August 16, 2007

J-School Jobs Hit A Plateau

Median Salary
Journalism/ Mass Comm. 30000
Liberal Arts 31333
Marketing 41285
Finance 47877
Computer Science 52177
Economics 53449

After two years of robust growth, the job market for journalism school graduates appears to have stalled, according to the newest figures from researchers at the University of Georgia.

The 2006 Annual Survey of Journalism & Mass Communication Graduates, supervised by Professor Lee Becker, found that the percentage of 2006 bachelor recipients in journalism or communications with at least one job offer at graduation was virtually the same (76%) as a year before. The survey, which interviewed 2,290 bachelor recipients at 89 schools across the country, was released August 10.

These numbers suggest the job market has not fully recovered from the steep declines earlier in the decade. In 2000, with a strong national economy, 82% of graduates reported receiving job offers. However, that number fell to 71% the next year and bottomed out at 65% in 2003.

But over the next two years, the market rebounded. The number of undergraduate degree recipients with job offers increased from 65% in 2003 to 70% in 2004, and then to 76% in 2005.

“It appears we now have a flattening again,” said Becker, who co-authored the report with Tudor Vidal and Joel D. McLean and reported findings at the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication’s annual conference in Washington DC. “Is the market heading back down? That’s unclear.”

With key sectors of the journalism business, most notably newspapers, suffering from from economic problems, and with layoffs and buyouts commonplace, it seems intuitive that graduating students would have difficulty entering a tighter marketplace. Last year, Becker attributed the good employment news, at least in part, to the fact that many of the smaller outlets where young journalists start out have been relatively immune to the media recession. This year, he acknowledged that it is difficult to know whether we are seeing a new downturn and why that might be.

Along with the leveling off of job opportunities, additional data from the survey point to other economic realities facing graduates pursuing jobs in the journalism and communications field.

Though salaries did increase, benefit packages, such as health care and maternity leave, showed a significant decline. For instance, 47% of graduates reported that their employer paid for all basic medical coverage, a drop of 11% from the year before.

On the ultimate bottom line issue, the pay for journalism grads also remains lower than recipients of other degrees. In 2006, journalism and communications graduates reported a median salary of $30,000, below the $31,333 for liberal arts graduates and well behind several other degrees. Marketing graduates, for instance, came in at $41,285, students in finance $47,877, computer science graduates $52,177, and economics majors $53,449.

The employment picture for journalism and communications graduates did vary some depending on areas of concentration. Among graduates who specialized in broadcasting and public relations, for instance, the percentage reporting full-time employment was up 4% in both fields from 2005 to 2006.

Those who specialized in news/editorial journalism, however, were down 4%.

Hardest hit was advertising, where employment fell 7% this year.

Despite those uneven prospects, job satisfaction remained high. More than a third, 36%, of bachelor recipients said they were very satisfied with their position, the same figure as last year. That is up 15% from two years ago.

The survey also examined how much the Internet has impacted the curriculum in the country’s journalism and communication departments. It is growing rpadily.

In 2006, more than four in ten (42%) graduating students said that at least part of their coursework required that they write and edit for the web, an increase of 37% from the previous year and up 84% compared to 2004. What's more, 14% of students reported designing and building Web pages, a figure that climbed 63% in one year and nearly doubled (99%) in just two years.

“With the Web now, working in the communications field is clearly different from what it was just a short time ago,” Becker said.

David Vaina of PEJ

The complete version of the report