Studying Journalism in the US vs in Germany

Visiting the MDR TV station Source: Maria Koehler

Visiting the MDR TV station Source: Maria Koehler

The path to a journalism degree seems obvious: choose a college, declare journalism as your major, graduate, accept a job in the field. Simple. I always figured this process was consistent around world. When I studied abroad in Leipzig, Germany last summer, I learned that this is definitely not the case.

In Germany, journalism is usually studied in graduate school – at least as of last summer. We visited with students and professors at the University of Leipzig’s journalism school, and learned that a prime potential German journalism student spends her undergraduate years specializing in a different topic. In other words, a journalism degree is more like the icing on the cake, as opposed to the cake itself like at the Missouri School of Journalism. Obviously, it’s possible to study journalism exclusively in graduate school in the US as well, but it’s not necessarily the most common path.

We spent some time discussing the two different approaches, and I think there are several pros and cons to each.

The American System

Pros:

  • If a journalism major decides to go to graduate school for journalism as well, they have quite a few years of studying journalism under their belt.
  • It’s possible and common to be a journalist without having to go to graduate school.

Cons:

  • Students aren’t as likely to be an expert in another topic as well, unless they double major or study something different at graduate school.

The German System

Pros:

  • Students are an expert in the topic they have their bachelor’s degree in, so they are prime candidates for certain jobs or stories that involve these.
  • The masters program is three years long, unlike the one additional year it takes MU students to get their masters in journalism, so students are (arguably) more mature once they enter the workplace.

Cons:

  • If they end up in a career where they report about a wide range of topics, their undergraduate degree has (arguably) gone to waste.

Learning about journalism in Germany definitely opened my eyes to a different approach. The Missouri School of Journalism is known for throwing students right in to the newsroom and watching them either sink or swim. This is effective, but could also go horribly wrong. From what I understand, the German approach is almost opposite – less risky, but could also be discouraging for students who are set on being in a newsroom straight out of high school.