Find Your New Career Path: 11 Alternative Careers for Journalists
Turning your life upside down and jumping into a new career can be scary, especially if you don’t know what the right choice would be for you. If you’re in these shoes as a journalist, fresh grad, seasoned veteran, or somewhere in-between, we’re here to help! In this post, we’ll give you ideas for 11 alternative careers for journalists, and a simple 4-step guide on how to get started in your new chosen field.
We’ll discuss the skills you already have and how you can transfer them to new areas. Later on we’ll also give you help with creating a portfolio —about which you can always reach out to us, in case you need more tips or help.
Skills journalists can utilize in alternative careers
Whether you’re a fresh graduate or a seasoned journalist, chances are you’ve gained some valuable skills throughout your years of study or work. While at first it might seem like they’re there to make you a good journalist, they can actually come in handy in many other careers.
Let’s take a quick look at what these transferable skills are. Think about which ones of these you’ve mastered, and maybe update your resume to highlight them on there as well.
Writing and editing
These two are probably the most obvious ones that come to mind right away. As a journalist, it’s essential to have outstanding writing skills —and to be able to edit your work (or others’) too. And they’re not only important in journalism, but they’re also highly sought after in other writing careers as well.
Research skills and critical thinking
As a journalist who wants to write a well-rounded piece, getting to the bottom of an issue, doing thorough research is inevitable. That pairs up with critical thinking, as you have to make sense of all the information, judge the credibility of the sources, and connect the dots to draw your conclusions.
You might just look at that as your workflow as a journalist, but these two skills can be used in many alternative careers, like being a UX researcher or a market research analyst.
Communication and interpersonal skills
It could be conducting interviews or talking to sources to get more information, but one thing is for sure: journalists have to be good at talking to people. You need to be able to build rapport, make the other person feel comfortable talking to you, and have a big network of connections to reach out to.
Knowing how to talk to people would come in handy in careers like PR, marketing, or freelance writing.
Social media and video editing
Journalism has changed radically over the last few decades. While before journalists were only expected to get and write the story, now they have to take part in other aspects of reporting too, such as capturing excellent drone footage.
That includes getting visuals, both photos and videos, for their current piece —and sharing them on social media. Whether it’s Twitter or TikTok, journalists have to be up-to-date on the trending platforms, knowing how to reach a broader audience.
It’ll come as no surprise when we say that these skills would be great in some alternative careers for journalists, like social media management or blogging.
Working with deadlines
In journalism, deadlines are sacred. So as a journalist you quickly learn how to manage your time and projects to keep up with them. That’s not the norm in every career, so having that background will definitely get you some brownie points if you highlight that to recruiters and hiring managers.
11 alternative careers for journalists
We hinted at some possible career paths while discussing the most transferable skills journalists have, but it’s time to get into more details. So let’s see 11 lucrative, alternative careers for journalists to give you some ideas.
Copywriter at an advertising agency
Combining communication skills for working in a team and with clients, with your writing skills and experience, becoming a copywriter at an advertising agency would be a great choice after a career in journalism.
In this setup, copywriters typically work with an art director (designer) partner, led by their creative directors. They work for different clients of their agency, which makes this position everchanging and exciting.
This position requires a lot of creativity and very strong writing skills —and it’s very fast-paced, which might be familiar from your days in the newsroom. And while the average journalist salary is $41,969/year according to Payscale, it’s more than 10k higher for copywriters at $53,792/year.
The most important thing you’ll need to become a copywriter is a portfolio of writing samples —don’t worry, in the beginning, you can even use some of your journalist clippings.
Editor at a publishing house
If you’re not interested in the world of advertising, you could also opt to become an editor at a publishing house. This would be the perfect position for you if you love reading (a lot), and if you’ve always preferred the writing side of journalism, as opposed to networking and investigating.
As an editor you’ll probably work with multiple authors, reading and correcting their work, giving them guidance as they work on their latest books. Because of the publishing schedule of the books, you’ll have deadlines here too, but the day-to-day is not as crazy and fast-paced as it is at an agency.
Let’s take this one step further. If you love books and writing, but you wouldn’t want to be working on someone else’s writing… Then you should consider becoming an author.
There are tons of resources online that’ll help you write a book and get it published, either by yourself or through a traditional publishing house. And once you’re in the process of getting published, there won’t be anything else left to do but to create your author website and build an online platform.
Content writer or blogger
Staying on the writer-side of our alternative career recommendations for journalists, next up is becoming a content writer or blogger.
There’s a little bit of a difference between the two. The latter usually refers to someone working exclusively freelance, writing their own blog, and earning money from ad revenue, affiliate links, and brand partnerships. To become a blogger, you don’t need any official qualifications —just a blog, the know-how, and a whole lot of hard work.
Meanwhile, a content writer can work for an agency, in-house at any firm, or also freelance. Although even as a freelancer, they wouldn’t be working on their own site most of the time, but rather writing content for their clients. Having at least a bachelor’s degree will help with getting hired, but similarly to copywriters, having a strong portfolio of content writing samples will be your best weapon.
If you’re into blogging and getting traffic to a site, but don’t want to go through all the trouble of a blogger business, becoming an SEO specialist would be a great alternative career for you.
As an SEO specialist, you’d be responsible for the SEO (search engine optimization) strategy of your company or clients, doing on-page optimizations and link-building outreaches. Depending on your company, you might also be involved in writing articles and setting up the technical side of things, like schemas or click tracking.
This career path definitely needs some specialized knowledge, so if you’re interested, start by searching for some courses online. You most likely won’t need a portfolio here, as companies will assess your skills and knowledge about the field and tools during the interview process.
