How To Become A Data Journalist

How To Become A Data Journalist via Online Data Journalism Courses

Published on: January 26, 2023
Last Updated: January 26, 2023

How To Become A Data Journalist via Online Data Journalism Courses

Published on: January 26, 2023
Last Updated: January 26, 2023

In most cases, people tend to think that all types of journalism are the same. While it is definitely not the same, they do have some common grounds.

For instance, all journalists need to ensure that their reports are backed by tangible data. In this aspect, how is data-driven journalism so different than other types of journalism?

For one, data journalism does not simply imply making use of data in your report.

Your capabilities as a data journalist need to include the ability to analyze raw data as well as write a report on it. In short, you need to be adept at certain skills like visual storytelling, coding, and programming.

And, what are all the other aspects of data journalism? In this article, we will talk about everything there is about data journalism and how to become a data journalist.

Data Journalist: What Is It?

If you want to understand the job of a data journalist, you first need to grasp the concept of data journalism. As per definition, data journalism can be described as collecting large sums of data with the help of related technological devices and analyzing it.

Therefore, programming is one of the skills that you need to have to apply for a job as a data journalist.

For instance, data journalism can be significantly seen in finance. The data journalist will be provided with a large set of data that spans for many years and will try to present it in a more accessible and sensible way.

The journalist will then make use of several programs like Excel and programming languages like Python to work on the data and sort through the information.

What Is The Job Of A Data Journalist?

One of the most important responsibilities of a data journalist is to ensure that all the articles based on the data are accurate and on-point.

Therefore, the journalist will have to review the data very carefully to achieve this responsibility and provide reliable reports. Let us look into some of the most basic responsibilities of a data journalist:

1. Data Collection

As mentioned previously, one of the responsibilities of a data journalist is collecting data on various subject matters so that they can be used in their reports.

Apart from collecting the data, data journalists need to ensure that the sources of the data are reliable.  In any form of journalism, integrity plays a very important role because the articles will be read by thousands of individuals around the world.

2. Data Analysis

In the case of data journalism, learning the best programming languages is often a required skill set and plays an important role in this aspect.

As a data journalist, you will have to make use of such programming languages to analyze the available data and create your reports. 

Programming languages will help you ensure that the data is being analyzed properly and will also help you answer any questions that may later arise.

3. Data Visualization

One of the most important components of data journalism is storytelling via data visualization. Most modern readers today prefer some forms of visual data along with the written content they read.

Therefore, you will have to know how to create visually appealing graphs and charts that can help you summarize your report and data neatly and concisely.

What Are Some Essential Skills For A Data Journalist?

image 2021 10 21 235541

It takes a lot to become a data journalist today. Here are some essential skills that you need to develop to become a data journalist:

1. Good Command Over Written Communication

As a data journalist, your primary job will be to write news stories. Therefore, you will need to have a strong command over written communication, regardless of the language.

Your articles need to be good enough to convey the point to your readers in a concise manner.

The language should be simple so that readers who are unfamiliar with the topics can understand what you are trying to say.

2. Being Resourceful

It is safe to say that the skills of data scientists and data journalists are more-or-less alike. Both professions involve processing large quantities of data.

Even though the Internet is filled with information from all parts of the world, there may still be some types of data that you are unable to find. In such cases, you need to try to be resourceful to find such data and information.

3. Know Programming Languages

As mentioned previously, a data journalist needs to have a grasp of programming languages. In fact, it is quite an important criterion that you have to meet to become a data journalist.

Of course, you do not have to learn all the programming languages; you simply need to have a good grasp and understanding over a few that you are comfortable with and will help you improve your articles.

Data Journalist: Job Salaries And Outlook

According to reports provided by the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, it has been found that news analysts and reports can earn roughly $46,270 per year.

But, it has been predicted that the job outlook for data journalism is expected to fall by at least 11% by the end of the next decade.

