Born Nancy Conners Hanschman in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, Nancy Dickerson first attended Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa, for two years before moving on to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she earned a degree in education in 1948.
She worked as a grade school teacher in Milwaukee, before moving to Washington, D.C. in 1951. She took courses in speech and drama at The Catholic University of America to improve the skills she would need to pursue her dream of becoming a broadcaster. It was in her next position, as a Senate Foreign Relations Committee researcher, that she would develop a passion for the inner workings of government, which would define her career of more than four decades.
Although the field of television journalism was almost entirely dominated by men at the time, Dickerson got her break in 1954, when she was hired by CBS News's Washington bureau to produce a radio show called Capital Cloakroom. She would also become associate producer of Face the Nation. In 1960, CBS made her its first female correspondent.
She reported for NBC News from 1963 to 1970, covering all the pivotal stories of that time: political conventions, election campaigns, inaugurations, Capitol Hill, and the White House. She is noted as being the first woman correspondent on the floor of a political convention. In 1963, she covered the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, in which Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. She was also part of NBC's coverage of President Kennedy's assassination and funeral. Her narration is heard on the NBC videotape at the Andrews Airforce Base arrival of the late president's remains and the statement made by the newly sworn in Lyndon B. Johnson in Washington D.C.
Dickerson left the network in 1971 to become an independent broadcaster and producer, syndicating a daily news program, Inside Washington. In 1980, she founded the Television Corporation of America, through which she produced documentaries for PBS and others. Most notable among these was "784 Days That Changed America—From Watergate to Resignation," for which she received a Peabody Award and the Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association.