Discussion about
christiancasill

April 13th 2014 2:14 am

What do I need to major in to do what you guys do?

I'm currently a computer science major (BS) and starting at a community college, I'm almost done with my first year and, now that I'm getting closer to the end of this first one, I'm not so sure I want to do computer science anymore. I'm deeply interested in what you guys do though! Writing about technology in a way that helps the consumer and people who are really interested and I come to this site multiple times a day. My question is: what did you guys major in? Journalism? some sort of tech field? If I wanted to do what you guys do, that is writing about technology and being a part of the blogs and sites that write about and report on new technologies coming out, what sort of education would I be looking at?

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6 replies
jonfingas

In my case, it was English lit. Journalism would certainly be a good path, too. More than anything, you need to know how to write well. If you're passionate about gadgets and science, reading about them every day will do wonders for your knowledge; the tricky bit is conveying that knowledge to an audience in a way that's both lively and easily understood.

Also, don't be afraid to start up your own tech writing initiative, whether it's a personal blog or something else. So long as you're committed to it (that is, post regularly) and focus on quality, it'll be a tremendous help to both your skill and your CV.
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TgD

I think that is a really good response!

I am not paid or have ever been paid for writing about tech, so take the following with a grain of salt.

Although I am lazy at maintaining my personal blog, I am active and contribute in most communities of places that I really like. I participate heavily on forums on Engadget, comments and forums in the Mobile Nations group, or even some off-tech sites like RedFlagDeals. In fact, I saw that CrackBerry just hired a new writer from their community this week. So I believe community is a way to get to the inside.

If you have passion for this particular stuff, it will show. If you are bonkers, it will also show. I may not have a formal job writing about technology, but the staff are aware of who I am. Perhaps it's because I go out and spend my hard earned money on phones to try out and write nice reviews (side point: BlackBerry 10 review coming soon!), or because I drove 1600 miles under the effects of food poisoning to be at a gdgt live event. If your track record shows you are serious about things (and this conclusion echo's Jon's point) it will help you out.

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frankspin

I will third the becoming active in the community of interest. It's how I landed with gdgt, and I know Android Police has found a few contributors from the Android subreddit.

Additionally take up writing at least once, or twice a week. You don't need to publish anything and advertise it, but just write about a topic of interest from the week. What you will find is the more you write the better you will become. You'll start to recognize the faults in your writing and begin to phase them out of your style.

Also have knowledge of a particular area that others may not can greatly help you with contributing. While sites do have experts for particular areas there is always going to be some area that someone may not fully understand. You should use your computer science knowledge to your advantage with this.
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nicolelee

Hi Christian! For me, I majored in English Lit and Journalism, and then got my Masters in Speech & Communication Studies. The journalism major proved more useful than I realized, as it helped me learn valuable reporting skills I still use to this day. However, I'd say none of that education was as useful as my four internships and the two semesters working for my college's newspaper. There's nothing more valuable than just straight-up experience. Like the others, I recommend just writing regularly so that you're able to hone your voice and get better by doing it. If you're interested in reading up on how to write, I highly recommend On Writing Well. It's the best book I've ever read about how to write cleanly and clearly.

That said, I think having a strong grounding in a particular topic is great as well! So if you want get that computer science degree, I say do it, and maybe just take a couple of writing/journalism classes on the side to get a feel for it. I'd also suggest starting a personal blog and then maybe even try pitching a story or two to a publication. Good luck!
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TimSeppala

Hey Christian!

I'd say that there's probably no one "right" way to get a journalism job. From my experience, I simply have been reading gaming coverage ever since I got burned by buying a really crappy game (Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2002, if you're curious). After that, I'd read sites like IGN and 1Up pretty religiously and always thought it'd be cool to get paid to write about games.

My chance came after I'd seen an article in my local newspaper about Rockstar Games' web-design contractor being located in my city. This was a month or so before GTA IV released, and I emailed the tech editor seeing if he'd need help covering the game's midnight release. I attached an English 102 research paper I'd written about the government's role in regulating violent and adult content in games as an example of my work (I had zero other clips at that point), and he offered me the chance to cover the event for his blog on the paper's website. The rub, however, was that he couldn't pay me to do it.

I jumped up and down and screamed excitedly in my room, and then calmly replied that I'd be more than happy to do it. I wrote a few more blog posts for him for free and after that he offered me my first paying print feature for a whopping $80. That lead to more work (and better pay from the paper), and eventually my own blog on the website where I could cover pretty much whatever I wanted.

Despite taking between six and nine credits and working full-time at another job, I still wrote at least three to four posts per week, just to get my voice and experience up to snuff. I was still freelancing for the paper's print version at the time too, and working with those seasoned editors gave me invaluable experience and taught me more than I've learned in any journalism or writing class I've taken since.

I'm nine credits form my bachelor's degree in public relations, but to echo what everyone else has said, it doesn't particularly matter exactly what you're degree is in if you have the experience to back it up. For example, our editor in chief was a practicing attorney before he joined Engadget.

My best advice is to simply set a deadline for yourself to produce at least one article or blog post every week. In a year's time you'll be amazed at how far you've come in terms of your style, tone and skill. As an added bonus, you'll probably have a few posts that you're happy enough with to include in a portfolio to present to a potential employer.

Also like others have said, find a specialty or niche and rock it. If you're super interested and well-versed in one specific area, it can be the difference in getting a job or not. This is a little cart-before-the-horse, but pay attention to where you're pitching and find a role to fill that is currently empty.

Oh, and read Stephen King's "On Writing" and "The New Kings of Nonfiction" by Ira Glass. Seriously.

www.amazon.com­/Writing­-10th­-Anniversary­-Memoir­-Cra...

www.amazon.com­/The­-Kings­-Nonfiction­-Michael­-Lewis­/...

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christiancasill

I'd like to thank all of you for your incite, I didn't think I'd get as many great responses as I did when I posted this! I think I may stick with computer science since it's still something I'm interested in and will take communication and journalism classes in the future just to get a grasp on it if I decide to change my major path. Thank you all though it's great having incite on a career path from people who work the field!
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