Q: How important is it to have a bachelor’s degree to have a successful career in journalism in today’s industry? The reason I ask is this: I have some friends who are part-time clerks/copy editors at the newspaper I work at.
They’ve been lured away from finishing school by the prospect of working full-time, before finishing their degrees. Sure, they have a job now (why the newspaper is content to employ people full-time who haven’t finished their degrees could be another question I guess, but I’ll first stick to my first inquiry for now). I worry that if there are ever future layoffs at our paper these people could potentially be left in the cold – plenty of experience but no credentials behind their names, making them unattractive candidates to future employers.
You always hear about "old-timers" who’ve cut their teeth in the industry without any formal schooling in journalism. But how often does that really go on today? Would you advise young people to finish school before choosing to work full-time in journalism? Am I off-base in telling them it might be in their best interest to finish their degrees, despite how appealing a salary and benefits is at the moment?
A: I admire your concern for your friends and share the value you place in a college degree.
However, it is still possible to have your career and sheepskin, too.
Working before graduation is not the real danger. The real danger is bagging college altogether and figuring that experience alone will get you what you want. It probably won't.
If work prevents a person from going to college, that can be a problem. But the paycheck -- and a tuition reimbursement program -- might make a job the key to getting a degree.
They are not making a bad decision, but they should keep going to school if they hope to snare the jobs and bigger paychecks that are enjoyed by people who finish what they start in college.
Note: "Ask the Recruiter" has moved to Poynter's new Career Center. The new home is here. Don't forget to change your bookmark.