If you want to become a correspondent in a foreign country you should begin with earning a journalism or communications degree. Generally, before you will be considered for overseas assignments, you’ll be required to ‘earn your chops’ by performing the duties and tasks of a journalist or reporter for some local agency or for a national news source for a number of years.
It also goes without saying that if you want to become a foreign correspondent, you’ll have better opportunities for covering the news in a particular country if you have become fluent in the country’s language are educated in the history and culture of that particular region as well.
You should also be aware of, and take an active interest in, local and regional current events. Most media employers (be it print, television broadcast, or online media) require their foreign correspondent to have completed a graduate degree program, and holding a Master’s degree in Journalism with, for example, a concentration in foreign affairs or international journalism, will definitely help.
Foreign correspondents may work as freelancers for multiple media sources, or be employed by one particular news organization. They may be working in a foreign head office, or in the field, but most do their work in both situations. Seasoned foreign journalist John Tulloh says that generally life as a foreign journalist or correspondent is exactly the opposite of a 9 to 5 job, and when you’re posted in a foreign country, you’re actually ‘on call’ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and you always need to be available whenever news breaks.
You’re often just in transit, not knowing when and where you’ll be posted next or for what time frame, and you probably won’t be spending much time at what you call your home base. At first, you’ll need to deal with all sorts of culture shocks and you’ll have to get used to living conditions that are probably quite different from what you were used to at home. You also may be posted to a conflict or war-torn region and then you’ll have to accept all potential risks associated with the job as well.
Despite all these risks and warnings, there are quite a few foreign correspondents who really found their specific ‘niche’, are having fulfilling careers, and leading the life they wish. There are of course also moments that they’ll be reporting positive news, or telling happy stories about, for example, the opening ceremony of Olympic Games, or of newly gained freedom in a region that was previously occupied or at unrest.
Another positive aspect is that the work of a foreign correspondent involves a lot of multitasking, and this can at times be thrilling. John Tulloh is adding that the majority of successful foreign correspondents are not just reporting, they can also often be found filming or taking photos.
Around the world, there are numerous clubs for foreign correspondents. These are important meeting hubs where foreign correspondents not only are socializing and relaxing after their often intense assignments, these clubs are also the places for meeting their colleagues, to learn what’s going on, and to share information.
A great example is the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong, one of the most prestigious press clubs in the world that was originally founded in Shanghai in the 1940’s. Today, the famous Hong Kong Club is welcoming all types of media representatives to join and attend press conferences, enjoy dinner and drinks, or engage in business meetings or networking opportunities. Foreign correspondents’ clubs are found all across the world.
Salary & professional outlook
The average earnings for foreign correspondents is ranging between $60,000 and $80,000 annually, but there are seasoned professionals that make a lot more than that. The job outlook for foreign correspondents is projected to remain stable; as there always will be a high demand for journalists abroad. The options are not expected to increase, though, due to all sorts of expenses related to sending a news correspondent overseas.
On the other hand, if you have completed a journalism degree, become optimally educated in another country’s history, culture and language, have become highly experienced, and keep a steadfast attitude, you may at one day be asked to replace a retiring foreign correspondent. Also keep in mind that the rapid development of online media has resulted in a great potential to create your own journalism overseas.