Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Where to find PJ jobs

Please approach the following markets only if completely prepared. This means PJs already have a solid portfolio on CD and online, proper stationary, a perfected resume, cover letter and thank you notices, a way to track correspondence and a willingness and/or need to move (expect permanently) to a new location with new challenges.

If all these criteria are met, below is the daily hunting list for PJ jobs. There are additional navigation tips at the bottom of this post. Sites are listed in the order most likely to have PJ openings.

Industry job banks:

NPPA Job Information Bank
Must be an NPPA member to use the JIB. Many of the premium jobs are ONLY listed here to eliminate unqualified applicants.
This is the primary source for human resources postings (it means someone other than the photo department handles hiring).
Society for News Design job bank
UK journalism job list
Media Bistro
Magazine market looking primarily for photo editors with experience.
Editor & Publisher jobs
Southern Newspaper Publishers Association jobs

Media corporation (in-house) job banks:

USA Today Network careers
Nexstar Careers
New York Times Company careers
Tribune Media careers
Scripps careers
Belo careers
Cox Media Group careers
McClatchy careers
Lee Enterprises Inc. career openings
Morris Communications Company careers
Ogden Newspapers, Inc.
Hearst careers Hearst properties typically handle employment independently.

Job link lists (for early-career applicants):

American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) job search
American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) job bank and links
Association of Alternative Newsweeklies

Related Fields job banks:

Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. (IRE) job center
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) help wanted
High-level professors wanted for major universities. Masters, doctorial degrees and/or significant awards needed before applying.
International Association of Business Communicators career and job postings board
American Copy Editors Society (ACES) job bank
Public Relations Society of America JobCenter
PRWeek jobs


Folks entering the profession as well as experienced PJs with multiple skills should include www.craigslist.org in daily job searches. Since budgets have been slashed, many large companies look for tech-savvy professionals on Craigs List. PJs with the most diverse skills will find it most useful. Otherwise, it's a location to pick up a freelance gig or two to pay the bills.

Because it's best to search for jobs in desired locations, here's the best fishing holes for different skill-level PJs:

writing / editing
art / media / design
skilled trade / craft (rare)


To make a job hunt easier, consider the following tips:

1. Be patient. A search for a good PJ job takes six months to a year.
2. Only apply to jobs you want.
3. Don't pay to have a resume posted online or through some other service.
4. Learn where the search section of each job bank is and type in "photo" with few other restrictions to get the highest number of potential jobs.
5. Know where you've been and where you're going (pay, circulation and skills). Apply to jobs which are one step above your experience level.
6. It's easier to find a job if you already have a job in the field.
7. Understand some employers only hire from the local region.
8. Understand some employers can't afford everyone they want and might not even ask how much you want because they think your price will be too much (nobody likes rejection).
9. A pre-screen isn't a job guarantee.
10. Until a negotiation is settled, all options remain possible.
11. Don't send portfolios via expensive, faster routes (Overnight Express, Priority Mail, etc...) unless the employer specifically asks for it.
12. Although low-level, low-pay jobs are available through word-of-mouth and friendly e-mails, the good jobs are always posted somewhere legitimate to get the widest possible pool of talent.
13. Don't forget to check the state press associations for jobs in states of interest.

Enough for now,


Anonymous said...

This is great work Mark -- Thanks

We are starting to talk about this in our Visual Journalism 1 class and your advice comes in handy.

Dennis Dunleavy
San Jose State

Mark M. Hancock said...

Happy to help. More info coming soon. :-)

Michael Rubenstein said...

Once again, Mark, you're my hero!

Julia Smith said...

hello im an aspiring photojournalist in highschool and i wanted to say that the info you posted was very interesting and helpful. i am writing a report for photojournalism and i wanted to thank you for all your useful info! it helped me a lot. Thanks
~Julia Smith~

Mark M. Hancock said...

Good luck Julia. :-)

Bethany said...


I graduated from college (BFA Photography) about year ago. I had a fabulous internship in India photographing NGO development projects. Now I live in Myanmar (Burma) and I want to work as a free-lance photojournalist. The local Myanmar Times Newspaper said that hiring locals is better for them, because they can get to places that foreigners can't. I have a big, diverse portfolio and I want to get work, but am having a lot of trouble in this area. I prefer to work internationally and I am an adreniline junkie, so I am looking for more rough edge assignments. I really don't know where to go for jobs. I mean I am already living permanetly in Asia for awhile, so does anyone have any suggestions? I know many countries have foreigners working on newspapers, for translation purposes. For example I volunteered for a very short time at a newspaper in Loas (editor). Maybe I should just go to the Myanmar times with my portfolio and not worry about what I heard second hand. Any suggestions.

Mark M. Hancock said...

Unless you hear the words spoken, don't believe rumors. Contact the local paper. Better yet, walk in with some images they want (a fire or major wreck) and then talk. It won't always get a staff job, but it will produce enough freelance work to suppliment your income.
Meanwhile, buy a copy of The Photographer's Market and send off some introductory letters and story proposals about your area. Since you are already there and have access, you'll probably get the gigs if the story is good.

aaron said...

