Fast Track

How to make it in your chosen career: Magazine journalist
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The Independent Online

Job description (what it says): Researching and writing news and features stories. Commissioning written and illustrative material.

Job description (what it says): Researching and writing news and features stories. Commissioning written and illustrative material.

Job description (what it means): Being able to turn an interview with three birdwatchers from Hull into gripping reading. And having grit: this world is about as competitive as it gets. You'll be developing ideas for articles, writing articles in house styles, liaising with art departments and proofreading.

Qualifications: For mainstream mags, any degree, plus a postgraduate course in journalism if possible. Specialist publications may require specialist knowledge and a particular degree - eg, engineering, science or computing. Being able to spell helps, as does accuracy. Familiarity with Quark Xpress, e-mail and the internet is increasingly essential.

Way in: Experience - involvement in student journalism, at the very least. Apply to a publishing group for entry to training schemes, or to the editor of a specific magazine. Trainees with big publishing houses will be trained in reporting, writing, proofreading, sub-editing, layout, production and law. Smaller organisations may not provide this. Give evidence of commitment and writing skills, enclosing samples. Read publications thoroughly; know the content and target readership. If you want to go freelance, e-mail or fax ideas to features editors, or send in articles on spec. With three or four commissions, you've reason to be hopeful.

Salary: £10,000-16,000

In five years you could be earning: £20,000-50,000

Benefits: Variety. Journalism means meeting a wealth of fascinating folk. If you work for yourself, unrivalled freedom.

Downside: Long hours, tight deadlines; scary when people bark at you because they assume you're like Jeremy Paxman. The industry is concentrated in the South-east. Mind you, freelances can work from a garden shed in the Highlands if necessary.

Read: UK Press Gazette; Media Week; local press; magazines that are recruiting.

Icon: Anna Wintour, editor of American Vogue.

Need not apply: Anyone not naturally nosy, or lacking in resilience: the shouting and bickering in magazine offices could scare the hardiest soul.

Prospects: Upward mobility is not structured. Progression can be from staff writer to sub-editor/chief sub/section head, then editor or publisher; or into newspapers, TV journalism, PR or freelance specialisms.

Do say in interview: "Marcelle D'Argy Smith was my childhood heroine."

Don't say: "There was a bomb in London yesterday, you say? Gosh, it completely passed me by."

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