Getting started

Subscribe to Getting started

Congratulations to this year's NASW Travel Fellows. These 10 undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds and educational institutions were selected by the NASW Education Committee to attend this year's AAAS annual meeting Feb. 16-20, in Boston. Each fellow will receive up to $1,000 to assist with travel. Fellows will each write a story for publication on the NASW website, and participate in the NASW mentoring program and NASW internship fair.

You might think that these would be hard times for recent journalism graduates, with the industry's constant churn, but Al Tompkins finds contrary evidence in interviews with graduating seniors: "Every student said they are well-aware that they won't make much money, at least for a while, and they are prepared to adjust their lives to that reality if they can be a journalist. Several said they grew up modestly, so not having much money would be no big adjustment."

Elite Truong offers advice for making the transition from full-time employment to freelancing: "Since freelancers don’t have a salary that includes annual pay and benefits, they need to charge what their time and experience is worth. Getting to your own baseline amount depends on many things. What is the estimated amount of effort, reporting and time that will go into this piece? How does that translate to your previous freelance experience, and how much is that worth?"

Gabriela Pereira writes that many writers who seek an MFA degree do so for the wrong reasons: "Most writers want an MFA for one of three reasons: They want to teach writing, they want to get published, or they want to make room in their life for writing. It turns out these reasons for doing an MFA are actually based on myths." He goes on to discuss what an MFA can really do for a writer, and how you can build a do-it-yourself MFA via reading, writing, and networking.

Graduation season is here and that means torrents of journalism resumes are going out. Kristen Hare offers ten tips for keeping your application on track, such as: "We love some good journalism quotes, trust us. But what does that lovely quote have to do with you? We don't want to see that you have a firm grasp of cliches with that 'In the words of the great ...' lead. We want to see who you are and what you think." Plus tips from hiring editors.

Julia Rosen draws from her own experience and from interviews with other scientists-turned-science-writers for a guide to making the move from academia to journalism. She also discusses her own motives for making the big switch: "Although I had excelled in science classes as an undergraduate, I was unprepared for the drudgery of lab work, and the funnel of ever-narrower research questions that felt ever more removed from the questions that motivated me at the outset."

The traditional path to a newsroom job starts with journalism school and, at most, a master's degree. But there's another way that starts with the lab and a science doctorate, writes Robert Irion, who directs the science communication program at the University of California-Santa Cruz: "My graduates agreed that it's not necessary to complete a PhD to be a successful science communicator. It's a competitive realm, however, and the degree can help open some job doors."