Click here for our updated 2012 journalism schools list

THE number of university-qualified journalists continues to grow all around the world. While you can still get a job with a media organization at entry level without a degree, many jobs in communications, particularly with government organizations, now require tertiary qualifications as a prerequisite.

If you choose not to get a journalism degree, it might be okay for a while, but it is likely to be a decision you will eventually regret.

Opinions about great journalism schools are highly subjective and can be heavily influenced by a few personal experiences.  However, it is certainly true that good journalism courses develop reputations for turning out graduates who are highly regarded within the industry.  The reputation of a journalism school definitely ranks highly in importance as something to help you make a choice.

Some journalism courses with very high entry requirements do not have industry reputations to match courses with lower entry requirements because of their record in producing distinguished alumni. So it’s a question worth investigating – who are the distinguished graduates of the course? Most universities with a good track record in this area will not be backward in telling you of their many distinguished alumni on their website.

Pic: Hong Kong Baptist University.

There is a direct way that also might help you to make a choice: figure out the job you would like more than any other, then ring up the Editor, Chief of Staff or Cadet Counsellor at the organization where you would most like to work and ask them which course they would recommend.

Of course, it’s critical that modern journalism courses keep students up to date with the latest developments and any journalism course that does not have a significant digital or new media component by now is letting its students down.

Fortunately, most senior university journalism staff have well and truly come to understand the importance of digital media and have brought in specialist lecturers, and developed facilities and courses.

The degree of emphasis on digital media will vary from course to course and if this is where you see your future, you will want to investigate whether or not specialist qualifications are being offered that can give you an edge. Without a doubt, tertiary qualifications in digital media will put you ahead of the game – but equally without a doubt, this is a rapidly developing area where you will constantly need to update your skills.

Another important marker for a good journalism course is that it is run by staff with sound industry links. Check their biographies online. Do the professors and senior lecturers have backgrounds in journalism that you would like to emulate? If they do, there is a good chance they can help find you internships in places you want to be and answer the questions you want answered.

Of course, a very important factor for Asian students studying internationally is the level of support available. The needs of individual students will differ.  If proficiency in English is an issue, there will be no way of hiding this while doing a journalism degree. It is vital that your university has support available for you in a way that will not disrupt or prolong your course. Details about this support should be available online at any respectable university website under the heading of student services.

One statistic to be a little wary of is student satisfaction surveys. While this should not be discounted altogether, some of the best regarded journalism courses perform poorly in surveys of student satisfaction. Experience tells us that this often has more to do with the fact that many students in top courses have much higher expectations and are more likely to be critical – which, ironically, is exactly how they are taught to think.

The following list of top journalism schools is not ranked in any particular order, but has been compiled with a view to range of factors including links to industry, industry reputation, strengths in new and social media, academic reputation, salary and job success, and empathy to Asian culture.

Pic: Birmingham School of Media.

What the experts say…

We asked some top journalists, academics and some of our own correspondents what a student should look for when choosing a journalism school? Here’s what they said:

 

Prospective students should check whether practicing journalists are members of the faculty. This ensures that the teaching, or part of it at least, is grounded on actual practice. This is especially true for specialized subjects like investigative or multimedia journalism. Also, a good journalism school nowadays should offer an array of courses or subjects on multimedia journalism. These days, I can’t imagine new graduates of journalism not having at least a basic knowledge of multimedia journalism. Finally, a school that has a program that looks into journalism or media trends and issues is always a good sign that they take journalism seriously.

Graham Barnfield, Head of Journalism at the University of East London

Prospective students should ask themselves what they want to get out of any course they join. The big divide is between training and a specialized form of Media Studies – it’s important not to mix the two up. ‘What do you want to do?’ is always my question for students. Next they should see what’s on offer – how much will they develop their craft as writers through being in the School? (A good journalism student should be already writing anyway, but there’s always room for improvement.) Personally I favor a mixture of craft and critique, so the applicant doesn’t end up exclusively in lessons dedicated to picking up local newspaper-specific skillsets such as shorthand and observing local council meetings. Issues of why be a journo in the first place – questioning everything – should never be too far away … .

