What Is Journalism?
When people hear the term “journalism,” they often think of lengthy investigative pieces published in major newspapers such as The New York Times. While journalists do indeed write such articles, their reach in modern society extends much further.
Journalists present people with information they need to know, from the community level through world events. They provide a vital public service by gathering, assessing, and presenting news. What they create spurs conversations and helps individuals make decisions in their lives. Imagine what the COVID-19 pandemic would have been like without journalists around to search out facts and put them into context.
Twenty-first century news sources extend well beyond newspapers. A plethora of print, broadcast, and digital outlets exist. Today’s journalists recognize these multiple opportunities and adapt their stories to best fit their employer’s medium. Developing this skill often starts by attending a school of journalism.
Best Journalism Schools in the U.S.
A variety of private and public institutions of higher learning offer a degree in journalism. According to our ranking methodology, here are the 10 best colleges for journalism in the US.
Of course, there are many places at which to study journalism, and you should weigh them all against your individual needs such as interests, career aspirations, location, and costs. For additional assistance in locating a school of journalism, check out the Find Your Perfect “U” tool. You can search over 6,000 colleges and universities with 11 different filters to find the perfect school for you!
Like most schools, the University of Washington realizes its journalism students must graduate ready to embrace the many platforms now used to distribute news and information. But, it also remains committed to fundamental journalistic values and techniques – accurate information gathering, excellent writing, sound ethical decision-making, and valuable public service.
Upon graduation, this large state school awards the Bachelor of Arts in Communication: Journalism and Public Interest Communication. Students leave with a solid background ready to be applied to either traditional or modern mediums. Many already have had a taste of real world journalism through internships across the Seattle metropolitan area. Others have spent time abroad as interns for English-language news organizations. And for more than 40 years, the school’s Government Communication Program has dispatched students to Olympia to cover the annual state legislative session for Northwest news outlets.
Ask a faculty member at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute what type of graduates the school produces, and you’ll likely get an answer touting curious, restless investigators who never stop asking why. Such a mentality fits well with the school’s location.
There is a story in every face and on every corner in New York City, and this is where some of the world’s best media is produced. Internship opportunities are everywhere. In addition to their journalism major, undergraduates also complete a second major in an area of their choice.
Students graduate with critical skills in both fields and an interdisciplinary mind-set. NYU conducts master’s programs both online and on-campus. Graduate studies aim to fulfill industry demand for journalists who are well-versed in the subject matter they report on. To that end, graduate students select a focus area, such as cultural criticism or science and the environment. Regardless of their niche, students leave career-ready and eager to find stories that matter to them.
Ready to blend the one-on-one mentoring of a small department with the resources of a large research university? Journalism studies at Illinois do just that. This public institution offers BS and MS programs in Journalism. Students also can earn a SportMedia Certificate through coursework that emphasizes the technological changes that are radically reshaping sports entertainment.
An exciting recent addition to the university’s journalism program is graduate study in science and technology journalism. Earn an MS in this discipline online in as little as two semesters, or boost your skill at conveying this type of information through individual courses as a non-degree student.
What do you get when you combine fundamental basics with an innovative curriculum relevant to the ever-changing world of new media? You get graduates versed in the powerful new tools of the digital age who possess the critical thinking, writing skills, and journalistic sensibility to make those tools worth using.
Through the School of Journalism and Media in the Moody College of Communication, UT Austin awards the Bachelor of Science in Journalism. At the graduate level, students coming to journalism study from another discipline or who desire additional professional experience often pursue the Master’s Professional Track. It consists of two semesters of full-time study followed by a summer internship at a professional media outlet.
The MA Program in Journalism and Media Research & Theory, by contrast, focuses on the development of methodological expertise. It often serves as a springboard to PhD programs or to analytic careers with media organizations. UT Austin itself conducts doctoral studies in journalism and media with plenty of opportunities to pursue individual interests.
Big public universities generally offer big-time opportunities, and UF’s College of Journalism and Communications does not disappoint. Its state-of-the-art Innovation News Center produces more than six hours of student-created content daily (in both English and Spanish) for the university’s seven media outlets.
Undergraduates can major in journalism or in journalism – sports and media. This is Gator country, after all! The master’s program enables the choice of either a professional track or a research and theory option. Outside the classroom, students take advantage of the social and cultural offerings of Gainesville, a lively college town.
