Magazine journalism

Magazine journalists need to be able to uncover a great story and report it accurately, but they also need the ability to communicate with people.

They need to empathise and connect with people from all walks of life who have a story to tell. This is a very special skill. Reporters who specialise in magazines must also be aware of how their stories will affect the business of the magazine. They need to ask: Will it please the readership demographic of the magazine? Will it attract advertisers to the magazine website?

Some journalists begin their careers in magazines starting as an editorial assistant and working their way up to writer or features writer. This takes many years and a lot of time performing administrative duties which have no connection to journalism.

Formal training in magazine journalism, such as that provided by the NCTJ, is the best way to go straight into magazines as a journalist. NCTJ accredited magazine courses are run at various colleges, universities and private companies - see the accredited courses section of this website for further details.

NCTJ magazine courses cover media law, ethics, government, shorthand to 80wpm, news and feature writing, production and design, sub-editing and an overall background to the magazine industry. There is also a period of work experience on a magazine. NCTJ preliminary examinations will be undertaken, together with the assessment of a portfolio of work produced on the course.

Many journalists who sat NCTJ newspaper journalism courses successfully move from newspapers into the magazine world. NCTJ accredited newspaper journalism courses are listed in the accredited courses section of this website.

To apply for an NCTJ-accredited magazine course contact the course provider directly and then the institution will advise you on how to apply.

NCTJ case study: top tips on magazine journalism
Magazine editor Roger Borrell shares his top tips on carving out a career in magazine journalism.
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Roger Borrell is editor of Lancashire Life (incorporating Lake District Life) magazine and group editor of Archant Life’s northern titles, which include Yorkshire Life, Cheshire Life and North East Life. Lancashire Life is Britain's biggest selling county magazine and is a recent winner of the Newspaper Society's UK Regional Magazine of the Year award. Roger was previously Midlands' editor-in-chief of Trinity Mirror and editor of the Birmingham Evening Mail. Before that he edited the Lancashire Evening Post, moving there after being deputy editor of the Evening Chronicle in Newcastle upon Tyne. He has been a news editor, an industrial correspondent and he started his career 30 years ago in Cornwall on the Falmouth Packet, which is a newspaper not a boat.

Hints and tips

  • The media is changing frequently. It’s a volatile and unpredictable industry. Magazines are often niche products at the 'softer' end of journalism and they appeal to different people with different interests 
  • Many magazine journalists start off as editorial assistants. The attributes looked for – a hunger for the job, confidence without arrogance, the ability to hold a conversation, personality, competitiveness, be prepared to take the odd knock here and there. We want to see commitment to the industry through work experience yet we understand that sometimes this is a catch 22 situation – no work experience, no job but no job without work experience 
  • Someone who is level headed and organised makes a good journalist.
  • I would always look for graduate when recruiting although what degree they hold isn't hugely important – it simply demonstrates an ability to be motivated. Saying that, degrees in subjects such as politics, history, economics etc would show a strong aptitude for research and analysis, important skills for a journalist.
  • When applying for a job to work experience – know the publication you're applying to. Do your research – address the letter to a specific person rather than "dear sir/madam"; know a little about the staff, the circulation, the audience, the kind of copy included etc.
  • Salary: outside London, editorial assistant anything up to £16k