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ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Will a journalism degree improve my chances of getting a job?”

by Rachel Smith
31 January 2018

I recently moved to Australia from India where I had been working as a writer/editor for English newspapers. I have a post graduate diploma in journalism and mass communication from one of the best journalism schools in India.

Since I moved here, I have been applying for jobs, although not as regularly as I’d like, mostly due to familial constraints. I considered studying for a master’s degree from either UNSW or Sydney Uni because I thought it might better my chances of landing a relevant job here, but I’m not sure anymore. I have a standing offer to study at UNSW but in all my job searches, I’ve never seen ‘Must be a graduate in journalism’ as a job requirement.

My question is this: Do I need to study in order to improve my chances of getting a job? Or does it not matter at the end of the day? I’d appreciate your opinion because frankly, I’m at a loss. I don’t know anyone here who can give me any advice regarding this matter, and I’m skeptical of spending $25,000 for a two-year long course that may or may not help me with a job. Neha

Many jobs I see (and that we post) do call for formal qualifications in journalism or a related field, but given the cost you’d incur doing a degree here when you’ve already done one in your home country, I’m not sure it’s the best course of action or even that your degree would be relevant by the time you finished it. That’s not to say I don’t think you should do further study – I actually think our industry is changing at such a breakneck speed, we should ALL be adding to our skillset wherever we can.

I would start thinking beyond writing and editing because what we’re increasingly seeing in the industry is that filing copy is not enough anymore. We’re being asked to package stories with video and images along with text. I have editors and clients who routinely buy my ‘pix and social’ extras along with copy –  which means supplying 2-3 relevant tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn posts they can schedule with the story or blog post. And, most editors or clients I work for want web-ready hero and thumbnail images in the right dimensions, either purchased from an image library or sourced from a free one, making the process of getting the editor or client’s content online a much easier one for them.

Project management skills are key, too. Clients who’ve hired me predominantly to write have gone on to ask me to project manage – from concept to delivery – everything from infographics to animated ‘games’ for Facebook, to video projects. So being able to quickly come up with concepts which will work visually on social platforms, and have great contacts to designers, illustrators, video editors, coders and so forth, is also valuable.

Training beyond writing can only give you a leg up in the industry – so I’d be looking at doing online or traditional in-person training for things like content management systems, basic coding, Mailchimp and WordPress skills, SEO writing, copywriting, managing social media platforms, social analytics/measurement, creating video and basic video editing, photography (including how to take great photos with a smartphone) and podcasting. You’d be surprised at how much of this stuff clients and editors will ask if you can do – and if you can say yes, well, kaching! That could mean more work coming your way.

Some places I would be looking at for upskilling include the Australian Writer’s Centre, Kate Toon’s SEO courses and online training portals like Poyntner, Coursera and Udemy. That’s literally just for starters.

If you haven’t already, I’d also create a slick, contemporary website for yourself packed with examples of your published writing, your skills, and a handful of your best client and editor testimonials. Don’t forget to spruik yourself on social media, share your work, join in conversations and get yourself heard and noticed.

You should also be going the extra mile to find your tribe. Go to networking drinks nights, workshops, festivals (our 2018 writer’s calendar is packed with great writer’s events for the coming year). Join relevant writing and journalism Facebook groups which can be a fab way to make connections, meet other writers and pick up referral work that never makes it to jobs boards. Doing all of that could end up being more valuable than getting another degree, I think.

What type of training are you undertaking this year?

Rachel Smith
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Rachel Smith

As a kid, Rachel used to carry around a little suitcase of pens and paper so she could stop and write stories whenever inspiration struck. These days, she writes for a living, in between running the show at Rachel's List. Some of you may actually believe she looks like a megaphone in real life, but it's not the case. Honest.
Rachel Smith
Find us!

2 responses on "ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Will a journalism degree improve my chances of getting a job?”"

  1. Great tips here.
    University education is expensive these days!
    And EdX and Coursera. Some awesome and free training courses from credible organisations.

    1. Rachel Smith says:

      So true Claire. Uni is prohibitive for overseas students! I honestly think there’s so much great, relevant training out there for creatives who need to upskill. You really have to weigh up what skills you actually need / employers want.

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