How to get a job as a magazine journalist

How to get a job as a magazine journalist

Author: Lana Richardson

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From fashion glossies to trade journals, discover what writing for magazines is like and see how to get your career off the ground.

When considering your career options, the field of magazine journalism is an attractive choice. It’s an exciting, sometimes glamorous, fast-paced job that offers creativity in abundance.

If you have a flare for writing, there’s no thrill quite like opening a glossy magazine and seeing your name staring back at you on the credits page.

However, magazine journalism is an extremely competitive industry that requires as much passion and drive as it does skill and talent. So if you want to get a foothold on the ladder, here’s everything you need to know about the role, along with some tips for kickstarting your journalism career.

What’s so good about being a magazine journalist?

For anyone who wants to be a writer, there really is no better chance to flex your muscles than working for a magazine. Although there’s a lot of variety in this job, the vast majority of your day will be spent writing articles, giving you the chance to express your creativity and really hone your skills.

There are many different kinds of publications to write for, from fashion glossies to specialist trade journals. No matter what topic you’re interested in writing about, there will be a magazine devoted to it.

Types of magazines include:

  • Consumer magazines – for the general public
  • Specialist consumer magazines – devoted to a particular interest
  • Business and trade magazines – with news and features dedicated to specific industries

 

And what about the downsides?

Being a magazine journalist isn’t  always as glamorous and dazzling as films like The Devil Wears Prada or Almost Famous depict.

It can be a stressful role as you’re constantly working to tight deadlines and chasing up information from sources. The hours can be long and there can be a lot of travel involved.

What’s an average day of a magazine journalist like?

Most of your time will be spent behind your desk but there really is no typical working day. As a magazine journalist, as you can be out of the office, covering events, interviewing people or researching articles. You never know where your next story will take you.

Here is an overview of some key responsibilities of a magazine journalist:

  • Coming up with article ideas and pitching to your editor
  • Going to meetings to plan magazine content
  • Researching articles
  • Conducting interviews
  • Writing articles for the magazine’s website and posting on social media channels
  • Sourcing images to accompany features and articles
  • Attending seminars, fairs and keeping up to date with the industry you’re writing about

 

What skills does a magazine journalist need?

Yes, being a talented writer is a top priority for a magazine journalist but the role requires many more specific skills. A good magazine journalist should have a nose for a story and be persistent and driven in their nature. They should be able to think on their feet and work quickly.

Key skills include:

  • Excellent writing ability
  • Organisation, punctuality and ability to work to strict deadlines
  • Good research skills
  • An enquiring mind with an interest in different kinds of people, places and things
  • Interpersonal skills; the ability to talk and communicate well with others
  • Able to frequently generate ideas

 

What qualifications do you need to work as a magazine journalist?

As magazine journalism is an extremely competitive industry, it can pay to have a specific degree in journalism, as this will position you well against other candidates.

A journalism degree will teach you how to write in specific styles and tones and for different kinds of publications. You’ll also learn best practices when it comes to media law, copyright and libel.

If you do not wish to do a degree specifically in journalism, professional bodies such as the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) offer short top up courses at colleges and universities around the UK.

Employers do favour applicants with degrees or qualifications from accredited organisations, however, this is not the only route into this industry. Having GCSEs, A-levels or a degree in subjects such as English or creative writing can also help.

Tips for getting a job

The best way to kickstart your career in magazine journalism is to pack in as much experience as you can. When applying for jobs, employers will be impressed if you have a solid portfolio of work, as it will show how dedicated you are to carving a place for yourself within the industry.

Securing an internship or a work placement will help you gain professional experience and learn what it’s like to work as a staff writer at a magazine. However, if you can’t find an internship there are many other ways to proactively get experience, such as:

  • Starting your own blog. This is free and easy to do and will help develop your web skills which are often required as a magazine journalist
  • Write for other blogs and websites. Many websites accept guest articles and contributions from writers. Simply contact the editor of a few of your favourite websites and pitch some ideas – some of these opportunities will be paid, but most will be unpaid
  • Contact magazines and newspapers and ask for unpaid work experience
  • Volunteer to write for non-for-profit publications

 

Magazine journalism is not an easy industry to access but if you’re determined enough there are many opportunities out there for aspiring writers. It’s a hard job but the effort required to establish yourself in this field makes it all the more rewarding.

Lana Richardson is a journalist and digital marketer. She has worked as a staff writer for a number of publications and is the current blog editor for NIParcels.com

Watch videos on working in magazine journalism

Magazine Journalist

Hattie is the editor of Rewind magazine and regular writes for publications such as I-D, The Guardian and The NME.

Senior Features Writer

Rosie writes for Cosmopolitan magazine and started out by doing lots of work experience.

Magazine Journalist

Hattie is the editor of Rewind magazine and regular writes for publications such as I-D, The Guardian and The NME.

Watch now
Hattie Collins
Senior Features Writer

Rosie writes for Cosmopolitan magazine and started out by doing lots of work experience.

Watch now

Last updated: 24th October 2018