Do You Need a License to be a Journalist?

Do You Need a License to be a Journalist?

As many professionals need accreditation to be able to work in their career of choice, students may wonder if you need a license to be a journalist. Journalists are important professionals in modern society and they need to be held to strict standards to ensure their reporting and information is accurate. However, no government in the United States requires journalists to have a license.

Professional Licenses Are Not Required

Journalists are not professionals who are typically licensed by the state or other professional agency. In fact, requiring licensure is contentious within the industry, as while many would like to see high standards for journalists many more feel a licensure requirement would open the door for censorship. In some other countries, journalistic licenses are required, but in the United States freedom of the press generally keeps states from regulating journalists. Bills have been proposed in some states, such as Michigan, but they failed to become law. So at this time, no, it is not the case that you need a license to be a journalist. The only time a journalism professional will need a license is when they go into teaching, as licenses are required for teachers.

Journalists Do Need A Bachelor’s Degree

Journalists may not need licenses but they still need a formal education. At minimum, this usually means a bachelor’s degree in journalism or communications. These programs typically require classes in ethics, writing, research, interview techniques and more. Students may choose to take additional courses that are useful to this profession, such as political science, business, economics and computer science topics. For students who want to specialize in a particular type of journalism, programs usually allow them to do that. Master’s degrees are available but they are rarely required for employment. They are most useful for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject but want to go into journalism.

Internships Or Extracurricular Activities May Be Required

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most employers require journalists to have some prior experience in media and communications. This can be through an internship with a local news station, experience working for a college newspaper or radio show, or something similar. Amateur journalists can gain their own experience by reporting on stories and interviewing people through a blog, online videos and podcasts. A successful platform and strong adherence to journalism ethics might interest employers. Journalists also typically need to work for smaller news organizations, such as in smaller communities, before working their way up to jobs in larger media companies or larger cities.

Background Checks May Be Conducted

While nowhere in the United States is a license required to be a journalist, background checks might be required for certain positions. For example, reporters who are part of the White House press corps must undergo rigorous background checks to be allowed in secure areas. Background checks may also be performed by local law enforcement before awarding press credentials to a reporter. It is important to remember that press credentials are not needed to conduct journalistic work, although they often provide special access to restricted areas or events. Private employers will set their own standards for prospective employees and often require certain credentials and experience before hiring.

Journalists must maintain rigorous standards, but this does not include any kind of professional license, especially in the modern digital landscape. Therefore, you do not need a license to be a journalist.

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