Journalism Career without College?

Rosetta writes:
I just graduated high school in June and everybody is saying I should go to college; you know I got the grades in high school I was in tons of extracurricular activities. And now it’s fall and people are like “so will you be starting school in January” and when I say I don’t know or maybe people look at me like I’ve already failed at life and should just go stand in the middle of a busy intersection.
The thing is I really want to get into journalism because I like to relate through writing but I am sure I do not want to sit in a classroom. How can I show local newspapers that I am capable of at least learning under someone. You know an apprentice gig? Or are there any short courses I could take?
Please don’t say I have to sit in a room for 4 years.

The Career Doctor responds:
People look at you funny Rosetta because while college is not for everyone the value of a college education is monumental — in many different ways. And especially in a field such a journalism college is really essential.
Most studies show a deepening income gap between people with just a high school diploma and those with a college education — and especially with women. But it’s not just earning power; it is also how people will perceive you and judge you. Read more in an article by my partner Katharine Hansen: What Good is a College Education Anyway?
That said can you get a job — or apprenticeship — in journalism without a college education? Perhaps. Did you write for your high school paper? Did you take a journalism class in high school? Do you have some high-quality samples of your work and writing abilities?
Given my experiences here are the things you need to do to try to get a job.
First you should develop a professional portfolio of your writing samples resume story ideas and other documents. You can find more information by reading my article: Your Job Skills Portfolio: Giving You an Edge in the Marketplace.
Second you need to develop a list of smaller newspapers (probably weekly community
papers) in your area. If you are not limited geographically focus on a region that has a
large population base and numerous companies — thus supporting multiple newspapers.
Larger newspapers may have more opportunities but most (if not all) of those will go to
college students and college grads. Take advantage of all key job-search strategies
including cold-calling
and networking.
Third be prepared for the fact that most of these papers may have part-time “stringer”
positions only…meaning that while you are proving your journalistic skills and abilities
you will probably need another job — or some other form of income to pay your bills.
Fourth if you have little success don’t give up. Keep writing keep checking back with the newspapers and keep looking for alternative sources for your writing. And if you really love journalism do some investigating of the top journalism schools and consider going to college — in the long run you will be MUCH better off with a college degree than without one.
800-652-8430 Mon- Fri 8am - 8pm CST
Sat 8am - 5pm CST, Sun 10am - 6pm CST