Is journalism a good career choice for most of you? No.

This question comes up a lot with j-school students, and the answer is an emphatic no.

It just isn’t. I’m not going to blow any smoke up your ass. I’m just going to tell you like it is.

I’m doing fine, but in addition to being a journalist, I’m also a Web developer. Rather, I base my advice on how I see the typical j-school student doing after graduation.

The verdict is not well. Teach J asks why become a journalist?

And the question you have to ask is why would someone want to go into this career right now?

The answer I have is don’t. Don’t do it. At least don’t depend on big media mega companies being there forever. Have a backup plan. And don’t major in journalism, minor in it. And if you have to major in it – double major. Have another major that you can fall back on if journalism collapses.

That’s excellent advice. DO NOT under any circumstances just major in journalism. I had a double major, and it provides me with a great fall back position. You need a fall back too or just grab a minor in journalism.

Here is a comment a poster left on an early post I made about how a lot of young journalists are leaving journalism. It’s the best comment this blog has ever had and a better read than most of what I come up with:

I tried to “tough it out” with journalism for a whopping 15 months. I made $31,000 a year as a copy editor at a daily newspaper in the New York City area –- not the cheapest market. After health care, taxes and a pathetic contribution to my 401K (which has lost 10 percent of its value in the past year, thanks in part to heavy investment in newspaper stock), I made about $430 every week…$1720 a month…or about $22,000 a year.

Between my rent, car payment, car insurance, student loans, gas and food, I had so little money left at the end of the month, I was scared. Even after a year of 99 cent shampoo and absolutely no excess purchases (clothes, unnecessary driving, food that wasn’t on sale), I had saved nearly nothing. I didn’t even have credit card debt to worry about. When I came up for my one-year raise, I was given less than the inflation rate despite having continuously learned more skills and taken on added responsibilities. When I asked for more of a raise, I was told I was being paid in skills that would make me marketable elsewhere.

I thought back to how many holidays I’d spent working instead of with family over the past year and about how much working 4 p.m. until midnight sucked. I wondered what would happen if I ever had an unexpected expense –- medical, car, etc. I wondered what my retirement portfolio (and Social Security) would look like in 40 years. What if I wanted to have kids at some point? What was I struggling and sacrificing for? A company where I’m valued so much I’m told to get a job elsewhere?

I left journalism. Not only am I convinced leaving was the right decision; I’m convinced staying would have been irresponsible.

Yes, there are some good journalism jobs out there and great companies to work for. There are some very innovative newsrooms too. If you can find one of those jobs, I urge you to hold on to it for dear life, enjoy the ride and try to be a beacon of hope and reason for the rest of the industry.

But for the majority of you, there just isn’t a lot to be excited about when it comes to journalism.

  • Sad but true isn’t it? The majority of journalists are known to be underpaid and media companies (like Yahoo right now) regularly cut back on their workforce, mainly journalists first.

    I guess new people coming into journalism must be aware of this reality and prepare to face hard times. The best will stay and others will move on to something else. Luckily journalism gives a wide set of skills which can be used in many other areas (business, programming, database management….).

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  • That’s a good question. For me, I fell into this world. But then I think in someways thats the best way. What people should do is follow opportunities rather than have a career plan. Either than or start up their own media entity ann try and change journalism by themselves.

  • I personally have a lot of friends, who are about to finish journalism school, what advice would you give to them Pat?

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