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Degree in Journalism/Broadcast Journalism? Mature student, advice needed.

(23 Posts)
PiscesLondon Mon 16-Jun-14 19:58:55


I am really torn, not sure what to do. I am 30 this year, and not sure what the hell i'm doing with my life!

I won't bore you but i've floated along for years, not sure what I want to do. Over the last 2 years i've developed an interest in Media/Broadcasting and would love a career within that industry, presenting in some capacity.

I currently work at a small, community radio station doing some producing and the odd bit of presenting. Money is minimum wage, and can't progress with this particular company.

Part of me feels I should stick with learning the ropes (not been there long) and try and work my way up, sending demos off, trying to find work experience in other places and hopefully move on from where I am at the moment in the next year. The other part is telling me to go to Uni and get a Degree in Journalism/Broadcast Journalism as I feel that will open other doors?

Can anyone advise me what they would do in my shoes? FWIW i'd have to do an Access course before Uni and I have a 5 year old and will be TTC in a few month for my second (and last) child.

Do I need a Degree for a career in the media or will experience and trying to get myself out there be more beneficial? Anyone with any experience of either of these degrees?

PiscesLondon Mon 16-Jun-14 20:01:48

Forgot to add, do you think my age would go against me? If I decided to go ahead with the degree option i'd be about 35 before I qualified.

youbethemummylion Mon 16-Jun-14 20:07:06

Hands on experience etc will get you far further in media than a degree in my experience. I did Journalism degree but chose not to persue it those on my course who did still went into pretty much entry level positions competing with people who hadnt done a degree but had work experience etc

MillyMollyMama Mon 16-Jun-14 21:00:30

Very many of the broadcast journalists do not have a degree in journalism. They might have a post grad in journalism but have a top class degree in something else. This is a hugely competitive workplace and I would try and work your way up first. Are there other jobs you could apply for after you get more experience. If you leave, you may never get back in. Have a look at the requirements of any graduate training schemes to see what they are looking for.

PiscesLondon Mon 16-Jun-14 23:40:52

Thanks for the replies.

Milly I assumed the graduate training schemes would only be open to those with a Degree?

The others who work at the station i'm at (been there a bit longer than me) are in the process of sending demo's out of their work on radio. From time to time I see jobs advertised for presenters, it never requires a degree, only experience (I don't have enough yet, but I feel even if I did, there's no guarantee i'd get the career I want in radio/media/broadcasting) I guess i'm viewing the degree as a safety net?

Would love more experience in the media & to work my way up, but don't know where else to look besides the radio station i'm at.

ClosedAuraOpenMind Mon 16-Jun-14 23:49:16

Can I be the voice of doom and say don't do it......I've worked in journalism for more than 20 years, the pay is poor and the hours are long, irregular and often unsocial. Which doesn't really fit with having 2 DC.

If you must do it, do broadcast training, as many newspapers and websites now want people who can be video journalists

TheAwfulDaughter Mon 16-Jun-14 23:50:10

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ImperialBlether Mon 16-Jun-14 23:53:11

I second that. If it's political or social journalism you want to get involved in, a degree in history or politics would be by far the best bet.

PiscesLondon Mon 16-Jun-14 23:57:01

Thanks so much for the replies. Quite relieved actually that Uni isn't the be all & end all.

In all honesty then, do you think it's possible for me to have a career in broadcasting/media without any degree? My only qualifications (besides GCSE's) are drama qualifications from drama school (I was a Theatre Actress before DD) I am willing to put the work in and do whatever I need to do.

ImperialBlether Tue 17-Jun-14 00:06:10

What would be your ideal job?

TheAwfulDaughter Tue 17-Jun-14 00:32:33

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TheAwfulDaughter Tue 17-Jun-14 00:39:22

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eatyourveg Tue 17-Jun-14 08:14:11

The NCTJ qualifications are much more highly regarded/sought after in the industry than a degree imo. Go for that instead.

ancientandmodern Tue 17-Jun-14 09:19:37

I kind of agree with both lots of advice you are being given, in that I think journalism as a career is at a crossroads (both DH and I are in the industry). When we started out, 30 years ago, it was rare to have any kind of qualification - DH does have NCTJ from old-style apprenticeship on local papers route, but I don't and our paths followed similar routes in terms of seniority/earnings. At that time, there were loads of journalists who just had a lot of ideas, stamina and a foot in the door.
BUT I think this is now changing. The rise of 'citizen journalism', ie passers-by providing photos, twitter info on breaking stories, even broadcast material because you can do pretty good stuff on an iPhone if you're there when the action happens, means that paradoxically there's now more emphasis on 'proper' journalists having formal qualifications. I've noticed that job ads almost always ask for NCTJ or 'relevant qualification' these days, which would have been unheard of when I started. If you want to be taken seriously, you need either a good qualification or some really cast-iron experience (ie breaking major story; interview with someone it's hard to get to speak on the record etc).
If you are in London, you should see what City University has to offer: and check out BBC Work Experience schemes (as a big public sector employer, BBC usually sympathetic to need to recruit from wider base that bright young things, so age/mother profile less of an issue that some places I can think of).

I agree you also need to narrow down what you want to do. DH is broadcast journalist, and from that I can tell you a lot of jobs are very long hours - either you are hanging around on a wet Weds evening waiting for govt vote; or you are back in the office but workiing on a shift pattern which is, by the nature of news, 24/7 so often hard to organise childcare unless you have a partner who can dovetail with you. I don't think you would get a job straightaway in presenting - you'd need to be on the ground first, so you would need to think how this would work.

PiscesLondon Tue 17-Jun-14 11:10:34

Thank you so much for all the replies. Really insightful.

