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Jan 13 / Neri Stein

Rebuttal: Journalists needn’t major in journalism, but it’s a good idea

Neri SteinBeing a journalism major isn’t a prerequisite to working in the media industry, and as King Kaufman noted in a post last week, you’ll find plenty of journalists who majored in something else.

It’s also true that your education and your career don’t have to be on the exact same path, but it makes a lot of sense if they do. Your education should be something you’re passionate about, and so should your career.

Sports media has been a passion of mine from an early age, so I didn’t even consider another major. Having spent over three years with Bleacher Report, I’ve found my journalism training from the University of Florida to be extremely helpful in everything I do, even though I didn’t study the specifics of online media all that much while at school.

As an editor for the Advanced Program in Sports Media and handling admissions to the program for over two years, I’ve noticed trends in our applicants, journalism majors and non.

Journalism majors typically come in with the most experience and tend to have the most polished copy right off the bat. But most importantly, they are also equipped to handle the rigors of the program. They are used to having deadlines and to being flexible and adventurous with assignments.

Journalism majors are already used to receiving constructive and peer criticism of their writing, so B/R editor feedback and comments don’t come as a big surprise.

But it’s not just the ins and outs of journalism you learn in college that will prepare you for a career in the business. You’ll learn how most media outlets function daily from people who have been there. Chances are your professors had successful careers as journalists and can teach you more than just the inverted pyramid and AP Style.

And many of them make great professional connections when you leave school.

Your major can also teach you what career path really is right for you, at least to start out.

I had friends in college who started in Advertising, and when they took a couple journalism classes (as required by the College of Communications requirements), they realized they loved writing and switched majors. I also knew plenty who decided the demands of the industry may not be for them and broadened their career plans, as well as their majors.

For me, some of my classes in college showed me that I was most interested in the editing side of journalism.

Majoring in journalism doesn’t guarantee you success in the industry and choosing a different major doesn’t prevent you from being a successful journalist either. Journalistic training certainly doesn’t have to come from college, and the most important lessons you learn as a journalist can be from practice, not the classroom.

For some, good writing just comes naturally, but for most, it takes practice. The earlier you start practicing and the more guidance you get along the way, the better.

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Neri Stein is the Assignment Editor for the Advanced Program in Sports Media. Follow her on Twitter@neristein, and watch this short video to hear more about the Advanced Program.