Eager to get a taste of a professional newsroom? Top journalism students at this public institution can apply to be a part of Capital News Service. This nonprofit, student-powered news organization managed by distinguished faculty members and professional journalists from UMD’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism has offices and news teams in College Park, Annapolis, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. It covers everything important to Marylanders through multiple news formats and contributes to The Associated Press.
Back on campus, the university conducts bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and professional certificate programs in journalism. With an emphasis on hands-on experience, all journalism undergrads must complete an internship as part of the requirement for their degree.
Those seeking a master’s degree can choose from a research or a professional track of study. There’s also a new Master of Professional Studies in Data Journalism degree that can be completed virtually, in person, or via a combination. And sports media enthusiasts at all educational levels will find a variety of enrichment activities at the university’s Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism.
When you graduate from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication with a degree in journalism, you leave not only with a diploma but also with a digital portfolio. This collection of highlights from work done at Grady Newsource (the daily campus newscast), gradynewsource.uga.edu, and other outlets brings to life what journalism aims to do – tell a convincing story.
In this case, the story is what you bring to the table as a prospective employee. Fitting for a school with a nationally-known athletic program (Go Dawgs!), interested students can pursue a sports media certificate along with their bachelor’s in journalism. At the graduate level, this public university in the classic college city of Athens, Georgia, offers an MA in Journalism with both a thesis and a non-thesis option. Some students come particularly for the institution’s expertise in health and medical journalism. All leave with solid skills and a vast alumni network.
“Tell a story. Change the World” is the philosophy of this private institution in Coral Gables, Florida. Students seeking a BSC in Journalism have plenty of opportunities to put these words into action. Depending on their interests, undergrads can pick a track in reporting and writing; visual and documentary; sports, travel, and lifestyles features; or media and journalism studies.
The UM School of Communication also offers BSC programs in advertising, public relations, and broadcast journalism. The university encourages students to further hone their craft through campus outlets such as the award-winning cable station UMTV, The Miami Hurricane newspaper, and Distraction magazine.
For students who received their undergraduate degree in a different discipline but now want to pursue journalism at the graduate level, UM is still worth a look. Its 18-month MA program does not require prior training or experience in journalism.
A pioneer in journalism education, Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism celebrated its 100th birthday in 2021. While programs have changed through the years to keep up with the times, Medill remains committed to fundamentals such as accuracy, clarity, and critical thinking.
Aspiring journalism students often get their first taste of this private institution in Evanston, Ill., through its nationally known “Cherub” program – a five-week summer institute for rising high school seniors.
At the undergraduate level, NU offers a BS in Journalism. A quarter-long journalism residency as a full-time reporter or PR specialist at a media outlet in the U.S. or abroad proves a highlight of the undergrad experience.
At the graduate level, Medill conducts an MS program with options to specialize:
- Health, environment, and science
- Media innovation and content strategy
- Politics, policy, and foreign affairs
- Investigative journalism
- social justice and solutions
- Video and broadcast
- Sports media
When prospective employers see the name Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism on a resume, they know the candidate received a top-notch education. Guided by faculty who are both scholars and practitioners, students become powerful storytellers ready to effectively convey information in any setting.
USC’s undergraduate program awards the BA in Journalism or in Public Relations. At the graduate level, many students pursue an MS in Journalism or an MA in Public Relations and Advertising. Others, however, craft their own major through the option to earn an MA in Specialized Journalism. Students can choose both their preferred medium – anything from traditional text to augmented reality – and select a specialized area of coverage.
The Arts is a popular specialty, undoubtedly aided by the school’s location in culturally-rich Los Angeles. All journalism students benefit from hands-on experience at Annenberg’s state-of-the-art media center on campus.
How to Get Into The Top Journalism Colleges
Think earning an undergraduate degree in journalism might be a good career move? The following steps can help you land a spot at one of the best journalism schools or one that is well-suited to your needs and interests:
A strong GPA increases your attractiveness to the best journalism schools. Work especially hard in English classes to develop your writing skills. Joining the school newspaper, literary magazine, creative writing club, yearbook, radio station, or similar extracurricular activities demonstrates interest in the field of communications and provides opportunities to further develop skills. Also, consider doing something journalism-related during the summer. Many colleges offer summer journalism programs for high school students. Or, perhaps see if your local newspaper is in need of an intern or seasonal employee.