Another alternative career you can consider is becoming a technical writer. If you’ve always been interested in a highly technical area, like the medical field or the world of tech, the choice will come naturally to you. And especially if you’re specialized in reporting about the topic already, it might have even crossed your mind before.
As a technical writer, you’d be working with a team of experts, helping them translate their work into a more easily understandable, written form. You’d be writing user guides and manuals, white papers, and more.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for technical writers in the US is $74,650 per year, so financially this career path definitely has potential.
To get into this field, having a bachelor’s degree is an advantage —but you can find quite a few job ads without this requirement too. A background in journalism and some knowledge about a technical field will be a great starting point, and you could consider creating a technical writing portfolio to up your chances of getting hired.
We started this list off with a copywriter position, but this one’s a little different, so hear us out. As an agency copywriter, you’d be working with the clients of the agency, mostly on advertising campaigns, occasionally including social media.
But as a freelance copywriter, you’d have much more freedom in choosing the kinds of projects you’d like to take. You could work on email campaigns, sales pages, or Facebook Ads —anything that you’re interested in.
It won’t be easy though, as you’ll essentially be running your own business and will be responsible for all those aspects as well. That includes landing your clients, building your freelance writer website, and dealing with taxes and accounting. But if you’ve been thinking about being your own boss and going freelance already, this would be a great alternative career for you as a journalist.
Digital marketer or content marketer
One step further from copywriting is digital marketing. Writing would still be part of your job, especially if you niche down to content marketing —but you’d have other, more strategic, and operational tasks as well.
The details will depend on the overall marketing strategy of your company, but you might be involved in:
- the planning and execution of all kinds of activities, campaigns, and promotions,
- planning email marketing campaigns, writing the emails, and setting everything up,
- creating and executing the company’s social media strategy,
- getting involved in the paid online advertisements, whether that’s on FB or Google,
- writing the important sales pages and setting up lead generation campaigns,
- communicating with and nurturing leads and customers along the whole customer journey,
…and much more. Digital marketing has many aspects in itself and it’s always evolving, so you’ll definitely never be bored —and you’ll probably get to still do some writing as well.
Interested in this field? Check out how to create a marketing portfolio and get in easily!
Market research analyst
Think of the work of a market research analyst as a different type of investigation and reporting. Instead of news and interesting cases, they explore the market and its customers’ behavior and willingness to buy for a company.
Your research and critical thinking skills as a journalist, paired with your ability to write about the insights in an easy-to-read way, will make you an amazing candidate for this career. So if you’re both analytical and creative, consider this option.
The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics writes that they expect the number of market research analyst positions to rise by 22% in this decade —which is much faster than the average for other careers. That means about 96,000 job openings every year, which come with a median salary of $65,810 per year.
Public relations specialist or PR manager
Choosing public relations as an alternative career is kind of an obvious choice for most journalists. Because as a journalist, you were seeking out authorities and firms for news, information, and statements —and in that process, you were most likely discussing things with their PR department.
So you likely not only know what their work is all about but also have a network of contacts in the field. They can give you more insights into their day-to-day jobs and the industry as a whole, and can also recommend you when a position opens.
The skills you’ll need for public relations are ones you mostly already have: communication, solid writing skills, time management and adhering to deadlines, creativity, and critical thinking are just a few of them.
Plus that’s not a skill, but having connections to media outlets is a huge advantage. And who would have a better network of that than a former journalist?
Professor of journalism
This career recommendation goes out to veteran journalists with years and years of experience under their belt. If you think about it, professors of journalism are not just simple scholars in most cases.
They’re people who used to or still do) work as journalists and use their expertise and experience to teach the latest generation of journalists.
So if you feel like you have valuable experience and insights to share, and would be a good teacher too, it’s time to look towards education.
4 steps to starting a new career after journalism
Step 1: Do your research
This might sound pretty obvious, but it’s essential nonetheless. If you picked an alternative career or two from the list, you cannot just jump right in.
You need to take time to research your chosen career path and learn whether it’s right for you and if you need to do or prepare anything before you could get started.
Step 2: Get your qualifications, build a portfolio
Once you checked the requirements, you might need to put in some work before handing in your first application. This could be taking a course, enrolling in a degree program, or creating a portfolio. Which one of these you need will depend on the career itself.
If you choose one of the writer jobs, chances are you’ll need a writing portfolio. The easiest way to create one is with a portfolio website builder like Copyfolio.
All you need to do is choose a template, follow the prompts and guiding questions, and add your projects. If you have your work prepared, you can build a whole website, from start to finish, in just about 30 minutes.
Step 3: Start networking
This goes two ways. On one hand, you should reach out to your previous colleagues and ask them for recommendations on LinkedIn.
On the other hand, you should reach out to your previous connections, especially in the industries you want to get into. Ask them for insights about your desired position, and tips for preparing for your applications and interviews. If you have a great rapport with any of them, you can also ask for referrals or recommendations to make finding a job easier.
Step 4: Update your resume and start applying
Last but not least, it’s time to update your CV. Chances are it’s now geared towards journalist positions —or maybe it hasn’t been touched in years.
You’ll now have to create a new one, most likely from scratch. Just make sure you write it with your new career in mind. Emphasize your skills that are relevant there, and write the descriptions for your past work experiences to highlight how they prepared you for this new role.
Don’t forget to include your contact information, and links to your LinkedIn profile and portfolio website as well.
Then there’s nothing else left to do but actually apply. We’re wishing you good luck!