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Career Overview

A Journalist is someone who writes for newspapers, magazines, websites or other forms of publications. They can work in various industries, from on-the-ground news reporting to blogs about health trends. Journalism entails a lot of research, writing and fact-checking. 

With the onset of the digital age and the importance placed on story-telling, Journalists are in demand in South Africa. People with a knack for writing and the ability to tell a story well are sought after. Freelancing is also a massive industry for writers and freelancers.

Required School Subjects

You will need to have the following high school subjects:

  • Home Language (with a final mark of 50%)
  • First Additional language (with a final mark of 40%)

Recommended subjects:

  • History

Institution and APS

The following institutions are highly recommended for studies in Journalism:

  • Stellenbosch University – Honours programme
  • University of Cape Town (UCT) – Faculty Point Score (FPS) 380
  • University of Pretoria (UP) – APS of 30
  • Rhodes University – APS of 45
  • Damelin College

Required Qualification/s

Most jobs for Journalism in South Africa require that you have a degree in the field that you will be writing on (for example, a science publication may require you to have a science degree), or a diploma or degree in Journalism, English or any other relevant communications degree.

Some qualifications you can pursue:

  • Bachelor of Journalism
  • Bachelor of Arts (Journalism)
  • Diploma in Journalism

Required Skills

You will need to have the following skills to succeed as a Journalist:

  • research
  • critical analysis
  • resourcefulness
  • self-management
  • interpersonal skills
  • communication
  • ability to work under pressure
  • team work

Where you can work

Doing internships and vacation work throughout your degree is a great way for you to establish a network within the Journalism industry. Knowing people will go a long way in helping getting your foot in the door and establishing yourself as a noteworthy Journalist. You may even find that contributing to various newspapers, magazines, and digital publications may help you in finding a job.  Depending on your interests, you could find yourself in magazine, newspaper, broadcast Journalism where you could specialise as a financial, food, investigative etc. Journalist.

In the beginning, you would get an entry-level job where you would need to constantly prove your abilities and skills, work long hours and work for peanuts. However, as you prove yourself and gain experience, you’ll move up in the rankings in the Journalism world.  

If you opt for agency or freelance work, you would be contributing to various companies and platforms with a variety of content. As a freelancer, your charging power develops as your experience and success develops successfully.

Working Hours

Depending on the industry and field you go into, you could work your typical 8am to 5pm job. Or, if you’re in the news industry, you may be called out at any hour to cover an important story. You would also be required to work as many hours as necessary to meet deadlines.

As is with all freelancing work, you would dictate your own hours.

Expected Salary

Journalists, especially at entry level, earn very low salaries. As a Journalist, you first need to prove your ability to perform well – your writing skills, your ability to meet deadlines and your team work ability. As you gain more experience, the higher your salary will become.

As a freelancer, you would need to determine your own rates – either by the hour, day, word or project. You can find the standard rates as determined by the South African Freelancer Association (SAFREA).

According to a BusinessTech article, these are the median salary expectations for 2018:

Intermediate: R21 688 – R26 823

Senior: R26 566 – R35 045

While PayScale states that an entry-level position will earn you a median of R10 195.

What to expect

In most universities, to become a Journalist you will be required to study a Bachelor of Arts and then do postgraduate studies in Journalism. Because of this, you would need to choose your majors well during your BA degree. Some of the subjects you could choose include:

  • Journalism
  • Media Studies
  • Languages
  • Communications
  • Digital Studies

Each tertiary institution may have their own set of required modules, be sure to check in with the faculty to ensure that you take the right modules to apply for the Journalism Honours degree programme at the end of your undergrad degree.

BA degrees in general include a lot of research, essays and even some portfolios. These help prepare you for the working world be establishing a certain way of thinking and by educating you on the various issues in the world.

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