Admissions Requirements for Journalism Degree Programs
Each institution has its own admissions requirements, so carefully follow instructions when applying. The following are items frequently requested:
- The school’s application or The Common App (a standardized application used by thousands of schools – be sure the places you’re applying to accept it)
- High school transcript that includes courses taken, grade in each, and cumulative GPA
- Transcripts from any previous post-secondary institutions
- Recommendations from teachers, counselors, or other relevant professionals
- SAT and/or ACT scores
- Proof of English language proficiency (if an international student)
- Application fee
What to Expect in a Journalism Major
Journalism is about storytelling. Curious people who like to gather information and present it in a clear, interesting way often make good journalists. Journalism programs develop students into strong writers and keen observers who are committed to producing error-free stories that tell people what they need to know about a given subject.
Journalism majors should expect their education to be a mixture of classroom learning and hands-on practice. Graduates leave with the skills necessary to:
- Gather information
- Verify facts
- Exercise news judgment
- Write against deadlines
- Make ethical decisions
- Adhere to press laws and regulations
- Use technology associated with individual journalistic mediums
An individual journalism student’s classes will vary by institution and by personal interests. However, the following subjects often are common for journalism majors:
- Reporting and news writing
- Video journalism
- Audio storytelling
- Social media
- Journalism values/ethics
- Media law
- Media design
- Information gathering
- Communication research
Journalism Degree Specializations
Journalism degrees can come with specializations. This focus allows students to gain greater expertise in more niche subjects or ways of reporting. Specializations vary by institution but may include:
- Sports journalism
- Political journalism
- Science and environmental journalism
- Health and medical journalism
- Global/international journalism
- Arts and culture
- Investigative reporting
- Broadcast journalism
- Multimedia journalism
- Feature and magazine journalism
- Public relations
What Can I Do with a Journalism Degree?
Employers value good communication skills. People who can convey information in understandable, interesting ways often find work with employers such as:
- Newspaper, magazine, and book publishers
- Radio and TV stations
- Information services
- Social media platforms
- PR agencies
- Advertising firms
- Marketing or communications departments at businesses, non-profits, educational institutions, and healthcare systems
The following chart notes some of the many occupations and salaries available to people with a journalism degree. Note that projected job growth is not a guarantee. Estimates are made under current conditions.
- Median Salary: $48,370
- Career Outlook: -9% (2021-2031)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
These communicators convey noteworthy information to the public through outlets such as newspapers, magazines, websites, television, and radio.
- Median Salary: $63,350
- Career Outlook: -5% (2021-2031)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
Editors decide what stories will appear in newspapers, magazines, and other outlets and work with writers to develop and perfect the articles.
- Median Salary: $69,510
- Career Outlook: +4% (2021-2031)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
These professionals use their way with words to produce written content for various types of media.
- Median Salary: $119,860
- Career Outlook: +8% (2021-2031)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
People in these positions help shape the reputation of their employer and build relationships with the public to encourage actions such as purchasing products and making donations.
- Median Salary: $133,380
- Career Outlook: +10% (2021-2031)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
These professionals find creative, effective ways to generate interest in their employer’s products or services.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Journalism Schools FAQ
What is journalism?
- Journalism is the act of gathering, assessing, and presenting news to the public. This information increases their base of knowledge and helps people make decisions.
What are the best colleges for journalism?
- The best school of journalism is the one that fits the individual student’s interests and circumstances. Among the many great U.S. institutions that award journalism degrees, standouts include University of Southern California, Northwestern University, University of Miami, University of Georgia, and University of Maryland – College Park.
Where do journalists work?
- Journalists often work for print outlets such as newspapers, magazines, and book publishers. Others work for broadcast outlets such as radio and television stations. Other employment options can include information services, social media platforms, PR agencies, advertising firms, and marketing or communication departments at businesses, non-profits, educational institutions, and healthcare systems.
Would I make a good journalist?
- Curious people who like to gather information and present it in a clear, interesting way make good journalists. Journalists typically are strong writers and possess a commitment to accuracy and detail. They may also enjoy storytelling and captivating audiences.