Jessica Fuhl has just finished her Masters in English after holding the position of News Editor at her university paper, as well as working in the uni’s radio and television station news teams. She is currently freelancing whilst working in marketing and branding, in order to save money for work experience and – possibly – the NCTJ. She can be found tweeting here, and blogging here.
The value of the NCTJ has never been a topic that contributors at Wannabe Hacks have been shy about debating.
Opinions on what form of the qualification to take (diploma, BA, Masters), where to take it, and whether it is worth the money, are all issues that have been previously explored.
I won’t go into every single debate that could be had because I could be here for hours but recently this has got me instead thinking – what if I could teach myself the NCTJ?
It is not something I am yet hundred per cent considering doing, yet the possibility lurking at the back of my mind just won’t go away.
So I’ve done some research to determine whether or not this may be a credible option, and thought I’d share it with the rest of you Wannabe Hacks if any of you too were wondering if this was possible, and what doing so would mean.
I would note two things quickly firstly; one, there is a different debate to be had regarding magazine journalism where certain core skills taught as part of the NCTJ may not be as applicable as they may be for roles in newspaper journalism. Secondly, this is my perspective as someone who has never studied any journalism qualification – if this seems a bit simplistic, or ignorant, please do get in touch, comment below, and help get a bit of debate going.
Now, the standard NCTJ diploma consists of seven modules or parts. Five of these are compulsory – Reporting, Essential Public Affairs, Essential Media Law and a Portfolio (usually 10 stories, or 5 features).
The NCTJ website and a very scientifically taken consensus of my friends on Facebook, reveal that these five modules are based and supplemented on four texts:
- Essential Reporting (Reporting)
- McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists or Scots Law for Journalists (Essential Media Law)
- Public Affairs for Journalists (Essential Public Affairs)
- Teeline Gold Standard for Journalists (Shorthand)
Teaching guidance would significantly help with learning the content from these books, but everything that is examined in these compulsory modules is covered in these texts.
Students can then chose two additional modules to supplement these five, to ensure they have taken a total of seven overall. These can be: Media Law Court Reporting; Sports Journalism, Production Journalism; or, Business of Magazines.
If I were to take exams in any two of these modules I would choose Media Law Court Reporting and Production Journalism. A wealth of books on the former can be found online, and I feel I have enough video journalism experience or the resources to do so in order to fill the required portfolio for the latter.
So, say six months, a year or even five down the road (and of course a humongous amount of hard work and shorthand hating), I have taught myself all this. I can state on my CV that I have all these key skills. Simple right?
However, these would not be NCTJ accredited. If I wanted to actually have the NCTJ qualification, then I can take the exams in each of these modules – provided I passed first time for each one – for a (current) total amount of £444.60. That includes the £184.10 registration fee for candidates who are ‘self-employed freelance’, and not with any company or course.
That’s significantly cheaper than the lowest end of fees for NCTJ accredited courses.
Furthermore, one does not need to be registered to an institution to take your NCTJ qualifications. All you need do is sign up to take the exams, which take place twice a year, using an application form that can be found online here.
Boom. There you have it. An NCTJ diploma for less than £500, and a hell of a way to make yourself stand out even further in a competitive field by proving that you have the determination and conscientiousness to teach yourself.
Whether you – or I – actually do have this determination and conscientiousness, is a different matter. It would certainly take a hell of a commitment and tonnes of hard work.
I am aware that many of those reading this who have taken, or are studying for, their NCTJ may read this indignantly, commenting that the course is much more than just ‘learning the books’. However, this article is just suggesting that perhaps there is the possibility to take and pass the NCTJ exams using the knowledge gained in these texts, supplemented through chosen further reading and work experience in circumstances where enough work may have been put in. Do you agree…?
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look