How to Become an Investigative Journalist

By Michael Mills

Investigative journalism is a type of journalism in which journalists reach the depth of the story in order to reveal underlying truths, corruption scandals, roots of the crimes, reviewing of governmental policies or corporate houses, or journalists go into the depth of a story in order to draw the attention of society towards particular economic, social, political or cultural trends.

The job of an investigative journalist is really tough and dangerous; mostly journalists have to reach a disruptive, war-ridden, and conflicted or disaster sites for making the reports.

Investigative journalists have different qualities such as communication skills, strong writing, as well as absolute thorough investigative techniques.How to Become an Investigative Journalist

Here is how you can become an investigative journalist

Requirements of an Investigative Journalist: Following are the main requirements of an investigative journalist:

Detailed Information
Fields of the Degree
Broadcasting, Communications, Journalism
Most of the employers seek minimum internships or experience with the school paper.
Key Skills
Many investigative journalists are required writing skills, video-editing skills, word processing proficiency, Photoshop skills, Website design software, investigative techniques, sufficient knowledge about the video equipment and digital camera etc.
Avg. Annual Salary

In order fulfill these requirements, you need to take following steps for becoming a successful investigative journalists:

1. Obtaining a Relevant Degree

In order to become an investigative journalist, you are required to obtain a degree in any of the fields relevant to the journalist’s fields, such as broadcasting, communications, journalism, bachelors of Arts, law and ethics etc.

2. Building a Portfolio

While acquiring bachelor’s degree, you are given the chance to build a portfolio. You must grab this opportunity very solemnly, and work on the best samples that get you the smartest job in the market.

The portfolio must show investigative skills, investigative writing skills, news-gathering ability and technical proficiency etc.

3. Gaining Experience in the Field

You must start gaining experience by studying and working simultaneously.

Employers prefer the applicants, who has work experience matching standards and types of stories the organizations cover.

If you gain an experience in the field, you will be able to cover stories for the larger companies too.

How Much Do Investigative Journalists Make?

In the United States, average salary of an investigative journalist is $44,777. In some reputable and honorable law firms and media organizations, investigative journalists happen to make around $63,844.

What Does An Investigative Journalist Do?What Does An Investigative Journalist Do

Investigative journalists work like an antidote for the criminals. They go behind a story to find the truth – unravel the dirty side of the people and the society.

They work on a story for more than three months or years to reach the conclusion over a single topic of interest.

Focusing Upon an Interesting Topic: Investigative journalists tend to focus upon an interesting topic, and work to lay the basis of the story.

Follow a Routine:

During the execution of the work, investigative journalists tend to think logically, organize the work effectively and follow self-discipline.

This is very important to remain consistent and persistent in carrying out the hard work.

Exceptional Writing and Logical Thinking:

Investigative journalists exhibit exceptional communication skills and excellent reporting skills in his work.

Investigative journalism is all about deep thinking and logical reasoning.

Obtaining Documents or Proofs:

Investigative journalists try to obtain the documents or the proofs in order to prove their points and prove culprits as the criminals.

In order to retrieve documents, professional investigative journalists try to decipher and understand complex documents, sift through different accounts of the documents or obtain documents in a deceitful manner for unraveling the criminals.

With passion, curiosity, and initiative, investigative journalists find the proofs against the culprits in a strategic manner.

Sometimes, investigative journalists do not reveal their identity and carry out their work in a hidden manner.


Investigative journalists also travel to different places for covering the stories or covering only a short part of the story.

Traveling is a major part of the job of an investigative journalist. Few investigative journalists go to nice places and enjoy their time.

Otherwise, investigative journalists go to places where most of us would never go or think of going. So, traveling for journalists is not a gift, at all.

These are the main tasks that all investigative journalists follow.

How Do I Become A Freelance Investigative Journalist?How Do I Become A Freelance Investigative Journalist

By following tips below you can become a Freelance Investigative Journalist:

You must have the guts to take the risks and dare to do unique tasks. Your job is not known to many, and you will be performing some unique tasks that other journalists do not.

You must balance your other work and investigative journalism together. You must be performing obligations of your other projects; do not abandon them.

You should continue doing them and focus on your independent journalism as well.

You must have newsroom experience before freelancing. Newsroom is an important training base for the Freelance Investigative Journalists.

You should have a sounding board in order to become an investigative journalist. Or, you must have an editor or a good friend who can help you with editing and making of the videos for the submissions.

How Many Hours Do Journalists Work A Day?How Many Hours Do Journalists Work A Day

Generally, investigative journalists work for 39 hours a week. Journalists work in shifts, so s/he may have to work into different shifts of early morning, afternoon, evening, or late at nights.

May also work extra during the weekends. Journalists may have to start early at 8:00 am.

On the other hand, Investigative journalists have the flexibility to work in the part of the day that “has the story”. Journalists may have to travel to far-away places so that they can acquire the best news story.

So, it depends upon the work intensity and work-demand of each journalist – the more the work demand from the organization, the more the hours.

SO, it will exceed 39 hours for the most successful and demanded investigative journalists.

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