I was in bed shattered when I wrote "Uni wasn't the be all and end all" think i've phrased it incorrectly. I meant I was glad there where other options.

Ok, in all honesty I want to capitalise on all my years of drama training. I enjoy speaking in public, i'm confident with this and i'm absolutely loving presenting my own show on community radio. Ideally i'd love to present in some capacity, that would be my dream. Also producing is something i'd like to do. I don't want to be the next Holly Willoughby or Emma Willis grin but i'd love to have a career in broadcasting of some kind, presenting information, letting people know what's going on. Radio/TV/internet based preferably.

I love television, always been fascinated with how it works infront of and behind the screen. So anything to do with television producing would also be of interest.

Not sure if I need a degree for any of this, or if it's best to try and get in and work my way up. For some reason I thought Journalism/Broadcast Journalism would be beneficial in this respect (Probably because I interview people on my job in community radio)

DatsunCogs Tue 17-Jun-14 14:36:03

I work in this field ( not a popular thing to admit on MN!) and agree with much that has been already said.

A few things: If you definitely want to do journalism a (postgrad) degree isn't essential, but you will be coming up against lots of people who do have one - it is an incredibly competitive career and it can be seen as a disadvantage if you don't have one - also being on a course with people who will go onto journalism jobs can be so useful in terms of contacts - getting a job is often through who you know. So if you have time/money and definitely want to pursue journalism, I would recommend it.

Essential for either presenting or broadcast journalism is work experience - I see you're off to a good start with your community radio stuff. Universities need to see this on your cv as do employers, so carry on and do more if you can! I realise having children makes this tricky...

Trainee schemes: this can be a brilliant route in - ITV have one on the go at the moment, I think the BBC may do too, they even did one specifically for people without a degree recently, so keep your eye open for those. Even work experience should give you an idea of whether you want to pursue it! ITN eg has a formal scheme which I believe is open at the moment too.

Working in the media is fantastic, but very demanding! Hope you manage to work something out x

Shootingatpigeons Thu 19-Jun-14 11:13:17

I can only speak from the experience of friends' children who set their hearts on a career in broadcast journalism after finishing uni with good degrees in academic subjects including from Oxford. It has been incredibly hard and has taken a long time to get anywhere and then only by making themselves stand out from the many they are competing with. They have spent years slogging away putting together CVs from unpaid experience in local radio, placements with the big broadcasters like Sky (BBC scheme seems heavily weighted towards diversity, which might be in your favour) blogging, contributing to Guardian Online etc etc (the more innovative the use of online media the better) AND doing the City university postgrad (run by some very well connected people including Roy Greenslade, it gives you the network as well as the skills) and only now in their late twenties are getting any sort of paid work, and that initially unpaid contracts. Being prepared to seek out new stories even at some risk to yourself is also a way of coming to the industry's attention and proving your worth.

A degree might be worth it in terms of educating yourself and developing intellectual and practical skills (a subject like History or English as relevant as journalism) but it isn't going to access you a career, that will take dogged determination, ability, initiative and luck (and money)

Shootingatpigeons Thu 19-Jun-14 12:14:23

Sorry, initially temporary (three monthly) contracts rather than permanent positions, not unpaid as I typed above.

lainiekazan Sun 22-Jun-14 13:54:25

Some years ago I tried to get on the BBC training scheme. The first stage was a maths and English test taken by about 2,000 people. Then a series of interviews. I got down to the final ten, I think.

When I investigated who was taken on, it was one person of ethnic background, one person who had been an unpaid intern, and one person - drum roll - who had a very distinctive surname which happened to be the same as a famous BBC stalwart.

I have a relative who was a "presenter". She freely admitted she got the job because her boyfriend was in a business relationship with the station controller.

Sorry, a couple of gloomy personal experiences, but I think the first step in any meedja career is to develop a really tough hide and accept that unlike, say, the civil service, progression is not going to be fair.

BareFacedKitty Sun 27-Jul-14 17:25:28

Go for it if you have your heart set on it but be very aware of how competitive jobs are as everyone above has stated. I have just left the newspaper industry after 8 years - it's changed immensely since even I started and I don't like how the future looks for print. Most people I know in broadcast had to learn their trade at local newspaper level before moving up to daily and then into broadcast. It's a great job and I loved the variety of the everyday work, and luckily I had a full time permanent contract, but long term i would have found the industry too uncertain. So as for your original question, I value experience much more than a degree. None of my colleagues in editorial had a degree, most had the NCTJ pre-entry quals.

Sweetmotherfudger Sun 27-Jul-14 17:35:18

If it's journalism you want to pursue the BBC won't take you unless you have a PgDip in broadcast journalism (usually City, Cardiff or Falmouth) or 4 years experience.

If you're going down the experience route start building up your showreel. Find out who their news org is and start sending them original stories at least once a week. It should detail what the story is, who they should speak to. You could offer to do it for them. Aim to get them a lead story once a week. If you do that you will guilt them into giving you a job. It worked for me! But it's bloody hard work finding stories before any other journalist. Good luck!

Heels99 Mon 11-Aug-14 13:30:51

Would you be interested in the technical side? I know someone who is a lecturer on a broadcast technology course, his students are very sought after by the major broadcasters bbc etc they all get good jobs on leaving and tonnes of practical experience on the course e.g doing outside broadcasts for bbc etc

blueVW Tue 12-Aug-14 14:20:53

As others have said, this is a very competitive field. Journalists have normally worked loads of unpaid hours and gained professional qualifications (but not necessarily a degree) well before the age of 30..

If I were you I'd concentrate on getting experience and look at the NCTJ qualification, which can be done part-time.

The job itself is interesting, varied and very unpredictable with unsocial hours - possible to do with a family, but you need good childcare - and it's not usually well paid.

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