10 ways to get into journalism without a degree
#1 Start from the “bottom”
The value of this step is incomparable. Starting at the most junior level gives you the opportunity to learn everything about where you’re working. This step can look like being an intern, an apprentice, or a junior member of staff. There are many opportunities out there that are specifically aimed towards people that have not attended university.
You could choose to do a qualification that makes you an accredited journalist and could increase your chances of employment. An NCTJ, distance-learning or a fast-track course for the qualification is a popular choice nowadays. Plus you could even have the opportunity to work alongside getting your qualification if you get a job that allows you to do this.
Nothing beats experience nowadays. The more of it you have the better position you are in. Also experience is something that you can definitely get without a degree. Phone around some smaller publications and see if they have any openings – volunteering a few hours of your time to a small community-based publication or newsletter can go a long way.
#4 Build a brand
This could be as simple as creating a website that hosts your portfolio – the main thing to keep in mind while you’re putting it together is whether or not it fits who you are. If you are going to create a website to ensure that it works, a broken website is not a good representation of you. Building a brand via a website and social media while updating your written work on site could be enough to break you into the industry. But a well-designed LinkTree could be an easier step if you don’t know where to start.
There’s no harm in asking. Pop an email over to an editor and talk about your drive for journalism, your current circumstances and what you are willing to give back to them. Be sure to evoke your enthusiasm and attach a few samples of your work. It’s a scary step but it could pay off and be the jump start to your career in the industry.
Similar to point five in the sense of you asking for something – in this case a commission – but you are already offering something to the editor – an idea. Even if you don’t have a byline, a good place to build them up is by writing for smaller publications. Once you have a decent portfolio you can start reaching higher up your goal ladder. Cold pitching is something that I’ve had experience with and I’ve landed some great commissions from it. Even if your pitch doesn’t get the green light, at least the editor now has you on their radar.
If you are new to pitching, you can book in for one of our Commissioning Workshops and send your crafted pitches to us. During these sessions, a commissioning editor will then review your submission and give you direct feedback.
#7 Learn on your own
Journalism is a vocational career meaning that you can learn on the job or even do some learning of your own accord. Whether that be attending a short news writing workshop, or attending free masterclasses (like the ones hosted by PressPad 😉) there are plenty of ways to broaden your understanding of journalism and help you develop your skills. The more you learn, the better journalist you will become.
#8 Start local
Local journalism is a great place to start a journalism career if you don’t yet have a degree. It will help you with your ability to spot and structure a story and give you valuable experience which you can apply to your whole career. It’s worth phoning a local newsroom and asking for work experience to get a feel for journalism as a career. Local journalism has often been referred to as a microcosm of the industry, don’t write it off. Local newsrooms are more likely to give you a chance if you don’t have a degree and if you’re wanting to go into the more traditional side of the industry.
#9 Build contacts
Ever heard of the controversial saying: ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ In order to hit the double whammy (aka building up your knowledge and contacts) you’ll have to network. This could be as simple as joining journalism group chats to find like minded people, or it could be the email/DM that starts a good relationship. If you don’t have any previous contacts in journalism, building a contact book is a great place to start your career and to bag those opportunities. One way to get started is through our bi-weekly Speed Networking events, which give you the chance to expand your contacts and network with other journalists in the field.
#10 Keep going:
It can be tough at times to go down alternative routes when you see yourself choosing a different pathway from others – especially in competitive industries like journalism. What matters is that you work to progress, not work to stagnate. Prove yourself, bring something to the table in every role you do, and work smart for promotions. Choosing to get into journalism without a degree, will be a humble beginning to a bright future.