Im trying to break into photojournalism. It seems the only way is to just go somewhere nasty and start clicking away, come back home (NYC) and hope someone pays attention. I am a hearty, big and ballsy young guy...I've been in nasty situations before,good at covering my butt and love to get my hands dirty. My questions are how does one obtain(or do you even need...) a press pass in conflict areas...how do you sell the shots you get and should I just pack a bag and jet to Sierra Leone!?

Mark M. Hancock said...

First, you need a 4-year degree. It can be in anything, but it's an industry standard.

Also, don't let your ambition get you killed. We take calculated risks - not dumb ones.

Next, there is no universal press pass. Different credentials are issued for different assignments. In foreign countries, each country has its own rules. Typically, it's better to ask forgiveness than permission.

Lastly, do NOT go somewhere dangerous before you have a client for the images. The client wants the images while you're there (deliver, then die), so you need a way to transmit.

As I said above, get the Photographer's Market, make an online portfolio, find a story idea, research it and start calling until someone gives you the assignment.

If nobody is taking a good idea (particularly if you offer it on spec), ask yourself why and approach the market slightly differently.

Wendybird said...

Thanks, this is some of the most useful info I have found.

Daniel Laffoley said...

I am a 3rd year BA degree student in the uk studying fine art specialising in photography.
I love to travel alot and can never stay still and enjoying going places with my camera to different parts of the world.
I have a special interest in charity work and helping others so i would love to go to places like Africa and try and help the poverty awareness.
After my degree i want to get into photojournalism and travel with it, i dont want to be grounded.
I have a great passion for photography and researching photojournalism it sounds like the perfect profession for me but i dont really know what the best way about getting into it is, do you have any advice for me?

Mark M. Hancock said...

If you wait until you have your degree, you waited too long. If you want to be a PJ, you need to start doing the background work now. This means preparing your basics, getting stringer gigs, learning the biz side and making all your mistakes while you're still studying.

College students can make mistakes, pros can't. The second you graduate, you're a pro.

It sounds like you're more into documentary work. The NGO path might be the best bet for you. For now, you can start working with local charities to build up your portfolio with local humanitarian images. Every community has needs, there's no need to wait until you're on another continent.

Frontier said...

Great info and some really simple and straightforward answers.

I'm 24 and have been in the DoD contracting world for 5 years now and want out badly. I have some basic knowledge but want to get started in PJ. The photography offerings at my local universities and community colleges are extremely basic, Is a 4 year degree a prereq for most PJ positions? Are there workshops that I could attend that would be more worthwhile then a traditional class?

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Edward,
Yes, you need a degree.
About one-in-five newsroom jobs were cut this year (600 in the last two weeks). Right now, you'd be competing for low-level jobs and freelance work against experienced pros with advanced degrees, daily experience and pro awards.

wendy said...

This is a great post. I am surprised I just found it. Thanks so much for all the info. I'm a Brooks Inst. of Photography graduate. I got a PJ degree 3-4 years ago. I've been doing a lot of freelance event and wedding photography but after going to peru to shoot an ongoing story on the upper amazons i realized that i really wished i had more luck finding a staff photo position around my area and the links you've posted are very helpful, so thank you!

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Wendy,
Staff PJ gigs are getting hard to find, but they're still available for a while.
Good luck!

Unknown said...

Thank you very much! It is helpful for my future. I want to be a war photographer for future. Now, I volunteer for the local fire department as photographer. It is unique title but I am enjoying it! It is great experience!

Thank you again!

I will only apply job that I want to but it is hard, is nt it?

Liz Wyman said...

Thank you for having a site with so much information on photojournalism. I have a journalism degree from University of Oregon and have not had any luck getting into the field. So about a year after hunting I decided to start my own photography business shooting wedding and events since I could find experience in that kind of photography. I have been in business four years now, but it is still very seasonal work, April- October. I was wondering where you think stable photography jobs will be in the next three to five years. Do you think there will be any real entry level positions for someone who wants to get into Photojournalism even with a degree? Local media in my area are laying off people in huge number and many of the very establish portrait photographers I know are having a large drop in business.

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Elizabeth,

I honestly wish I had happy news, but I don't. Nobody is going to miss the work of newspaper reporters (photo and text) until most of us are gone.

I expect all sectors of the industry will be affected by the end of the year (including the wire services).

Several experiments are taking place around the world to save reporting jobs, but none have made significant income to salvage the number of journalism jobs being lost each day.

Coincidentally, most working journalists expect to move into public relations. However, the need for press releases declines with each newspaper job cut.

I hope there will be a robound next year, but I haven't yet seen a complete mechanism to provide information, access, outlet and income.

Doug Strickland said...


I have been following your site for months now, taking in everything that you have to offer. I am a senior at a small liberal arts college in KY majoring in English, because my school doesn't offer any photography courses or journalism courses, and I have been doing everything I can to educate myself about the business and about taking photos. I've been working freelance and now an intern for the local paper since the spring, and though they cannot afford to pay me because of the gradual decline in business, I am more interested in the experience that I am getting. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that beginning this all my junior year of college will hurt my chances of finding work, as is the lack of photo or journalism classes. Am I going to need to return to college to take a few photo and media law courses after I graduate to have any chance of landing work? Will papers want to hire a photographer with no formal photo or journalism training for freelance work even if I have a decent portfolio?

