How to be a YouTube star

I’ve had several what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up conversations with my kids.

They’ve run the gamut from the typical to the exceptional to implausible.

Ballerina. Police officer. Astronaut. Garbage collector. Mud taster. That last one came from my five year old. I’m fairly certain be wants to be a comedian.

As they’ve grown a little, the conversations have morphed into selecting college majors. When I asked what majors might interest my 12- and 10-year-old daughters – without missing a beat – they replied in unison: YouTube.

“Huh? You want to major in YouTube?” I asked.

“Yep. We want to be YouTubers.”

Not one to shoot down the dreams of children, I simply said, “We don’t have that major at YSU.”

I could immediately hear the disapproval from my wife in the other room.

“Wrong answer, Dad,” she said.

She was right. Although the major doesn’t exist, the pathway does. The trick to picking the right route to YouTube stardom starts at an unlikely point: content.

“What is it exactly that you want to talk about on your YouTube channel?” I asked them. “Whatever it is, you need to focus on that in college. You need to be experts in that thing, whatever it is.”

I was simply echoing the advice of YouTube star Jim Chapman. His “How to Become a YouTuber” video has over 1 million views.

In his video, Chapman recommends committing to your goal. He also argues that you don’t need fancy equipment, although he’s obviously using more than just the built-in camera and microphone on his laptop.

The rest may require a little help from a college degree.

Knowing more about presentational skills, writing, marketing and advertising, and media production will set you up for success. This is the advice we’re giving our kids now: pick the right college courses.

Here’s the college pathway we think our kids should consider when considering a YouTube career:

Presentational skills. Charisma will only get you part way. Being spontaneous and making direct eye contact with the audience (i.e., the camera lens) will make most YouTubers look and sound natural. You learn these strategies in public speaking classes.

Writing. Reading from a script is a snooze-fest, but you still need to know what you’re going to say and in what order. Similar to outlining a paper, use a keyword outline to keep you on track when recording. You learn these tools in basic writing classes.

Media production. Pick up as many media production courses as possible to learn how to operate the best equipment, to get good lighting and sound, and to learn more about the media industry in general.

Marketing. Take as many business classes as possible. From overviews to in-depth marketing and advertising courses, the strategies you learn will set you apart from other YouTubers who are getting by on charm alone.

Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at

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