Routes into journalism

There’s no getting away from it, you’ll need qualifications to fulfil your ambition – it’s almost impossible to become a working journalist without them.

Unless of course you aim to become what many TV stations are beginning to call a ‘citizen journalist’, in which case you probably won’t be paid anything, you’ll waive all your rights to the story/picture you’re sending them so they can syndicate them worldwide without paying you a penny, plus you could be held responsible for any inaccuracies or infringements of media law.

To become a real journalist you’ll need to demonstrate enthusiasm for your chosen career by getting some work experience in your chosen field even before you apply for a job, or a place at university or college.

Journalism has become a mainly graduate profession and a large number of practising journalists hold postgraduate qualifications. However, there is still a strong option of direct entry after A’levels for apprenticeship schemes, career change training through NCTJ courses, and on the job training in local newspapers.

Journalism is undergoing an acceleration of change with a rapid decline in newspaper reading circulation, newspaper title closures, the growth of online only journalism platforms, and a morphing between traditional broadcasting and newspaper print journalism into a multimedia industry.

Pathways into Journalism

The journalism industry is conscious of the need to improve diversity in the newsroom and workplace. Consequently there are schemes and opportunities for young people to enter the profession through apprenticeships and trainee positions on leaving school at 18 with A’levels. See: The NTCJ Journalism Diversity Fund.

These measures enable people who cannot afford to go to university to join the industry. It may also be the case that you would not wish to build up substantial student debt by doing university undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

An ideal pathway

  1. Start with local journalism in newspapers, online or radio
  2. Progress to regional papers, online platforms or broadcasting
  3. Then onto national publisher/broadcasters

In that way you should be able to fully understand how important it is to build a relationship of trust with your audience and the community your journalism serves.

Hard news

But there are many other ways to become qualified and enter the industry. News agencies are often excellent starting places for journalists wishing to specialise in what is known as ‘hard news.’

Take the first job

One of our very distinguished members advises entrants to take the first job that you are offered even if it is Drains and Pipes Monthly or a weekly paper hundreds of miles away in a place you have never been to. In your early careers you should be able to benefit from two essential principles: experience builds confidence, and mentoring from more experienced journalists is usually an invaluable model to follow and influential source of professional wisdom and guidance.

You may also simply wish to enter the profession earlier.

Types of Journalism


Pay is pretty low on most local papers, but some still offer training while you’re on the job with National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) qualification courses and examination. More about Newspaper Journalism


There are many different types of magazines and while there is sure to be one that is exactly right for you they will all usually expect you to have a degree and some formal training before you apply for a job. More about Magazine Journalism


You’ll need a firm grasp of current affairs and a real talent in the news writing department because reports and features that are going to be read on screen need to be short, pithy and to the point. More about Online Journalism


Developments in radio and TV have brought many more opportunities for journalists in recent years.  More about Broadcast Journalism


You’ll need a firm grasp of current affairs and a real talent in the news writing department because reports and features that are going to be read on screen need to be short, pithy and to the point. More about Freelance Journalism


Universities in the UK have begun offering degrees in photojournalism. More about Photojournalism

Sports Journalism 

There has been a growth of specialist sport journalism undergraduate degrees some of which have linked up with the NCTJ and BJTC through accreditation. More about Sports Journalism