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Home > Publications > Quill > Study: Journalism industry recovery beginning to level off


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Thursday, September 27, 2007
Study: Journalism industry recovery beginning to level off

Melinda Dudley

The job market is flattening and benefits packages are declining for journalism and mass communication graduates entering the work force. The downturn ends two years of industry recovery, according to the 2006 Annual Survey of Journalism and Mass Communication Graduates conducted at the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia.

More than 2,400 students from 89 journalism and mass communication programs from across the country participated in the 2006 survey. More than a dozen journalism and communications companies, academic institutions and grant-making organizations — including the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation — funded the survey.

Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in journalism or mass communication were no more likely to be employed at the end of October 2006 than they were when they completed their studies. Just over three-quarters of graduates (76.2 percent) had received at least one job offer by graduation, and 73.6 percent reported full-time employment five months later.

These figures remain unchanged from the 2005 survey, indicating that the modest growth seen in these areas in the past few years has come to a halt.

In comparison, in 2000, 82.4 percent of graduates with a bachelor’s degree in journalism or mass communications had at least one job offer at the time of graduation.

Journalism and mass communication graduates are faced with higher unemployment than the overall work force and their age group, whereas during the 1990s they were consistently employed at higher rates than the rest of the 20-24 age bracket.

Full-time employment among male graduates dropped 5.5 percentage points since the previous year, while women’s employment held steady, continuing a historical trend where women have greater success in finding employment in the communications field.

Graduates who are racial or ethnic minorities also have a harder time finding full-time employment in communications, lagging nearly 10 percentage points behind employment rates for white graduates. Minority students’ chances of finding a job dropped 3 percentage points in the past year.

Due to the weakening job market, nearly half of graduates are taking jobs outside the communications field. As recently as 2000, two-thirds of journalism and mass communications graduates were employed in the field. Success in finding employment decreased slightly for students who studied news-editorial journalism and advertising, but improved for students specializing in telecommunications, broadcast and public relations.

Just half of journalism and mass communications graduates are working a 40-hour work week; one-third are working more than that. Eleven percent of graduates described their job as part-time.

Salaries outpace inflation, but benefits drop

Though the median salary for all journalism and mass communication graduates kept up with inflation in 2006, rising to $30,000, it falls short of the median salary for liberal arts graduates overall. Salaries for graduates employed at daily newspapers actually decreased by $1,000 since 2005, while salaries in radio, television and especially advertising showed marked increases.

The highest starting salaries in the communication field were reported among graduates working in cable television, online publishing and specialized information publishing.

Graduates with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and mass communication who took jobs outside the communication field also had a median salary of $30,000.

Benefits packages showed a marked decline in 2006. Percentages of graduates with full-time employment receiving eight out of nine measured benefits dropped, with only child care, a benefit received by about one-fifth of graduates, holding steady.

Medical benefits in particular took a significant dive, with coverage dropping about 10 percentage points in a single year. Graduates with full or partial basic medical coverage dropped from 79.3 percent to 69.6 percent, major medical dropped from 75.6 percent to 65 percent, and prescription benefits dropped from 72.5 percent to 63.3 percent.

Only half of journalism and communication graduates with full-time jobs received any disability benefits, a 5.8 percentage-point decrease from 2005. Graduates with fully or partially paid maternity or paternity leave dropped 8.2 percentage points, to 59.2 percent.

For all of these types of benefits, decreases in availability were noted for full and partial benefits.

New media skills

The percentages of employed graduates who report writing and editing for the Web and designing and building Web pages have both nearly doubled since the survey began measuring them in 2004, to 41.5 percent and 13.5 percent, respectively. Nearly three-quarters of employed journalism and mass communication graduates reported conducting Internet-based research in the course of their jobs.

More than half of graduates employed in daily newspapers, public relations, consumer magazines, special information publishers and online media reported writing or editing for the Web in their jobs, compared to 30.8 percent of journalism and mass communication graduates employed outside the communications field. Graduates working in radio and advertising lag behind in writing and editing for the Web, at 23.8 percent and 26.2 percent, respectively.

Seventeen percent of graduates reported leaving school without a single online or new media skill. The most widely possessed skill was writing for the Web, which 57.6 percent of graduates reported they could do. At least 40 percent report having the ability to edit for the Web, use the Internet for reporting and use still photographs online. Roughly one-third can use the Web for public relations purposes, or online software, graphics or blogs. Only 9 percent of graduates can use animation for the Web, the least-possessed online and new media skill.

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