CHOOSING A CAREER / SEP. 20, 2014
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How to Become a Foreign Correspondent in the USA

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We do not give it much thought, but each and every day, international news is brought to our attention. Media has evolved, bringing us stories from every corner of the world. Foreign correspondents are the people responsible for reporting these stories.They typically work for a newspaper or television station, but there are also many freelance journalists abroad.

An Average Day For a Foreign Correspondent

Working as a foreign correspondent entails anything but ’average’ days. There are so many different areas that you could work within, covering a variety of topics. Many foreign correspondents report from war zones or areas of conflict. However, they can report on anything from politics, to business, to energy. Although stories will high differ from one to the next, there’s some overlap regarding tasks.

  • They cover news from another country. This can sometimes be very tough, as they’re often in countries that are surrounded by conflict and war.
  • Although they’re technically journalists, they’re the public’s eyes and ears. They are journalists who go to extreme lengths in order to get a story. It’s these stories that we would not see or hear about without their hard work and effort.
  • They observe events and interview witnesses. They’re observing in the most objective way possible, reporting hard facts. They may also need to go through public records in order to obtain vital information.
  • Depending on the situation, they may report live on TV. If not, they will either write an informative article or broadcast on the radio or television.

 

Working Conditions

Foreign correspondents typically work for one news source or as a freelancer. They typically work in the field, but may also spend time within the head news office. Although some will work 9-5, this is rare. When they’re in a foreign country, they’re ’on-call’ 24-hours a day.

News does not wait for anyone, they need to be ready when a story breaks. You may travel a lot, both internationally and within the country you’re stationed in. It is not uncommon to be in transit often, not having a home base for long.

As mentioned, they may also be positioned in an area that brings substantial risk. It is also common to feel homesick, as they try and adjust to a life that is much different from their own back home. They may experience culture shock, trying to adapt to different living conditions.

It’s not all conflict related, as some foreign correspondents will cover stories such as the Olympics. This allows them to relax and socialize a fair bit in comparison to high-stress situations. 

 

Qualifications and Experience

There are two main areas that a foreign correspondent must possess in terms of being a successful foreign correspondent. They must have a solid foundation in journalism. By the time you become a foreign correspondent, you most likely have years of journalism experience.

As well, you would be an individual who is passionate, curious, and loves experiencing various cultures and people. You need to be driven and even brave, as there are areas that bring high levels of danger.

To become a foreign correspondent, you will need a degree in journalism. Typically after school, you will need to gain experience as a journalist or reporter. Most foreign correspondents begin their career at a local news source, working their way up to a national news source for several years.

If you have your heart set on becoming a foreign correspondent, it’s beneficial to take an interest in other languages. Many individuals earned opportunities because they became fluent in multiple languages. If you’re interested in a specific area of the world, it’s also beneficial to learn the history, religion, culture, and current events regarding that location.

Income 

As a foreign correspondent, your salary could widely vary. 

 

Position

Salary 

Foreign correspondent working around the globe

Ranges from $50,000 to $70,000

Experienced

$100,000+

 

Career Development

Being a foreign correspondent is not an entry-level job. Although some freelance journalists will explore this career early on, many are placed into this position after years of experience.

The first step is going to University for journalism. Although this isn’t required for freelance work, it will be beneficial and is recommended. Even those that are freelance journalists, generally still have a thorough background in terms of education and experience. If you plan on working for a television station or newspaper, they will want to see that you have an educational background.

While you’re studying, try to get into as many opportunities as possible. This may mean volunteering for your local newspaper. No experience is bad experience. You may not make much money or any money at all, but you will have experience before you finish your studies. This can be priceless if you contact the right people and show your abilities.

After school, try to get into an apprenticeship program. This will expose you to real-world journalism. You will also build an effective and interesting network of people. 

Some of the best experience is from your own unique life experiences. If you plan on being a foreign correspondent, don’t be afraid to travel early on. Expose yourself to different cultures and interesting people, this is highly beneficial. These are the types of things that will make you standout in an interview. If each applicant has a degree in journalism, your stories about travelling around Latin America may give you an edge.

 If you’re driven and motivated, this is a great career for you. If you’re drawn to journalism, traveling, and language, you could be highly successful as a foreign correspondent. Work your way up, and you may report some of the most fascinating and interesting stories of our time. 

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