Graduate training schemes for major papers and news organisations are rare and competition is fierce. Reuters, the FT and the Guardian currently have schemes but they do not necessarily run annually.
As such, most newspaper journalists start by doing a graduate course in journalism and then work as a trainee journalist for a smaller paper.
Graduate study is a useful way of getting qualifications and experience but applicants should check the accreditation of their preferred course for an idea of how well regarded they are within the industry.
To get a permanent job as a newspaper journalist you normally need to have passed the National Certificate Examination (NCE), run by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).
Before you can sit this exam, you must first have passed the NCTJ’s preliminary examinations which cover subjects such as Media Law and practical skills such as news writing and shorthand.
There are separate examinations for reporters, subeditors and photojournalists.
The NCTJ examinations are normally sat while working as a trainee journalist or on a journalism university course.
You must also have spent at least 18 months as a trainee journalist and have compiled a portfolio of your published stories.
Alternatively, initially working in magazine journalism may give a wider breadth of skills, as you will gain experience in various elements of production (i.e. writing, sub-editing and design) allowing you to specialise later. It may also be easier to get into magazine journalism, as this does not typically require having passed the NCE.
It is easier to move into different types of journalism from newspapers than vice versa. TV and radio news broadcasters often recruit print journalists as researchers and writers. Employment in a large media agency like Reuters may allow experienced reporters to branch into different areas of media.
Freelancing can be a viable way to sustain a career in journalism, although it does not guarantee a stable income. The National Union of Journalists website has a section dedicated to freelancers which includes information on typical rates of pay.
Building your networks is really important – student membership of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) entails affiliation to your local branch, which may enable you to meet journalists socially at meetings and events.
As with graduate schemes, there are only a limited number of internships run by national papers. Most publications (newspapers and magazines alike) welcome speculative applications for a few weeks work experience.
To get a permanent job within journalism, you need to build up a portfolio of published articles. One way to do this is to work within student journalism, writing articles for The Beaver, for example.
It is likely you have specialist knowledge in something (either from your studies, extra-curricular activities or outside interests) and there is likely to be a magazine devoted to that subject.
Writing speculative film or theatre reviews can be a way of securing initial writing assignments.
Web-based media is also a way of building up a collection of published material; start a blog, have a presence on social and professional networking sites