The first thing you need to become a professional journalist is an enthusiasm in writing. If you are not enthusiastic about writing it will come across in your work.
You will need to apply yourself in English lessons in school even if it is a topic which bores you as to become a good journalist you need to be a good writer.
Any writer likes to see there work in print and it is possible to achieve this even at an early age. Most magazines will have a letter section which invites readers to write in. So write in letters and see if they publish them. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t put your letter in print as these magazines receive thousands, just keep on persevering.
The internet is a very accessible tool for writers. If you have a subject you are really interested in whether that be your favourite sporting team or music star they will normally have fan websites. Write to these sites offering your services for free (most internet sites don’t pay writers) and this can be a great way to get practice in writing articles.
Check if your school, college or university has a newspaper or newsletter. If they do find out who runs it and start contributing or if one doesn’t exist start one up.
Another key aspect of a good journalist is their knowledge of the subject they are writing about. So pick a subject that you enjoy like sport, entertainment, politics etc. and do as much research on the subject as possible whilst keeping up with all the latest developments.
As well as knowing about your favourite subject it pays to be well read. The more information you can draw on in your articles the better.
When writing articles the key is to write for your audience and to do this you have to know who they are. When you are working for a newspaper or a magazine they will tell you the audience that they are trying to attract but you then have to know how to write for that audience.
A good journalist knows that they wont get the perfect article first time so write it out once and then edit it until every word is really working.
Volunteer your services to your local newspapers or ask if they have any work experience placements. This can be a great way to build up contacts and to see how a newspaper works.
When deciding upon colleges and universities make sure to get on a NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) accredited course. 99% of all newspapers and magazines will only employ journalists if they have this qualification.
To get a foot in the door you may need to start your professional life as a freelance reporter. If your work is of a consistent high quality you will normally be considered for a full time contract when one arises.
Always keep your CV up to date and keep copies of all your articles. Journalism is a competitive industry so it is important this is done in case you are ever looking to change companies.