I'm also curious about work with NGOs, I know you mentioned it to another poster but I haven't found anything definitive about it on your site. Do you have more information about photography work with NGO's? Would I contact them for freelance work the same as any other organization?

Doug Strickland

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Doug,

First, buy a media law book and read it. As long as you know the information, you aren't a liability to a publication. Ignorance of the law is a problem.

If a masters degree is an option, it might be best at this point. It would allow you to go to a university that offers photojournalism, media law, reporting and more (you're surrounded by some of the best). It would also allow you to gain more experience and win some awards. Additionally, it would allow the industry time to solve the current newsroom layoff problem or completely implode. Either way, the additional degree would allow you to become a professor.

If the advanced degree isn't an option, the situation isn't as dire as you might think.

The major doesn't matter as much as completing a four-year degree. Without a degree or connections, it's almost impossible to land a staff gig because all other applicants do have degrees, experience and awards.

An English degree establishes your ability to write, which opens many other doors. For instance, you could become a reporter or copy editor and eventually work your way to the photo desk. It takes longer and will be frustrating, but it's a proven route.

The internship is a great start. Now you need to get better (paid) internships. Freelance clips and awards open doors faster than anything else. Pro awards are more valued than minor collegiate awards, but CPOY is still the gold standard.

Learn the business side of this field soon. Working for free is a bad habit. It should be broken soon. You can shoot for cheap while you learn, but don't shoot for free. It only empowers others to demand free photos in the future and further degrades the industry.

You should already have your clients lined up for fall football. The clients who pay the most get Friday nights (HS varsity) and Saturday afternoon (college). The next highest gets Sunday (private schools) and/or Thursday (shared stadiums and JV). These gigs will morph into hoops and the diamonds before next summer's internship.

Work the college town for local band gigs. It might lead to album covers.

If you're OK with a $20K staff job after college, those jobs still exist. Competition for each job becomes more brutal per $1K thereafter. By the time you approach a $30K job, you need to have a serious reputation. If you're looking to move up to a metro paper, everything becomes more difficult - especially in Kentucky.

Unfortunately, most NGOs have lost funding as the economy nosedived. There's still money, but there's also too much freelance talent now. The big-name pros will take the premium assignments while you'll get malaria and a thank-you note.

However, yes, you would approach them like any other freelance client. Have a passport, insurance and all your shots before you start calling.

I wish I had more positive news for you, but nobody knows where the industry is going at the moment. So, it's hard to speculate how to prepare for what's next.

Good luck!

Doug Strickland said...

No need to approve this comment if you want to save space, but thank you so much for all the information! Your blog has been, by far, the most valuable resource I have found on the internet regarding this industry, and I would be lost without it.

Mark M. Hancock said...

Drop me an e-mail, and I'll answer your question off-line.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this helpful information. I was wondering if you could help me and tell me what I should do or give me advice well the thing is at the moment I'm in a community college, majoring in communications, but I been thinking of switching to another major, but I'm not sure if want to stay there to finish it and get an associate degree instead. What I actually want to do is transfer to a university since there are many choices for me to choose from. My biggest interest is photography, but at the same time I feel that with a bashelors degree in photography still mostly likely won't help me that much. That's why I was thinking of wanting to do photojournalism instead and it seems like the university that I want to transfer offers it.

However I'm thinking the same thing about Photojournalism and I'm having mixed feelings of deciding to major in something that is related to the field and would easily land me a good job after graduation; like maybe Public Relations or business?

If only finding a job wasn't so hard it would be great to get a job in a magazine publication since that's one of the things I want to do and biggest interests when it comes to photography it's music and fashion. So a music or fashion magazine would be great, but like I said would a photojournalism major be enough? I been told from some photographers that it would be best to major in something in the business field because that will help you know how to handle a business and many other things. Then again I could always get my associate for business here and then transfer, but at the moment I would rather go somewherea & just focus on what I want to do.

Mark M. Hancock said...

Take as many classes as possible at a community college. The classes cost less and you will often have better instructors (community colleges often pay instructors more and don’t have teacher assistants running classes).
That said, I’d steer you toward Commercial Photography rather than Photojournalism if you have photo fever and income is an issue. Many of my college classmates are doing fine as commercial photographers for various large corporations or at their own studios. They shoot food, fashion and products. They also do magazine work to essentially promote their commercial work.
Until something major happens (Google recently hinted about investing in journalism), Photojournalism as an end game is a dangerous path if finances matter. You would at least need to be prepared to shoot weddings whenever possible – which will eventually interfere with your photojournalism work.
I hate to say it, but the cost of education has made all arts into high-risk careers. You don’t want to rack up extreme debt to learn that you can’t find a job, or it pays less-than-acceptable wages. This is true for all the arts.
To test your commitment, try to get some stringer gigs. Every local paper needs sports photos. You’ll immediately see all the issues for yourself.
Good luck!

Mark M. Hancock said...

I updated all the links above (and killed an uncomfortable amount).