Francis Wade, writer and sub-editor for Democratic Voice of Burma

When deciding on a school for journalism studies, the key factor is whether your place of choice effectively balances the hands-on, practical side of reporting with a good insight into how the media industry works. Both play key roles in the quality of your output and in helping you to understand the credibility of whatever organization/institution you choose. The majority of media groups are increasingly sacrificing good journalism for material that can be generated quickly and that satisfies a mainstream audience, regardless of the strength of the story, and a strong school should help you to develop both a sharp insight into how the industry functions, and equip you with the necessary tools to make you a driven, but sensitive, journalist.

Bala Murali Krishna, freelance journalist and journalism teacher from India

Students are well advised to check out if a journalism school has built enough practical work into its curriculum. This is especially important for students seeking to specialize in either new media or television. They also should find out the practical experience the faculty brings to the classroom, and whether or not the school is able to attract professional journalists as visiting faculty. Finally, the best indicator of how good a J-school is is its alumni – where do they work today? What kind of positions do they hold? Etc.

Gavin Atkins, columnist for ABC Online and The Australian

Some universities have highly regarded journalism courses, and if you get into one, good luck to you. However, my advice is that wherever you go, build up a portfolio of work in your own time. If you can show an employer an impressive portfolio of work, it will take you far. Also, if you have a personal interest – say yachts, science, fashion or travel – whatever it is, becoming a specialist can be a smart way of getting ahead of the competition, and help you find work in a job you love.

Pic: Medill Northwestern University.

And here are our top 10 journalism schools for Asian students…

HONG KONG BAPTIST UNIVERSITY
While the rest of the world’s journalism students are flocking to expensive, high-profile media colleges in Europe and the US, a savvy few are looking for advancement opportunities in Asia’s burgeoning market. For ambitious students with the drive to carve out a career in one of the fastest growing consumer markets on earth, a degree in journalism from Hong Kong Baptist University is an outstanding option. Hong Kong Baptist University Department of Journalism, under the School of Communication, launched in the 1960s, and it quickly became the most successful program on offer here. The department continues to provide Hong Kong and China with some of the region’s most prominent journalists. All of the journalism coursework at HKBU is offered through the School of Communication. Journalism is the headliner here, but shares the marquee with film and communications studies. Read full profile…

MEDILL NORTHWESTERN SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM
Most graduate programs limit student travel to trips home or an occasional spring break trip with friends. Not so at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., just outside of Chicago, where Medill journalism students often venture thousands of miles in pursuit of an important story. Medill is one of the top-ranking journalism schools the US, offering a mix of undergraduate and graduate programs that consistently produce some of the most qualified and competitive journalists in the world. In less than a century of operation, the school has produced nearly 40 Pulitzer Prize winners, and current students are encouraged to pursue the same level of excellence. The university’s full-time faculty are seasoned professionals with extensive industry experience and contacts. Medill also draws on Chicago’s journalism community for accomplished adjuncts who have specialized in reporting, photography, videography, non-fiction narrative, magazine editing, web design and more. Read full profile…

BIRMINGHAM SCHOOL OF MEDIA
If carving out a career in the media industry were as simple as learning journalism theory and picking up the necessary technical know how, then just about any school of media would suffice. But anyone who has spent time trying to land a break in this industry knows that the hurdles are set quite a bit higher. Birmingham School of Media is a Skillset Media Academy. This means the school’s coursework has been approved by a panel of industry professionals for its ability to equip students with the sort of industry expertise it takes to launch a professional media career. The fact that less than two dozen schools in the UK carry this distinction puts Birmingham on an instant short list. This was one of the first schools in the country to teach media studies, and it enjoys a stand-out track record for graduate employability. Read full profile…

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY GRADUATE SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM
Take an Ivy League university with centuries of tradition on tap, layer in some of the world’s most prestigious awards in journalism, and it’s easy to see why up-and-coming journalists are so keen on getting their credentials here. Simply put, degrees with this kind of clout are hard to come by. Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism offers three major degree programs. The master of science program is suitable for those without experience, while the master of arts degree assumes that candidates already have a background in journalism. A Ph.D. in communications is also offered through the school. Naturally, the faculty at Columbia’s school of journalism are some of the industry’s most decorated contributors. These are highly regarded columnists, authors, media specialists and reporters, and they are no strangers to major awards like the Pulitzer Prize. Read full profile…

 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT BERKELEY GRADUATE SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM
One of the top journalism schools in the US, J-School at UC Berkeley provides students with a two-year master of journalism degree. The school consistently ranks as one of the top-10 journalism schools in the US and attracts prominent industry professionals to speaking engagements and guest lecturer series. From the J-School’s North Gate Hall, an historical landmark built at the turn of the 20th century, students choose from one of seven primary media: radio, television, documentary film, broadcast media, magazine, newspaper or new media. Learning is hands on, and every student completes at least one internship during their time here. You’ll pick up equal measures of reporting tactics and technical skills needed to succeed as a 21st-century journalist. Cross-training is important here, so students with a penchant for radio are likely to discover new passions in fields like photojournalism or new media.

