11 Great Jobs for J-School Grads—Whether or Not You Want to Stay in Journalism
With a degree in journalism, you can pursue a noble profession that’s essential to a healthy democracy and gets a shout-out in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But beyond the necessity of a free press—it’s also a fascinating, rewarding career path known for its variety and fast pace.
As a journalist, you might cover the impact of rising waters on a coastal community, the Met Gala red carpet, or scientific discoveries on Mars. You could be documenting social movements, changes in the economy, crime, wars and regional conflicts, politicians and elections, pets, and anything in between. You may work for a media organization or as a freelancer, investigating and reporting on a broad range of subjects and sharing your stories in newspapers and magazines as well as on podcasts, television, streaming services, and social media. And there’s always something new—the news, obviously, along with storytelling formats, platforms, and more.
But your career options extend far beyond the fourth estate. Your journalism training provides a foundation of hard and soft skills that make you competitive in other jobs if the traditional route isn’t a good fit, you’re struggling to break into journalism—which, as vital as the press is to democracy and society, is increasingly common—or you’re exploring a career change.
A journalism degree sets you up for success with these top transferable skills:
Chief communications officer.
Public relations director.
These and other job titles held by graduates of the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas are posted outside career and outreach coordinator Steve Rottinghaus’ office. He says parents and students exploring journalism are always “blown away” by the list, which also includes positions in education, science, and other fields and industries. “They say, ‘I had no idea you could do that with a journalism degree.’”
Rottinghaus believes journalists’ ability to produce quality content on tight deadlines is one of their top transferable skills. “Journalists know how to get to the point right away.” But journalism students also gain a slew of other skills that can help them succeed in any job:
- Communication: Clear, accurate, and fast writing, communication, and storytelling are necessities in a newsroom—and other businesses trying to emulate the media. “Every organization, every industry is looking for their own storytelling team,” Rottinghaus says. “They basically want their own media group. They want that great writer, that great videographer. And if someone can do a bit of both—that’s a great hire.” But communication skills are also desirable in any role. Sales representatives need to clearly convey a product’s benefits, for instance, while project managers must clearly communicate goals, timelines, and changes.
- Interviewing: The ability to draw stories, information, and quotes from your sources and interview subjects is a fundamental skill for journalists. But the ability to ask insightful and clarifying questions will help you flourish in other professions and industries. Effective marketers know how to interview colleagues and customers for information and quotes they can use in press releases and advertisements. Sales reps who ask the right questions deepen their understanding of their products and the needs of their clients. And anyone could lean on these skills to understand a manager’s expectations or a colleague’s concerns about a cross-functional project.
- Problem-solving: Sometimes information is hard to find and interview subjects aren’t forthcoming—intentionally or unintentionally. Reporters find ways to draw out the truth and this industriousness transfers when faced with challenges in other careers. Problem-solvers don’t get bogged down by unresponsive coworkers, confusing emails, difficult projects, or any workplace issues that will inevitably arise. They work to find solutions.
- Ethics: People depend on trustworthy news organizations to deliver factual information. In J-school, cub reporters learn to gather, verify, and deliver the news honestly and accurately. This ethical framework is desirable in other careers, such as business and marketing, where transparency and forthrightness is valued.
Whether you studied journalism in an undergraduate or graduate program, you’ve built the skills for a strong start in these 11 rewarding roles.
Average salary: $47,674
Reporters find news stories, which are events or trends that rise above the ordinary and have an impact on people and communities. A person going to grab a gallon of milk is not a news story. A strike by dairy workers that will render grocery store cases empty is a news story. A reporter’s job is to show strong news judgement—i.e., they know when stories rise to the level of news—and then to collect and share accurate and relevant information that illuminates these stories.
They may report about local or global events by observing them in person, conducting digital research, and interviewing the people involved as well as public officials or subject matter experts. Reporters often have a “beat” they cover, whether it’s a specific community or a subject, such as politics, arts, or the economy, so they can build up the baseline knowledge to write fast and go deeper on stories in that area. They’re also responsible for engaging readers, viewers, or listeners with their storytelling.
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Average salary: $54,458
In a news organization, editors help choose what stories to cover, which reporters and producers to send out on a story, and how best to present the story to the public. As an editor you may assign and edit stories for newspapers, magazines, and digital mediums, or assign and edit scripts for radio and television reporters and anchors.
Editors also often work in book publishing, marketing, scientific journal publishing, government communications, transcription services, and more. Your responsibilities as an editor can include handling acquisitions; leading content strategy; editing for structure, style, and grammar; proofreading; and rewriting.
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Average salary (professional photographer): $45,000
These visual journalists provide the images that go along with news and feature stories, or tell the entire story through visuals with photo essays. In addition to their photography skills, photojournalists must capture images as events unfold, sometimes in stressful or even dangerous situations, such as during a protest or in a war zone. They need to take photos that illuminate the heart of a story and convey the personalities and emotions of individuals they cover, including celebrities and politicians. Photojournalists are also responsible for providing accurate information about who is in their photographs and what is happening.
