From my own background, I’d suggest that a mix of both — communications and journalism — can be helpful for a career. Learning about the core curricula available can also tell you a lot about any institution’s program. In my case, I took extra courses when I saw they were available but maybe not part of my directed core studies.
Key to both communications AND journalism is having a good command of the basics: spelling, grammar, writing, research skills, an intellectual curiosity to ask questions when you want (or need) to learn more about a topic that is new to you. All of these things you can start doing now — and hopefully you’ve been doing several of them (spelling, grammar, sentence construction) since grade school.
I’ve told students on this platform before that the basics cannot be underestimated. Having a good command of those allows you the ability to learn new things you can master. You don’t want to be in college or working in a newsroom or writing a press release and still have spelling errors, poor writing skills, or an ineffective command of actual facts.
That said, it’s also helpful to be focused on what you want to do. It will enable you to identify opportunities, activities (even in school), and paths that can offer you valuable experience. For example, if you want to be a journalist, get involved in your school newspaper. Or get involved with a public relations or marketing club.
When I was in grade school and high school, I loved working on reports - gathering information, doing the research and conveying what I found. As I’ve progressed in my own career I’ve realized that I am still doing that today. In college, I got involved with the campus radio station, SGA, and other projects. I also got an internship to learn more about jobs in TV media. Don’t underestimate the value of every step you take in life to prepare you for your future! I’ve even marveled that my time working as a bank teller on summers and holiday breaks in college taught me very valuable skills in customer service that I’m still using today.
Do you like to design, too? Utilize available programs at school - now and college - to gain experience on Adobe platforms. More and more roles are asking for these skills today. They are valuable in communications jobs and journalism.
My experience is that if you work hard hard, you will find that obtaining valuable skills, knowledge and experience can be valuable to careers in communications and journalism. I know journalists that moved in to communications jobs. Key is how you’ve prepared yourself for those roles.
I have a B.A. in Communications (PR) with a minor in Journalism. I’ve worked in TV News, Radio, written and researched a book and numerous articles for international B2B magazines, and more. I’ve also written press releases, ghostwritten quotes and full length Op-Ed articles. I’ve obtained added success with Facebook Ad campaigns and Google Ads strategy, plus social media. My lifelong passion for photography and history has also served me well.
What I’ve learned in my career is you never stop learning. Technologies change and there will always be new methods and tools for doing things. The key is to keep learning, be relevant and always be curious to know more.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Am I doing all I can now to gain skills and knowledge that will benefit me no matter which path I choose?
- Are there university programs that offer coursework in both areas? What sort of research do I need to do to make sure that I’m fully informed of my options?
- Can I get exposure to certain professions now to help me see what people actually do in these jobs — sitting with a school career counselor can be helpful for this. Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking adults who have interesting careers about what they do and how they got there. Would they do anything different?
- How will all of this information I’ve gathered now help me plan my future and what I want to do?
Kathleen recommends the following next steps:
- Do your research! Look at the questions I provided above as a start. Assess your options and identify areas where you can take some action now.
- Make sure you have a good command of the basics!!! If you still need improvement, seek help and get those skills up to speed.
- Make a commitment to yourself to never stop learning — being adaptable is part of that equation and can serve you well no matter what you decide to do.