Experts have mentioned that there may be various factors that can lead to this downfall. For instance, the predicted drop in the job outlook could take place due to the decline of newspaper, radio, and TV advertising.

Since advertisers are making use of various online advertising forms like social media marketing, traditional ads are slowly getting replaced as people are opting more for online content.

This means that there will be fewer jobs available for journalists as well.

However, you need not worry – the field of data journalism is not going away so soon. If you are dedicated and skilled, you can easily land a job as a data journalist.

How To Become A Data Journalist: Time Taken

To become a data journalist, the first thing you will require is a bachelor’s degree. In most cases, it could take 3-4 years to complete college and procure your degree.

You can also opt for an internship so that you can experience the competitive nature of the journalism environment so that you will be able to sharpen your skills and gain some experience as well.

Of course, landing a job immediately after college is not easy. There are a lot of individuals who are competing for a handful of data journalism jobs.

However, you should never get disheartened if you are unable to land a job on the first try. However, if you manage to land your first job, you are on your way to achieving your goals.

Landing your first job as a data journalist will help you learn the various facades of the field and learn other practical skills.

How Can You Become A Data Journalist?

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Of course, there is no single way to become a data journalist. However, certain steps remain the same. Let us learn more about becoming a data journalist in this section:

Step 1: Get A Bachelor’s Degree

The first step towards becoming a data journalist is to acquire a related degree. A Bachelor’s degree in data journalism will provide you with a clear advantage from the very start.

A degree is a proof that you have learned all the technical skills that are needed to excel in this job.

Step 2: Get a Master’s Degree

While this step is not essential, earning a Master’s degree in data journalism will better your chances of landing a job. Most graduate schools will help you boost your skills and also provide you with an environment for learning practical approaches for the job.

Step 3: Get Done With Your Portfolio

If you want to successfully get a job in the field of data journalism, you need to provide samples of your work. You need to start collecting all your best projects that you have made throughout your college/graduate school life.

Accumulating all these projects will help you build a strong portfolio. It is recommended that the samples cover a wide range of topics so that you can showcase all your skills in a single go.

Step 4: Get Into The Right Workflow

Data journalism is one of those jobs that are very methodical. Therefore, you need to follow the same steps for every project that you get. You need to start by collecting the data.

Once done, start analyzing the collected data and/or information. Next, work on various ways of visualizing and reporting the information concisely and simply.

Step 5: Keep Learning Programming Languages

As mentioned beforehand, programming languages are an important part of data journalism. Hence, always keep learning some important programming languages.

Knowing programming languages will help you increase your job options later. Additionally, you will be able to process the data much faster and provide accurate reports.

Step 6: Never Stop Writing

One of the many responsibilities of a data journalist is to effectively communicate information and data. Therefore, you should always practice your writing.

Look for ways to improve your language skills. One great way to improve your writing is to continually take on new projects. Alternatively, you can also start practicing different styles of writing.

Educational Requirements For Becoming A Data Journalist

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The first step towards becoming a data journalist is to have a bachelor’s degree in this field. This means that you can either complete an undergraduate program degree in communication or journalism.

Most US-based colleges offer both majors.

It is also preferable that you take a programming course. As we have talked about previously, data journalism requires knowledge about programming languages. You can take these classes at your university or online classes.

Yes, you can become a data journalist even with an undergraduate or a master’s degree in data science. Overall, you need to prove your skills as a person who is skilled in data sciences.

As long as you meet these criteria, you can easily secure your job as a data journalist.

What Are The Best Courses And Programs To Become A Data Journalist?

You will find a lot of courses and programs that can help you achieve your goal of becoming a data journalist. As you already know, becoming a data journalist means becoming an expert in two fields.

Let us look into some courses below that can put you on the path of becoming a successful data journalist:

How To Become A Journalist: A Complete Guide

  • Provider: Udemy
  • Requirements: None
  • Cost: $12.99
  • Length: Varies

This coursework has been penned by Tony Bosworth, whose previous works have been covered and published in the Financial Times. Here, you will find all the topics related to the data journalism course like dealing with defamation, responsible journalism, how to build a story, the basics of technical writing, etc.

