Journalist • Job Description, Salary & Benefits

Are you a veritable wordsmith of sorts? Can you produce good quality written pieces in a limited time frame? You might just have the makings of a great journalist.

Journalists seek out news, interviews, opinion and comment and present it in an arresting and engaging style. They don’t just work for national and local newspapers and magazines, but also for the new wave of online publications that are springing up left, right and centre.

The beauty of journalism is that you can specialise in a particular area of interest, be it sports, business, fashion, beauty, current affairs or science.

Journalists don’t just write pieces; they might be involved with sub-editing, layout, graphics, illustrating and a whole host of other roles.

‘Journalist’ is such a broad term that it’s up to you to suss out what areas of journalism appeal to you and narrow down your choices. Just saying “I want to be a journalist” won’t cut the mustard. So have a browse of our media sub-sections and other occupational profiles to find out where you want your journalism career to go.

Salary & benefits

Journalism isn’t exactly a well-paid profession. Starting salaries can be very low, particularly for those working on local newspapers – often between £13,000 and £17,000.

Journalists earn on average £25,000 a year and there’s a big salary difference between regional newspapers and publications, and national ones. Senior editors might earn £50,000+ a year, while those working for national newspapers might earn considerably more.

Working hours

Despite the rubbish pay, many journalists still work long hours. Particularly in newspaper journalism, those at the start of their careers might be expected to work early or late night shifts.


It’s a tough industry to crack. A degree certainly helps, although it is by no means mandatory. It doesn’t have to be in humanities either; specialist publications will welcome those with relevant degrees.

You’ll need to practice your writing and be able to prove your skills before landing that first job. That means writing for your student newspaper, setting up an online magazine or creating your own successful blog and, most important of all, getting plenty of work experience.

To become a journalist, you’ll need to develop excellent writing skills, top notch grammar and time management skills. Look at any successful journalist and you will find that their main qualities are persistence and determination.

A knack for recognising new trends and sniffing out hot news stories is also handy, as you will be working hard to attract and retain readers.

Most journalists start out on junior and assistant roles, and work their way up the journalism career ladder. They might get their first job at their local newspaper or for a small digital publication before hitting the big time with the national newspapers, magazines and large digital publications. Really, the entry route will depend on the area of journalism you choose to pursue.

Training & progression

Training and development again varies depending on the area of journalism you wish to enter.

Trainee newspaper journalists might undertake a training contract and pass preliminary exams in order to sit the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ).

Training for magazine journalists might be far less structured and often people are simply expected to learn whilst on the job.

Journalists might aspire to senior editor roles, with the really ambitious folk eyeing up the chief editor positions.

Others might look to gain useful contacts and build up their reputation enough to eke out a successful career as a freelance journalist. Other journalists might move into TV or radio work or go on to become authors.

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