Should I Get a Degree in Journalism or Film?

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News Internship Perks: Standing in front of the weatherman’s green screen for a graphics test

Today’s question comes from a reader who wants to maximize their education in preparation for a career in production.

“I am currently a freshman in college, working in television, and film is my dream endeavor. I would love to pursue working in the behind the scenes of the industry. Currently, I am applying to transfer to a larger school with a Cinema Studies major available. I just was wondering if you knew if either being a Journalism major with a film studies minor, or a Cinema Studies major with no minor, would be more useful. I want to enter the world of production with as many useful skills under my belt as possible, I am just unsure of which route would be best?”

I had a similar question when I started, and so I interned at a news station (that was one-fourth-of-a-score and a-few-hair-colors ago), but I’ll get to that later.

Journalism and and Film are two entirely different realms, with two basic and distinct purposes: Journalism provides information, Film provides entertainment.

Most people that work in news and the film industry, even in small markets, are in entirely different circles and the two rarely intermingle.

Do you know what projects do you want to work on? Journalism’s emphasis is more about the art of crafting stories for a variety of mediums, and creativity is kept in check. If you want to work on creativity-fused projects such as feature films and long form television, I would advise against journalism and look more towards a media studies degree (or film studies, as you stated). Also, in my experience, most people working on the tech side of news have Broadcast, Communications, or Media Studies degrees.

If the tech side is what interests you, news broadcasts are produced in an entirely different way. Yes, they use cameras and it goes on TV, but the manner in which they obtain the footage, edit it, and broadcast it is very different from how a reality show would do the same, for example. This is due in part to the strict timetable and deadlines reporters and news crews have.  Pursuing a journalism degree would be beneficial if you want to make a career as a reporter or news producer and “getting the story”  and supplying the masses with that information is your focus.

To make an informed decision, get experience.

What should you do? I think Cinema Studies will give you everything you need, but don’t write off news and journalism completely: work on getting hands on experience ASAP. I didn’t know anything about the difference or what I’d like when I first started, so I got internships in both fields. It was eye-opening, and I learned quickly that while working in news is noble and fast-paced, it wasn’t what I was looking for. The stories are always different, but the days and deadlines are the same. I met wonderful and fun people, but the job felt very much like a job: There’s still a desk, you work predictable 8 or 12 hour days (unless there’s a breaking news or major weather situation), and most live for the weekend. That works for some people. It didn’t for me, but that may not be true for you.

Another tip: Since you have an interest in both journalism and film, I think documentaries or “docu-reality” may be a line of work that would suit you. Documentary-reality style television (yes, it is different from straight-up “reality”!) is a unique field where you get to tell the stories of real people, and expand upon them in a way to make entertainment.

It’s never too late to change your mind.

Most importantly — you’re young, and the type of projects you work on will likely change, just as your interests will. It’s never too late to make a lateral move: just because you graduate doesn’t mean you have to stop learning. You can always change direction or try working on different projects, and people in this industry are usually supportive of that.

Best of luck!

Author: Laryssa

Laryssa has spent 6+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. She writes about her experiences to help (and amuse) others. If she's not working, she's either traveling, reading or writing about travel, or planning travel. Follow , Twitter, or Facebook.

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  1. I I’m interested in both journalism and film and have been looking into documentary filmmaking/ producing. What degree do you suggest to do for that? Also, would it be better to do a film or communications degree?

    Post a Reply
    • From my experience, cameras and equipment used for films are a bit different than documentaries. Film school tends to be on the artsy side, and it’s more expensive.

      I would start by looking into journalism majors with an AV minor (or AV major with a journalism minor). You’d learn how to tell the story and learn gear/basic editing as well, and coupled with an internship, it would be a good launchpad into the world of making documentaries.

      Check with the department heads at the colleges you’re considering – they may have better suggestions. Best of luck!

  2. I would actually suggest an English degree that combines studying literature and creative writing, paired with the cinema studies or film production for those who wish to be in the creative field. It always goes back to your story/script.

    Post a Reply
    • Fantastic point, Tracy. Very true!

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