How to start out as a wildlife journalist

We receive many queries about how to get established as a freelance journalist specialising in wildlife or environmental issues.

Why not start by contacting your local careers service or the National Union of Journalists for more specific advice?

The following are only rough guidelines:

• A science degree could be an advantage.

• Get some work experience on BBC Wildlife or a relevant publication to gain understanding of how publishing works and to decide whether it is the career for you. Or get involved in the exciting BBC Wildlife Magazine Local Patch Reporters project. Visit our Forum to find out more

• Be prepared to do anything to get a foot in the door. Competition for jobs in all wildlife- and environment-related fields is fierce. Enthusiasm and determination to succeed in your chosen field are essential attributes.

• Read as much as you can so that you learn to distinguish good journalism from bad.

• Build up your portfolio by writing for charity magazines and local publications (even for free), such as the Wildlife Trusts, local charities or websites.

• Read lots of magazines, work out what audience they are trying to reach and what their aims are, decide what sort of stories they might be interested in (or ask them), then identify stories that will fit the magazine, contact the relevant team member and pitch the story in a brief but persuasive manner.

• Finally, nine times out of ten you will not receive a response. Don’t be put off, keep trying.

Consider enrolling on a journalism or science communication course. There are lots of courses around, ranging from multimedia journalism to creative writing, including:

1 City University, London, offers a postgraduate diploma in Magazine Journalism designed to prepare students for a first job in magazine journalism.

2 The Department of Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire (Preston) offers a broad range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, including broadcast and newspaper journalism.

3 Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses. 

4 Falmouth College of Arts offers a BA Hons in Journalism, specialising in radio journalism.

5 Imperial College London offers postgraduate courses in Science Communication, Science Media Production and Scientific, Technical and Medical Translation with Translation Technology.

6 University of Bath runs a Masters course in Science, Culture and Communication and Diploma in Science Culture and Communication.

7 The PTC offers a Professional Certificate in Journalism aimed at new journalists working on periodicals and electronic titles.

8 London School of Journalism offer many journalism courses including home study, Postgraduate and NUJ recognised.

9 National Union of Journalism offers many training courses for all stages of your career. Some is free and online.

10 Professional Publishers Association (PPA) and ContentETC have united to launch two new journalism certificates, featuring e-learning, online tutors and expert assessment. 

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