Since I have the great privilege of being able to work remotely and being vaccinated, I’ve been working in local coffee shops where coincidentally a lot of local college students have been studying for finals. And of course that reminded me of the fact that it would have been four freaking years since I walked from USC, an institution that definitely has its many, many flaws but nonetheless is responsible for some of my fondest memories and for shaping me into the person I am today.
Side note: I still love how I decorated my motor board. If you didn’t know, I was a journalism major so I printed out articles I wrote over the years and pasted them on the board and on top of that I put the phrase, “And the story goes on…”
Because it’s true, my life story did go on after college, but there was one thing that didn’t go on after graduating from the best journalism school in the West: my journalism career.
And so the question that’s been on my mind lately is, “What good is a journalism degree anyway?”
While there are probably a bunch of journalism school recruiters who can answer that question far better than me, I’d like to share my personal reasons why I believe a journalism degree is worth its money. And before you question whether I’m qualified to even talk about it, see the cover photo for this blog post.
I might not be a journalist, but I was once considered smart by a very prestigious journalism school so let’s dive into this.
Before we get into this, let’s get one thing straight:
A journalism degree isn’t necessary for a career in journalism
Will it help your chances to have a career? Definitely. But I’ve met plenty of communications and English majors who ended up working at prestigious news outlets. Hell, my favorite professor at USC was the Boston Globe’s European Bureau Chief and he was an engineering major.
So why bother with a degree?
First, studying journalism is just practical
No matter where you go, you need to learn how to write and communicate well. Journalism school beat the difference between further and farther into us as well as the difference between a burglary and a robbery. Yes, many journos evolve into language snobs but that’s only because you have to make the training count for something.
Second, a journalism degree transferable
If you told my freshman self that I would be working in marketing and fulfilling my family’s prediction that the business route was where I should ultimately end up, I would have laughed at you. BUT, as it turns out, a lot of businesses don’t know how to tell their own stories in a way that captures and holds an audience, or at least they would gladly outsource that task to someone else. Enter the journalism major, who was trained to never bury the lede and knows how to write snappy copy that will keep the reader hooked.
I was especially lucky that my school made all of us dip our toes in a variety of skill sets: video editing, social media managing, audio recording, interviewing, newsletter writing, because all of these skills just made us stronger storytellers. And when you’re a strong storyteller who constantly works at your craft, it’s easier to find a job than someone who doesn’t.
Third, and most importantly, a journalism degree forces you to become an engaged person
Being aware of the news isn’t unique to journalism majors, it’s true. But when you’re a journalism major, you pretty much can’t think or be aware of much else. You’re constantly tuned in to what’s going on in the world. And, yes, this definitely wears down on mental health and there’s always the danger of turning numb to tragedy, but if there was anything valuable I learned from journalism school is that I, as a human being, don’t live in a vacuum.
My story affects other people just as they affect me.
And being an engaged, informed citizen allows me to make decisions that I believe will better impact me, my loved ones, my community, my country, and even the world. As we continue to live through uncertain and divisive times, as we have less and less spoons to give about the world, being engaged and informed enough to help solve problems will always be a worthwhile trait in my book.
Call me an idealist, it’s okay. But even though I haven’t used my journalism degree to pursue journalism, I will always say that getting this degree was worth it.