How to get the highest journalism salaries

Jan 31st, 2013 | By | Category: News

U.S. currency on a scale

Photo © Rambleon, iStockphoto

By Joe Grimm
Michigan State University
School of Journalism

A report that the average starting salary for journalism majors has risen to around $40,000 is generating some conversation this week.

The report comes from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The gist of the conversation is that $40,000 seems to be too high. I agree. But averages rarely tell the story. Something to consider:

These are journalism majors in all jobs, not just in journalism jobs. The University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication has a long history of studying communications employment and wages. Grady professor Tudor Vlad has said that flexibility in career choice goes a long way in helping wages. Grads might find that journalism degrees prepare them for higher paying jobs outside of journalism.

There are also several factors that make managers in newsrooms and other operations dig deeper:

* Northern states typically pay better than southern ones. One reason is living costs.

* Pay is higher in the city than in the country. Ditto the living costs.

* Beginners at newspapers are typically paid better than beginners at broadcast stations in the same town.

* Employers pay more for scarce talent. Today, that means web and mobile producers, designers and social media specialists. Good videographers can make more than photographers.

* Content area matters, too. Business reporters can command better pay than news reporters.

* Negotiating draws out higher offers. Bargain.

* Part of the salary calculus is how much the candidate made in a prior position. Negotiating at every step has a multiplier effect.

* Experience brings out higher offers, too. The person with three internships and campus media leadership can command a higher salary than the person with none. Get lots of experience.

* The sources of that experience matter. An academic and employment pedigree implies quality.

* The employer’s perception of the candidate’s potential can mean more money. Paint a career arc.

So, there we have it. An average rate for new journalism grads, or 10 strategies for beating the average.

Who wants to be average anyway?

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4 Comments to “How to get the highest journalism salaries”

  1. Jp says:

    The fact that you seem to think 40,000 dollars is “too high” is exactly what is wrong with the industry today. Who has a chance to do much with 40k with the hours you are expected to work? It should be at least 50. Are the standards that low in Michigan? It would be nice if you listed more than one source before you write a “how-to” article and coming from a journalism department, you may need to go outside the lab a bit more and look at the real world. Maybe a just one quote from a working pro would lighten the mood here. Maybe just one more Google search yeah? When was the last time you heard of a newspaper “negotiating?” You ask who wants to be average yet you put out this average one source tell all blurb. Try again.

  2. Michelle says:

    $40,000 is absolutely ridiculous. We have people here making $9 an hour. With college degrees. And lots of experience.

  3. joegrimm says:

    Too high? In what sense? I think that average is suspiciously high, but I am in favor of journalists getting paid more. After all … wouldn’t that help me?

  4. joegrimm says:

    I’m sure. There are other places where people make far more. The strategy is to get to those places because it is pretty much impossible to turn a $9-an-hour newsroom into a cash machine and it leaves you in a weak negotiating position for the next place.

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