Data Science: Visualization

  • Provider: Havard University
  • Requirements: None
  • Cost: Free
  • Length: Varies

One of the key skills of becoming a data journalist is identifying ways to present information effectively. In this program, you will learn all the basics of data visualization with the help of the R programming language. You will also learn how you can analyze data effectively in a way that will complement your reports.

Various Online Data Journalism Certifications

Apart from the above-mentioned online courses, you can also opt for certification programs that will increase your value as a data journalist. Certification in such courses will always be helpful when you are applying for jobs.

Data Journalism And Visualization With Free Tools

  • Provider: Class Central
  • Requirements: None
  • Cost: Free
  • Length: Varies

This is a free online certification course provided by Google News Initiative. Here, you will find topics that can help learn various types of skills like writing data-driven stories, ways to find the right data, etc. After completing the six modules, you will be rewarded with a certificate.

Media Standards And Data Journalism

  • Provider: Alison
  • Requirements: None
  • Cost: Free
  • Length: Varies

This is yet another free course that will focus on making sure that the data that are used in your reports meet journalistic standards. H

ere, you will learn about various topics like responsible reporting, your obligations as a journalist, etc.

Introduction To Python Programming

  • Provider: Georgia Tech
  • Requirements: Previous knowledge about computers
  • Cost: $536.40
  • Length: Five months

In today’s time, Python is often hailed as the most popular programming and coding language. With the help of this course, you will learn how to code in Python, interpret data for analytical purposes, etc.

Basically, you will learn everything there is about Python. Once you complete this course successfully, you will be a certified Python programmer.

Good With Words: Specialization In Writing And Editing

  • Provider: Coursera
  • Requirements: None
  • Cost: $39
  • Length: Varies

As you can guess by the words, this is a specialization course that will help you learn how to write better articles. This course is considered one of the best for editors and reporters.

You will learn how to communicate better; additionally, it will also help you brush up on sentence construction, syntax, grammar, etc.


Do you need a bachelor’s degree to become a professional data journalist?

Yes, you would be required to earn a college degree to become a professional data journalist. Additionally, you would also have to professionally learn a programming language or two. A bachelor’s degree will improve your chances of landing a job in the field of data journalism.

Can you find online courses on data journalism?

Yes, you can easily find a lot of journalism courses online. Some of these courses are available for free while others are paid. Most of these courses provide certificates once you successfully complete them. These certificates can help you when you are applying for data journalist jobs.

Is it possible to learn data journalism on your own?

While you can learn data journalism on your own, it is recommended that you opt for online journalism schools. A professional course will help you learn all about data journalism faster and easier. In fact, they are self-paced so that you can plan your study schedule individually.

Final Words: Becoming A Data Journalist

The first step towards becoming a data journalist is to decide whether you want to enter the field of journalism in the first place.

You should know that this career path is less secure than most others because the interest of the public always keeps changing.

However, this profession is still alive, thanks to eager and aspiring journalists. Data journalism can be quite an interesting form of journalism because it combines traditional and digital methods of reporting.

Therefore, it is quite safe to say that becoming a data journalist in today’s time is viable because people will always be looking for reports that are filled with data. Most people read data-driven topics like economics, finance, etc. daily.

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Written by Jason Wise

Hello! I’m the editor at EarthWeb, with a particular interest in business and technology topics, including social media, privacy, and cryptocurrency. As an experienced editor and researcher, I have a passion for exploring the latest trends and innovations in these fields and sharing my insights with our readers. I also enjoy testing and reviewing products, and you’ll often find my reviews and recommendations on EarthWeb. With a focus on providing informative and engaging content, I am committed to ensuring that EarthWeb remains a leading source of news and analysis in the tech industry.