What Do People Think You Do?
Some people might believe that we are paid to drive around nice cars all day, or that we are constantly being flown out to exotic locations, being put up in expensive hotels, and being dined at 5-star restaurants on the inviting party’s money. While that does happen occasionally, it is a far smaller part of the overall work of an automotive journalist than people think.
It’s not all Lamborghini test drives, unfortunately. Most of the job requires work, like any other job.
What Do You Really Do?
Automotive journalists, in general, are responsible for reporting on and providing the public at large with relevant news from within the automotive industry. They also write about topics that a car enthusiast would find entertaining or helpful. The former could mean sharing information on an upcoming new car model that hasn’t gone into production yet, whereas the latter might include writing an article on how to properly inspect a used car for sale.
I happen to be a staff writer, so I primarily write about news coming from the automotive industry, and the world of motorsports as well. These broad categories mean that one article might be about the price and specifications of a new car that will be available for purchase soon, and another about the results from a motor race that happened over the weekend.
A Day In The Life
I generally get into the office around 9am and catch up with my co-workers for a few minutes around the coffee maker before setting down for work for the day. The first thing I do every day, as soon as I get my computer up and running, is to search my usual news sources for any interesting or new news from the automotive industry or from motor racing. After sorting through the news stories I find would be most noteworthy for our audience, I run them by the editor and he gives the final approval on which stories I should write for our website.
I spend most of the morning and early part of the afternoon writing these news articles that will eventually be posted on our website. When I am finished with the first drafts, I email them over to the editor for revisions. I go out for lunch, and when I return I take a look at the revisions the editor has ordered be made. I then make those revisions and send them one last time to the editor for a final inspection. If everything looks perfect, he will tell me that the articles can “go live.” That means I can post them on our website in the appropriate section.
I’ll then spend the rest of the day polishing articles that will be posted at a later date, or doing background research for the writers who do the feature stories for our website.
What’s The Average Income?
Not very high. Around $30,000-$40,000 annually.
What Education If Any Is Needed?
Personally, I went and got my master’s degree in automotive journalism as I thought that would give the straightest path into the industry, but most automotive journalists come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Very few actually major in automotive journalism.
There is no specific educational background required to be an automotive journalist, but I think being either an English or journalism major, or a mechanical engineering major, are the best fields to study if this what you want to do. As an English or journalism major, you will already have learned how to either write properly or report on a story properly, or both. If you graduate as a mechanical engineer, you will have a much more intricate knowledge of how cars are engineered that the average person, which can make you valuable as an automotive writer.
You should study the history of cars, learn how cars work, and keep abreast of emerging technologies in the auto industry. You should also read as much good writing as you can, from both famous authors in fiction like Stephen King and Hemimgway, as well as legendary automotive writers like LJK Setright.
Something Important To Know
Making contacts within the industry is extremely important. There aren’t many automotive journalist jobs available, and the demand in terms of people wanting to get paid to do it is high. Taking an internship, even if it is unpaid, is a great way to get your foot in the door and get in front of the people who have the potential to hire you.
Try and attend industry events that you know working automotive journalists will be at, or try reaching out to them through social media. One good way to get the recognition of someone whose job you want is to write a nice article about them and post it on your own blog. Everyone loves looking themselves up on Google.