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In defense of a journalism major

This Thanksgiving break, in between getting beaten during the Turkey Trot by a nursing home running club, impulsively buying P90x after the worst food coma of my life and seeing “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2” three times (and realizing that I will die alone), I perpetually heard different variations of the same three questions: “You’re graduating in May? You’re a journalism major? Um… what are you going to do with that?”

I’m not going to act like I’m special. During break, everyone gets interrogated by their relatives/parent’s friends/random high school acquaintances (that you had no desire to see again) about their post-college plans.


But I do think that journalism gets a bad rap, since journalists, being the narcissists we are, are perpetually writing about how hopeless our livelihood is.

I want to set the record straight: Yes, the industry is suffering, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t jobs.

According to an April article by the Poynter Institute, experienced journalism graduates (meaning those who did student media or got internships) have a 6 percent unemployment rate, compared to the average 8.9 percent unemployment rate for recent graduates as a whole.

Sure, some of those graduates might be living with their parents and working at Starbucks, but I know recent graduates who are working at the Fort Collins Coloradoan, the Greeley Tribune and even the Denver Post.

Journalism majors make an average of $50,000 a year, according to the 2010 Census. The average salary for Americans is $42,979.61, according to the National Average Wage Index. Sure, it might be lower than the average of $56,415 a year that people with bachelor’s degrees make, but journalism still didn’t crack Time magazine’s list of the 20 lowest paying college majors.

While I personally want to be a reporter, it definitely doesn’t mean that’s the profession you’re locked into with a journalism degree. According to, journalism graduates can be book editors, content producers, grant writers or public relations specialists (a.k.a. joining the dark side), just to name a few options.

Anyway, I’m not in it for the money. As cheesy as it sounds, I stuck with my journalism degree because I love it.

As a kid, I never really knew what I wanted to do. Some days I wanted to work in the stock market, others as an astronaut and others still selling used cars (I was a weird kid). During my short journalism career, I’ve gotten the chance to do something new every single day, from riding the cyclocross course at New Belgium to wading my way through the CSU budget.

Sure, I’ve spent a large portion of college unnecessarily stressed about Board of Governors meetings, but I can’t say I’ve ever been bored.


I’m not the best writer, nor am I the most creative person on the planet, but that’s not what journalism, at its core, is about. It’s about finding those stories that no one has told, and perpetually talking to interesting people and learning new things… not to mention occasionally sticking it to authority.

I get paid to be curious, and even though I might make less than the average college graduate, in my mind, it’s still the coolest job on the planet.

Am I perfect at it? No, as anyone who has read any of the stuff I’ve written in the Collegian can attest, but half of the fun of journalism is the fact that there’s always a chance to improve.

Last week, while I was giving a friend a friend of mine who works at a newspaper in town a ride to the airport, we chatted about the merits of our journalism degrees.

“I could probably have majored in something else, and not be broke,” she said, “but I feel like I sound cool when I tell people at bars that I’m a reporter.”

Let’s be real — sounding less like a total nerd in bars is the real reason why I majored in journalism. Kidding aside, what I really wish I told people who questioned me about my major over Thanksgiving Break is that I’m doing what I love, and that my degree might not be the highest paying, but it’s pretty awesome.

And no… the journalism department did not pay me to write this.


Editor in Chief Allison Sylte is a senior journalism major. Her column appears Mondays in the Collegian. She can be reached at or on Twitter @AllisonSylte.

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