Do You Need a Bachelor's Degree to Get a Journalism Job?

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Do you need a bachelor's degree to be a journalist?

You've probably heard that, generally speaking, college graduates earn more money and are more likely to be employed than those without college degrees.

But what about journalism in particular?

I've written before about the pros and cons of getting a journalism degree compared to a degree in another field. But I teach at a community college where many students ask me whether they even need a bachelor's degree, or if a two-year associate's degree or certificate is enough.

Now, it's not impossible to get a journalism job without a BA. I've had several students who were able to land reporting jobs at small papers with just an associate's degree. One former student of mine, armed with just a two-year degree, worked his way around the country for about five years, doing reporting gigs at papers in Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

But eventually, if you want to move to bigger and more prestigious papers and websites, the lack of a bachelor's degree will start to hurt you. These days, at medium-sized to large news organizations, a bachelor's degree is seen as a minimum requirement. Many reporters are entering the field with master's degrees, either in journalism or a specialized area of interest.

Remember, in a tough economy, in a competitive field like journalism, you want to give yourself every advantage, not saddle yourself with a liability. And the lack of a bachelor's degree will eventually become a liability.

Employment Prospects

Speaking of the economy, a number of studies have shown that college grads generally have much lower unemployment rates than those with just a high school degree.

The Economic Policy Institute reports that for recent college graduates, the unemployment rate is 7.2 percent (compared with 5.5 percent in 2007), and the underemployment rate is 14.9 percent (compared with 9.6 percent in 2007).

But for recent high school graduates, the unemployment rate is 19.5 percent (compared with 15.9 percent in 2007), and the underemployment rate is 37.0 percent (compared with 26.8 percent in 2007).

Make More Money

Income is also also affected by education. A number of studies have found that college grads in any field invariably earn more than those with just a high school degree.

And if you have a master's degree or higher, you can earn even more. A Georgetown study found that the average income for a recent college grad in journalism or communications was $33,000; for graduate degree holders it was $64,000

Across all fields, a master's degree is worth $1.3 million more in lifetime earnings than a high school diploma, according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Over an adult's working life, high school graduates can expect, on average, to earn $1.2 million; those with a bachelor's degree, $2.1 million; and people with a master's degree, $2.5 million, the Census Bureau report found.

"At most ages, more education equates with higher earnings, and the payoff is most notable at the highest educational levels," said Jennifer Cheeseman Day, co-author of the Census Bureau report.

I know a college degree isn't for everyone.

Some of my students can't afford to spend four years in college. Others are just tired of school and can't wait to get started with their careers and adult lives.

But if you're wondering whether a college degree is worth it, the writing is on the wall: The more education you have, the more money you'll make, and the less likely it is that you'll be unemployed.

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