Pic: Birmingham School of Media.

CARDIFF UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM
The Cardiff University School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies opened in the 1970s, and that makes it the longest running center for postgraduate journalism education in Europe. It’s a prestigious academy, routinely referred to as the “Oxford of journalism”. For students based in Europe, there is no better launch pad for a career in journalism. The school has a healthy supply of degree programs on offer. Bachelors, masters and postgraduate diplomas are all available through the school. The undergrad degrees are academic and research based, and they consistently earn high marks in national student surveys. Meanwhile, the postgraduate coursework is more industry oriented. The research carried out here is particularly impressive. In fact, Cardiff is without peer in the UK. In 2008, an independent panel found nearly half of the research carried out at the school to be “world leading” and another third to be “internationally excellent”.

ESJ PARIS
One of the world’s first schools of journalism (a title tossed back and forth between ESJ and the Missouri School of Journalism), the Ecole Supérieure de Journalisme was founded in the late 19th century. Today, it’s a partner school for important initiatives including NATO civil training programs. There are some 130 faculty members on staff here, nearly all of whom are full-time professionals. Those who do not come from specific backgrounds in journalism are typically civil servants, lawyers or university professors. There is no lack of qualifications on this campus. This is one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the world, but it is worth taking note that only 20 percent of the instruction is in English at the Paris campus. The other 80 percent is offered in French, so proficiency is a must. Satellite campuses in Casablanca and Dubai offer some instruction in Arabic as well.

THE MISSOURI – COLUMBIA SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM
The Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia is the oldest journalism school in the US, and competes with ESJ Paris for status as oldest journalism educational institute in the world. The J-School’s bachelor of journalism degree can be customized according to more than 25 different areas of specialization. These include niches like producing for radio, television or multimedia. Opposite this, the graduate programs include master of arts and doctor of philosophy degrees. The master’s program can be completed in two years on campus, or it can be taken as a one-year add-on to a bachelor’s degree. Instruction is hands-on here, and students spend time working at the J-School’s real-media outlets which are based in the community. The Columbia Missourian is published by the J-School and serves as a proving ground for aspiring journalists. Other media outlets include radio and television broadcast stations and an advertising and public relations agency.

UNC-CHAPEL HILL SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM AND MASS COMMUNICATION
UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication aims to raise up a new generation of media professionals – including journalists as well as communicators, researchers and teachers – and send them out into the 21st-century world of reporting. There’s a heavy emphasis here on embracing modern trends, but not at the expense of traditional journalistic skills. Degrees are available at every level here, and in all there are roughly 800 undergraduates and 100 graduate students enrolled. Many of the students aspire to be journalists, though the coursework is also designed to generate public relations specialists, marketers and other communicators. UNC Chapel Hill is one of the foremost public universities in the US, and the journalism school has long been a favorite in the industry. Two dozen students and faculty members have been involved in Pulitzer Prizes over the years, and this figure is expected to continue to rise in coming years.

UNIVERSITY OF WESTMINSTER
A top ranker in UK journalism studies, the University of Westminster hosts roughly 200 students and about 50 faculty members. The school is based in London, undisputed media capital of Europe, and prepares students for a high-powered career in the world of 21st-century communications. Undergrad degrees include a standard bachelor of arts degree in journalism, along with more specialized niches like public relations, radio production or medical journalism. The list of postgraduate offerings is substantially longer and includes master of arts degrees and postgraduate diplomas. All of the tutors on staff at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications are practitioners themselves, and they bring lifetimes’ worth of experience into the classroom with them. Those who haven’t worked directly in journalism related sectors come from other communications backgrounds.

NOTE: Some of the journalism schools included in this feature are sponsors of AsianCorrespondent.com.