It’s that time again; students all over the country are nervously filling out UCAS application forms. For all those set on a career in journalism, you need to decide whether you want to apply for an academic degree, such as English Literature, or a vocational one, such as Magazine Journalism. Each type of course has its own merits, and here two of the Hacks debate the pros and cons. Please add your own thoughts and tell us what type of degree you chose to do (if you chose to do one at all).
The Entrepreneur: ACADEMIC.
Doing an academic degree will, primarily, provide you with the transferable skills necessary for embarking upon your career into journalism. You’ll learn all the underlying essentials for journalism doing an academic degree, such as deep analytical skills. This means that when it comes to finding an angle or sifting through a press release, it’ll be easy.
Specific fields of journalism are perfectly suited to doing an academic degree, too. Studying a foreign language, economics, or law will equip you far better than a journalism degree for entering those fields of journalism. They’ll teach you specialist knowledge that just wouldn’t be touched on in a vocational course, and make you a valuable commodity in the job market.
Completing a vocational degree also narrows you down to one profession. Ultimately, we have to be aware that journalism is fiercely competitive, and should you ever decide that it’s not for you, you’ve already committed three years of your life (possibly more) and thousands of pounds. It’s a bit late for backing out, and your prospects elsewhere with a journalism degree can look pretty bleak.
It’s worth noting that doing an academic degree won’t leave you yearning for journalism experience for three years either. Student media is a perfect place to learn and practice your trade, and is great for counterbalancing a degree. No, you won’t learn shorthand and other similar skills, but I think of these as aesthetic issues that are simple to rectify after completion of a degree. If you’ve nurtured the core requirements (and you will with an academic degree), then adding journalism-specific skills, like shorthand, won’t be an issue.
The Undergrad: VOCATIONAL
I think a vocational degree is the best way of preparing yourself for the world of journalism. Doing a journalism degree, you’ll gain hands on experience of actually working in a newsroom and you’ll build up a portfolio of work to impress editors with when you’re applying for jobs.
Plus, you’ll actually learn the skills you’ll need when you work in a newsroom. I’ve passed exams in news writing and editing and I’m working on passing my 100wpm shorthand. I know the laws restricting what I can and can’t publish when someone has been arrested, I have experienced court reporting and I know about defamation laws. I’ve even passed that horrible public affairs exam.
You’ll be sent out to get a story with no preparation and you’ll find ways of getting one. You’ll learn to make contacts and to use them effectively to your benefit when you need a story. Oh and you’ll spend a lot of time trying to convince people to chat to you for voxpops – with varying levels of success.
Hopefully, come July, I should graduate with a good degree and my NCTJ Diploma, which, with a bit of luck, will help me land that elusive first job. It’ll definitely give me the upper hand over anyone graduating with an English degree applying for local newspaper jobs (most of which require the NCTJ diploma).
To be perfectly honest though, I just can’t see how understanding Shakespeare or deciphering Chaucer will ever help you in anything you do in a newsroom.
Now give us your thoughts: what’s the best type of degree for journalism, what have you chosen, or what would you do if you could turn back time? Comment below or tweet us @wannabehacks.
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look