5.00pm shifts.
You may have to travel long distances nationally or even internationally and spend time away from home.
You will work to tight deadlines in a pressurised environment.
Journalists working as foreign correspondents may have to visit conflict zones and be exposed to danger.
It is possible to get in with a minimum of 5 subjects at National 4 or 5 including English, but most employers will look for at least 3 Highers or the equivalent.
In practice, a degree or at least a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND) in journalism is normally required. Most entrants are graduates or trainees who have completed full time vocational courses.
Entry requirements for an undergraduate degree course in journalism are 4 Highers, including English or Media. Some courses also require a portfolio of your work.
Minimum entry standards for HNC and HND journalism courses are 1-2 Highers plus some subjects at National 5, including a pass in Higher English. In many cases, competition for places may result in minimum requirements not being enough for entry.
If your first degree is not in journalism, you can do a postgraduate diploma or degree in the subject. In Scotland, two postgraduate courses are accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) – the MA Multimedia Journalism at Glasgow Caledonian University and the MA Broadcast Journalism at the University of the West of Scotland.
A number of courses are accredited by the Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC) – BA and MA Multimedia Journalism at Glasgow Caledonian University and MA Broadcast Journalism, BA Sports Journalism and BA Journalism at the University of the West of Scotland.
The Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) in Practical Journalism at Glasgow Clyde College and at Fife College are accredited by the NCTJ.
Learning extra skills such as video techniques or web design can make you more attractive to employers.
It is helpful to have had paid or unpaid practical experience. You can get it through student or local journalism or by contacting newspapers directly.
Competition for entry to journalism is fierce. Direct entry to national newspapers is rare and nearly all journalists start work in local papers. Many journalists work freelance, for several publishers at once.
a knowledge of current laws, press regulations and ethics
a curious and enquiring nature
good spelling, grammar and punctuation
the ability to work under pressure and to meet deadlines.
Most entrants will have done some training in journalism, either in their first degree or at postgraduate level.
Thereafter, training is with an employer, through a structured training programme, typically lasting up to two years. The first 3 months is likely to be a probationary period.
Trainees normally study for the qualifications of either the NCTJ or the BJTC.
Rarely, some employers have their own in-house training and qualification schemes.
You could become a sub-editor (see Sub-editor - Journalism), and eventually achieve a senior role such as news editor, features editor or chief editor.
Alternatively, you could move on to become a specialist correspondent, for example in business affairs, foreign affairs, politics or sport, or a columnist.
The Journalism Diversity Fund was set up by a number of different organisations involved in journalism and is run by the NCTJ. It aims to support the training of people from ethnic and socially diverse backgrounds who might otherwise not have the money to fund their training in journalism. A range of other bursaries may be awarded to individuals applying for NCTJ accredited courses.
The Guardian Media Group's The Scott Trust Bursary Scheme also offers a number of bursaries to postgraduate students each year, to study newspaper, web or broadcast journalism.
Glasgow Clyde College offers a short NCTJ Refresher Course for people working towards the NCTJ's National Certificate Examination (NCE) and a part time day NCTJ course in Sub-editing.
Young people aged 11-21 may be interested in the Young Reporters Scotland (YRS) programme, which offers young people an opportunity to build their skills and have their voices heard on the issues of sustainability. They also run an annual national journalism competition.