Back to school: continuing education for journalists
Just when you thought you were all done with late-night studying, college papers, endless exams and final theses, some journalist is telling you to get back into the classroom.
“But I’m an experienced journalist,” you say. Or “I’m already an expert in XYZ, why do I need to take a class?”
I’ll tell you why: Because there is always (ALWAYS) room for improvement in your craft. As most of us already know all too well, the media industry is constantly changing. And part of our job is to keep up with it.
You might actually be an expert in XYZ, fair enough. But I can guarantee that you – and more importantly, your career – could greatly benefit by learning something new, trying something different that may be out of your comfort zone, or simply expanding your horizons to do what you already do just a little differently…and possibly even better. And thus advance your career, even in a small way, through continuing education.
Journalists and all media professionals – whether you’re a recent college graduate, an aspiring journalist, a veteran member of the media, or somewhere in between – should consider continuing education throughout his or her career. We all have something to learn to improve our skillsets as working journalists, along with gleaning new ideas or trends from fellow media experts to improve our work.
Education does not stop at college (or high school, or whatever level you achieved) – it’s a life-long commitment to self-improvement and professionalism. Writing, editing, fact checking, researching, interviewing and storytelling (and so much more) are all skills to be constantly brushed up on. Never be too comfortable in your abilities and always be eager to learn.
Now, anytime, all of the time – take classes, workshops and webinars or tackle full-blown degrees anytime you so choose. Granted there are barriers to some education (taking an online copywriting course is quite different than registering for a master’s degree in new media studies). But if you think to yourself: “Hm. I really would like to learn how to do XYZ better,” or “If only I could be an expert in XYZ, then my career could really take off,” then take the time to find the continuing education option that fits your goals, timeline and budget.
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. With information available just within reach of our curious fingertips, you can register and take an online course offered by fellow experts with little-to-no hassle. Some of my personal favorite online resources for media professionals include: Media Bistro, a go-to resource for journalists, public relations consultants and freelancers offering online training courses and programs, career advice and more; The Poynter Institute’s News University, a program offering high-quality online journalism and media training programs for anyone who wants to improve his or her journalism-based skills; and, CreativeLive, an online creative platform offering workshops in photography, video, design, business, audio, music, crafting, and software training, making dynamic education accessible to everyone.
Of course, also consider checking out local organizations, networking groups and community colleges in your region, along with national universities and associations for a variety of high-quality classes, programs, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, fellowships and workshops to fit your short- and long-term education goals.
It’s simple really: To learn new skills and develop valuable expertise in the media industry – in journalism or other media-related professions like public relations or marketing – to advance your career and professional development. Do it to help advance the level of professionalism and expertise in the media industry among colleagues. Do it for your audience, whether they are readers, listeners or viewers. Do it to learn new skills and open doors to other media-related job opportunities.
And most importantly, do it for yourself.
You’ve already taken the first step: Thinking, and reading, about taking a class or two (or seven). Next, consider your goals to help identify the types of classes you should take, and determine your budget (and remember: it can be a business write-off if you’re self-employed, or talk to your employer for an education reimbursement) and timeline. Then research the heck out of the various education options to find the best fit for you and your career path. And lastly: Register!
It’s a career choice you won’t regret, I promise. Always be learning. Always be sharing your expertise with others. Always be improving the level of professionalism, and education, in the media industry.
Have you taken continuing education courses to improve your skills as a journalist or media professional? Share with us!
Cherise Henry is a freelance writer, editor and journalist, and communications consultant based in Sacramento, California. She’s passionate about telling meaningful stories and creating authentic content, connecting with people through the written word. On Twitter @cherisehenry.
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