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Average salary: $45,316
Videographers capture moving images that tell a compelling story, whether they work for a journalism outlet, a nonprofit organization, a video production company, or another type of business. They may capture on camera the swearing in of an elected official, the aftermath of a natural disaster, a new product launch, a television show, a speech by a CEO, or a social uprising. The results could be, for example, a local news segment, a 30-second TV commercial or an even shorter social media cut, a feature-length documentary or scripted movie, or an internal training video. Videographers working in journalism have an ethical responsibility to ensure video representations of real events tell the story accurately.
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5. Data research analyst
Average salary (research analyst): $57,542
Data research analysts collect and distill data to detect trends, understand issues, and solve problems. Data journalists are experts at finding stories in the numbers and using data to guide and deepen their reporting. Exploring data on municipal spending, for example, may spark an investigation into the aging of local infrastructure. Journalists who are strong data reporters with a technical bent can adapt those skills to data analysis in other fields. For example, analysts in marketing use data to figure out how to target new customers while insurance analysts might rely on data to detect fraud.
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6. Content manager
Average salary: $60,320
Content managers develop content strategies to build interest in and draw attention to businesses or other non-news enterprises, such as nonprofit organizations and institutions like museums or universities. They’re typically responsible for their organization’s editorial calendar and often collaborate with a team of writers and editors to create content—such as blog posts or e-books—as well as social posts and email newsletters promoting that content. Content managers must also track how their content performs and whether their strategy achieves a desired goal, such as attracting new customers. Journalists make excellent content managers because of their strong writing and editorial skills and their comfort with a fast pace.
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Average salary: $53,372
Copywriters produce curated content for businesses, organizations, and marketing agencies. Though the role overlaps with that of a content manager, a copywriter tends to focus on writing over strategy. Your writing may appear in digital advertisements, on company blogs and websites, on billboards and posters, or on social media.
A common career choice for trained journalists, copywriting requires you to bring your commitment to accuracy, good storytelling, and strong writing. All audiences expect and respond to compelling stories, transparency, and honesty—whether they’re getting the news, researching products, or learning about a business or nonprofit. Keep up those interviewing skills, as well. You’ll be a prized copywriter if you can draw interesting stories from your CEO, write profiles of employees, and discover how clients benefited from your company’s products or services.
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8. Social media manager
Average salary: $52,379
Social media managers work for news outlets, nonprofits, or businesses creating social posts on Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Their job is to build interest in an organization, its products, and its stories, and to spur people to visit a website, stop by a store, attend an event, sign up for a service, or take some other action. The social media manager for a record label may create a TikTok featuring a singer teasing the release of a single, for example, while the social media manager for a museum may retweet visitor responses to a popular exhibit. Social media managers might interact with customers and followers on their feeds in order to build positive relationships or address customer service issues. They also analyze engagement metrics for their posts and adjust to improve outcomes. News judgement helps social media managers understand what to post and when. And the social media cycle is similar to the news cycle: 24/7/365.
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9. Public relations manager
Average salary: $71,065
Public relations (PR) managers focus on sharing compelling stories about a specific organization—whether it’s a business, a nonprofit organization, or a public office—or an individual. Your goal as a PR manager is to shine a positive light on your subject matter or organization, though transparency and honesty still matter.
You’ll be on the lookout for interesting organizational successes to share through press releases, blogs, and social media. For instance, you’ll spread the word if your tech company acquires another business or your nonprofit educational organization expands its after-school programming. And your journalism background will help you make a strong case for news coverage and build relationships with journalists who cover relevant beats. PR managers often work closely with content managers on communication strategies.
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10. Grant writer
Average salary: $49,513
Grant writers draft proposals to help nonprofit organizations, healthcare institutions, and individuals receive funding to support their work. Grant writers may work on staff or freelance—perhaps for a hospital writing grant proposals to fund cancer treatment research, for a nonprofit environmental group seeking funds for wetlands restoration, or for an arts organization seeking support for its annual summer festival.
Journalists make excellent grant proposal writers because the process depends on extensive research and strong, clear, and compelling writing. First, grant writers must understand the funding organization—whether it’s a private foundation like the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation or a government agency like the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—and its leadership to know what they’re looking for and why they want to offer financial support. Next, grant writers must build their case through powerful storytelling.
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11. Technical writer
Average salary: $61,354
This is a natural career transition for a tech journalist, but you can consider technical writing if you’re the first to jump on the latest gadgets and apps or you’re a go-to person for tech troubleshooting.
Technical writers distill complex information and data into accessible, usable information for a technical or lay audience. So you may create instructional and user manuals for a personal health device company, how-to guides for a home goods company, or documentation for app and software development companies. Your journalism training gives you the skills to boil down mountains of information into clear and concise documents targeted to a specific audience.