Getting a job in journalism takes a mix of intelligence and pluck -- and getting a good internship is no different. It's always been a competitive field, but because of changes in the way people get their news, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job prospects in journalism will decline by about 8 percent between 2010 and 2020. With that in mind, you're going to have to really jazz a news outlet in order to secure the internship you want.
While it's not an absolute must, having an educational background in journalism, communications, media or language arts is typically the first requirement for pursuing a career in journalism. Often, companies will only take on interns who are students, and if you are one, your college's career center is the first place to look for internships. Not only can the career center help you find opportunities, advisers may also help you through other steps in the process. Your college may require you to present certain paperwork to the company or take an internship course first, so be sure to check into the requirements at your school.
Interns don't always have experience in journalism, but you can make yourself a stronger candidate by getting hands-on experience before you apply. The first place to look is your college newspaper -- or in some cases, your college TV or radio station. At these places, you'll be able to write and edit stories and learn other aspects of print and electronic news gathering. If you're a real go-getter, you can also get experience by submitting freelance stories to your local newspapers or other media outlets. This work will give you some solid clips that you can share when you apply for internships.
Before you start applying for internships, make sure your online reputation is solid, advises the Poynter Institute, as internship coordinators are probably going to do an online search to get info about you. That means checking out your social media profiles to make sure there's nothing there that would make you look bad, such as party photos or controversial posts. Consider creating your own web presence, such as a personal website or digital portfolio. This can be a place to post your information and clippings of news reports you've done for your school newspaper or for freelance outlets.
Once you've established yourself as a student journalist and have compiled some work, you'll be in a good position to apply for internships. Build a solid resume that includes all the skills in writing, editing, photography, videography or web coding you have; since you don't have a lot of work experience yet, consider a "skills-based" resume that puts more focus on your skills and less on your work history. Check out sites such as JournalismJobs or Internships.com to find internships for which you can apply, and then research every news outlet to which you're applying so you can tailor your cover letter to directly address the needs of the outlet. When you get an interview, dress professionally and bring along a portfolio that shows the work you've done. Most journalism internships are unpaid, so plan to have another source of income while you do your internship.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.