Magazine Journalist

    If you are wondering how to become a magazine journalist, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers within publishing and journalism, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Magazine journalists write news and features for publications that can range from ‘glossy’ consumer magazines through to specialist trade journals.

    As a magazine journalist your work would vary depending on the type of magazine, but would normally include:

    attending meetings to plan the content of the magazine
    suggesting ideas for articles that will be of interest to the magazine’s readers
    interviewing and researching to collect material for articles
    writing articles in the magazine’s house style
    keeping up to date with developments and trends in subject area of the magazine.
    You would usually have specialist knowledge in the subject area covered by your publication. Types of magazine include:

    consumer magazines – aimed at the general public, these could focus on anything from fashion and beauty to motoring or sport
    specialist consumer magazines – aimed at people with interests in a particular subject, such as travel, arts and crafts or cars
    professional magazines – for those working in a particular career such as human resources, or management
    business magazines and trade journals
    in-house company magazines.
    As a freelance journalist you would normally write for both magazines and newspapers. Some magazines have a related website, so you might also create different versions of your articles for the web.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good journalists include:

    excellent writing skills
    listening and questioning skills
    an enquiring mind and a lively interest in people, places and events
    research skills
    an interest in the subject of the magazine
    self confidence and the ability to put people at ease
    the ability to absorb information quickly and write it up in a style which is easy to understand
    determination and persistence
    keyboard and IT skills.

    How to become a magazine journalist
    There are no set qualifications for becoming a magazine journalist, although most people applying for this job role have a degree.

    A common starting point is to work as an editorial assistant for a magazine publishing house. This route allows you to develop your skills and make contacts in the industry. See the Editorial Assistant profile for details.

    You could do a pre-entry journalism qualification or degree before looking for work. Although this is not essential, it will give you the opportunity to learn about the magazine industry and to develop the skills you will need as a journalist. Qualifications which are recognised by the industry are accredited by:

    Periodicals Training Council, which is the training section of the Periodical Publishing Association (PPA)
    National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).
    Visit the PPA and NTCJ websites (in Further Information below) for details.

    The NCTJ also runs distance learning courses, including Writing for the Periodical Press, which gives a basic understanding of the magazine industry.

    Whether or not you have journalism qualifications, you will have to be pro-active and persistent to get started in magazine journalism, as many jobs are not advertised. The key to getting into the industry is to gain practical experience. You could contact magazines directly to see if they will consider you for unpaid work experience. Other ways to get experience and build up a file of examples of your published work include:

    contacting editors with ideas for articles relevant to their magazine
    writing reviews of films, plays or products
    volunteering to work on newsletters run by not-for-profit organisations.
    Visit the PPA website for advice on finding work experience and applying for jobs.

    To become a journalist with a specialist magazine it will be an advantage (and often essential) to have knowledge of the subject covered by the magazine. The more specialist the magazine, the more likely you are to need appropriate knowledge or experience.

    Training and Development
    As a new magazine journalist you will develop your skills on the job. Big publishing houses often have structured on-the-job training schemes, but this is less likely in smaller organisations.

    If you are a member of the Periodicals Publishing Association (PPA) you can take the PPA Professional Certificate in Journalism. This qualification is aimed at new and recent recruits, and covers both printed and online publications.

    PPA and the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) run a variety of short courses which will help you to develop your skills and knowledge.

    As journalists are increasingly expected to write for online as well as printed publications, you may find it useful to do training in technical skills such as HTML, Java, Javascript or ASP, and perhaps in web design packages such as Dreamweaver. A number of colleges and private training providers offer short and part-time courses in these subjects.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Magazine journalists can earn between £18,000 and over £23,000 a year.

    Job Prospects
    More than 9,000 magazines are published in the UK. As well as the well-known and ‘glossy’ titles that are sold in all newsagents, these include magazines covering a very wide range of subjects, such as crafts, computers and gardening.

    Other possible employers include business to business titles, in-house magazines for companies such as retailing chains, and free magazines, such as those included in customer loyalty packages.

    Large magazine publishing houses are mainly based in London and the south-east, but there are opportunities with specialist magazines all over the country.

    There is a lot of competition for jobs, especially on the better-known magazines. It may be easier to get started on a specialist publication, trade or business publication, especially if you have knowledge of the area it covers.

    Vacancies are advertised in publications such as The Guardian on Mondays and by specialist recruitment agencies. However, as many vacancies are not advertised, it is important to develop a list of contacts in the industry so that you can find out about opportunities.

    When you have built up your contacts and knowledge of the industry you may be able to work freelance, writing features for a number of magazines. With experience you may also be able to progress to an editing position, or move into another area, such as newspaper journalism, radio or TV.

    Useful journalism or publishing resources:
    National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ)
    The New Granary
    Station Road
    Saffron Walden
    CB11 3PL
    Tel: 01799 544014

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