Majoring in something else

A recent Universal Hub post described a job opening at the Metro for a reporter, which prompted me, for the umpteenth time, to be thankful that I decided against entering the field.

It’s never a good sign for journalism majors when word of a newspaper hiring a reporter makes the news.  It only serves as a reminder that the industry continues to be in decline.

My own interest in writing was unfortunately overshadowed by the lack of job prospects, and I rationalized that looking for jobs in communications for the public or nonprofit sectors would fulfill my ambitions to write and to be involved in my community.

Many of my journalism school friends are still looking for work.  Their experiences got me thinking that majoring in only journalism might not be the best path to employment, so I double majored in political science and journalism. 

Without a doubt, having a solid background in reporting is absolutely necessary for anyone looking for a job in media.  But not only does majoring in another area (or adding a second major) allow graduates the freedom to switch fields in case the journalism thing doesn’t work out, it also gives them a solid knowledge base in a specific area, which might just make the difference during a job interview.  Especially for those looking to cover a beat, an understanding of municipal government or health care could give the job seeker an edge over someone with just a degree in journalism.

I also can’t stress enough how useful my writing classes have proved: Being able to write effectively is a skill that I will use no matter where my career is headed.  But while journalism school teaches students to condense large amounts of information down to a few paragraphs, classes in other liberal arts fields teach students to write in an in-depth way, allowing them to capture more of the background and implications of a news story rather than just the five Ws.  

Some journalism schools keep their curriculum on the shorter side to allow for exposure to other fields.  At Northeastern University, for example, only nine classes in the journalism department are required for a degree; the remainder of required classes are general education courses and electives.  This is done so students will take classes in more varied subjects, giving them a broad base of knowledge to take with them when they graduate.

Maybe journalism schools should build on this model, and even do more to encourage students to acquire skills in another field.  Making it easier for students to double major would be a good start.  In the mean time, maybe my friends should stop looking in the want-ads for job openings and start scanning the headlines.


Christina Prignano , a 2010 graduate of Northeastern University, is a program associate at MassINC

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