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Does one need a journalism degree to get into sports journalism?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Dougggggg, Feb 7, 2012.

  1. Dougggggg

    Dougggggg New Member

    If this is in the wrong section then I do apologize and please move it to the correct section.

    I have been in school studying to be a mathematician for a couple of years now in college and things have been going well. I have always been a big sports fan in general and a huge football fan. I always had a small desire to get involved in sports journalism. However, I have always done worse in my English class than in any other subject. So I just assumed that was just not a match for me. My dad is a journalist, more specifically a music journalist. He has worked for many different newspapers and magazines in his career and acquired many friends through that. One of those friends is a journalist for a website dedicated to football. I have actually been with this person watching games and discussing it. Recently this friend of my dads was hoping to add an unpaid intern to the staff and offered me the job.

    I am going to take it because at the very least I think I could have some fun doing it for a while. I was wondering though if it is realistically possible to move up from that position to making a living in that career without a journalism degree. I looked at the option of adding a journalism major and I can't fit it in. If I stayed an extra year I could but I simply can't do that considering I am already going to be graduating with plenty of debt and most of my scholarships will expire. So is this realistically possible? Does this happen often? Either way I will probably keep it up as a hobby, at least until graduate school.
  2. dirtybird

    dirtybird Active Member

    To answer the subject, no. You don't need a journalism degree. Hell, some fine journalists don't have college degrees.
  3. Dougggggg

    Dougggggg New Member

    Thanks dirtybird, I may have start browsing through these forums to learn a thing or two about the field itself. The only other thing I could imagine asking is could a degree in mathematics be helpful in that field. I should mention that it is with a concentration in pure mathematics and not applied, i.e. nothing close to a statistician.
  4. wedgewood

    wedgewood Member

    I certainly don't think so. I think it's one of the great things about the business. A lot of it depends on where you're interning. If it's SI or some major newspaper, odds are they're not accepting too many math majors. If it's a smaller publication, you'll probably have more leeway to learn on the job. I'm not belittling smaller papers. There's plenty of great writers and editors who choose to work there.

    I think the most important thing is to stay motivated. Go the extra mile and all that good stuff. Work ethic goes a long way. And be open to constructive criticism. Also, you can work your math background to your advantage. Good luck to ya, Doug with many g's (smiley face).
  5. MeanGreenATO

    MeanGreenATO Member

    It's not true to an extent. I'm currently a full-time writer at a daily and I still don't have my degree. I'm in the process of getting it right now and the balance of school and work is pure hell. Experience and praying a whole lot were really key to me getting a job.

    A college paper is the best way to learn things. I learned more there than I did in any class. But the classes do provide a solid foundation. I think a minor would probably be a pretty good idea.
  6. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    Your major in college doesn't matter. Your experience counts for everything. If you're going to try to enter this field with one unpaid internship on your resume -- and on top of that you don't even have in-class experience -- you're going to find it difficult to get a job.

    Many great schools don't have journalism as a major. Some people would argue no one should major in journalism. One of my most talented coworkers was a math major. But the experience -- be it at a college paper, a local rag or a nice-sized daily that you have an in at -- is everything you're worth when you come out of college.
  7. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    Damn good point. A friend of mine was a food writer for a major metro but majored in something totally different at USC. In fact, I think she just took master chef classes or something like that to get the gig. She was just a born writer. College did not make her a writer.

    But getting that college degree tells me a person is able to follow through on a major project for four years. And in this day and age, having a degree helps so much if you ever want to leave (or run away) from journalism.
  8. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    If your goal is to be a special-interests writer -- like a food or music critic or a sabermetrician -- rather than a traditional reporter, then getting a degree in journalism is particularly worthless.

    As far as your point about needing a degree of some sort, I think your first part is way off and your second absolutely right. I know a number of very talented, very committed journalists who didn't get their diplomas because they started work first and never bothered to go back. If they wanted to leave the field, they'd probably have to get those degrees.
  9. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    The OP would be better off sticking with math. He has the awesome job of working for free now and it doesn't get much better in the future.
  10. Mike Nadel

    Mike Nadel Member

    Don't need a journalism degree, but one thing you do need is a hell of a lot more than "a small desire to get involved in sports journalism."

    The competition for the very few jobs out there desperately want to be sportswriters. Some would kill their own mothers.

    OK, maybe that's too strong. They'd probably only kill somebody else's mother. But you get my drift.

    If you want to be part of a business with so much going against it, you'd better want it real bad.

    It's not a hobby, it's an obsession.
  11. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Sirs, Madames,

    It's a somewhat technical over-sight but i don't have a high-school diploma, never mind a college degree of any sort. A small impediment. All it ever meant: when I taught journalism I was paid on the lowest of the scales. All kinds of multiple-degree types melt when you give them the slightest push.

    YHS, etc
  12. Golazo21

    Golazo21 Member

    From my own experience, I graduated with a BA in political science, then fell into a part-time writing gig a few years later. I was far from a natural, but I quickly realized that I loved sportswriting. So, I went back to school and took each of the few journalism classes they offered. I contacted journalists that I admired for advice, and some of them were gracious enough to allow me to shadow them. I read up on as many journalism-related titles as I could. I watched "All the President's Men." In short, I realized that if I wanted the edge, I need to absorb as much info as possible. I still do to this day.

    That said, you probably don't need a journalism degree. But, like Mike Nadel said, you really have to want it. You have to want to write, write, and then write some more, and more often than not, at times that are not convenient for you. And you have to put in the work to prove it. A lot of my friends think I have it great - I get paid to watch sports. True. But it's so much more than that. Take every opportunity to educate yourself. Talk to experienced journalists. It's cliche'd, but in journalism, knowledge is power. The more you know, the better off you'll be. Not just in what you know about your beat, but about the craft itself.

    Some writers are just naturally talented and can get by with limited education/experience. I am not one of them. I am a hack writer that is constantly trying to find ways to improve.
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