Did you know that you can work full-time in one city and study at the same time in another without ever buying a train ticket between the two? There is a way!
This is something I’ve always done, from the minute I fell out of college, got my NCTJs (and we’re talking 14 years ago here so I’m pretty dusty) and started working on a weekly newspaper. I signed up for any training or qualification they had going and came out years later with a handful of certificates in journalism, sub-editing and production, and even as an NVQ assessor for trainee journos – as well as rising through the ranks of junior reporter, chief reporter, news editor, deputy editor, editor. I’ve always worked and studied for qualifications at the same time and the experience and qualifications combo can often trump those who have one or the other.
Right now I’m studying for an MA in Online Journalism to supplement the current work I do, hone the online skills I’ve taught myself since leaving newspapers, and well, for fun. Seriously, creating a community website based around my dog is great.
But how is it possible to study an MA at Birmingham City University and work full-time in Milton Keynes? Well, that’s easy, because the clever folk at BCU conjured up a part-time distance learning version so I get to study all the same stuff as my full-time or part-time peers, just from the comfort of my own home. I have as much contact with my tutor and fellow students as I like via Facebook, email, Twitter etc. And I listen to my tutorials on AudioBoo. It’s completely flexible. Don’t get me wrong, it requires a lot of discipline, but I can literally fit study around my work and life, and not the other way around.
Another benefit is that I’m directly transferring the skills I’m learning on the course into the workplace. And I have several online projects under my belt which showcase the areas of journalism I’m interested in but don’t get to work on during the 9 to 5. It’s win-win!
So, studying and working full-time (even if that’s not in journalism, or at the very bottom of the ladder so you can start to get that experience) can be done.
To summarise, I’ll round up with some pros and cons of the work and study combo:
- You can actively implement the things you learn on the MA into your job and share with colleagues
- You can experiment with areas and subjects on the MA that are of interest to you but perhaps not a priority at work
- You can fit study around work and life, choosing how and when to study
- If the course is relevant to your work perhaps your employer will cough up some of the fees to aid your professional development
- You learn loads and it’s fun
- Your fellow students will be talented people, future contacts or maybe even colleagues. You’ll learn just as much from them as you will on the course.
- Some employers offer study leave allowance so you can dedicate a few non-weekend days per year to getting assignments done
- Any conferences that tick the work box and the MA box might well get paid for by your employer
- Working away from campus forces you to get comfortable with technology to communicate – Twitter, Facebook chat, Google + chat and Skype to name but a few
- You can’t leave your projects to the last-minute. Partly because your tutor will kick your arse but also because you can’t conjure up a thriving community website the day before deadline. There ain’t no essay writing here!
- Some of the course is Birmingham based. While your on-campus peers attend social media cafes and Birmingham-based events, you may only be able to tap into these people/events online
- 18 hours of study is no mean feat when you work and play hard – so be prepared to be tired and grumpy some of the time and warn your friends of your possible hermit status in advance
- Very cool trips to places likes the BBC or fancy digital conferences may clash with important work deadlines or eat into your annual leave
- The distance learning version is more expensive than the on-campus version, be warned
- You get out what you put in so motivation is key
- You may feel isolated if you prefer face-to-face time
So, the getting a job part will still be down to you but thanks to distance learning you don’t have to choose between working and studying; you can do both!
I’m happy to answer any questions anyone has about the distance learning method. I’m a bit of a guinea pig as this is the first year BCU has tried it, so it’s a learning curve for both of us. Contact me via Twitter if you have a question or tap into my tutor Paul Bradshaw’s endless knowledge. Full info about the part-time distance learning MA in Online Journalism at BCU is available here.
Robyn Bateman is an MA Online Journalism student at Birmingham City University and studies via distance learning. After almost a decade working for regional weekly newspapers in Shropshire and Leicestershire she now works for a university tackling anything related to online content, social media and community.
Photo on home page by The Shopping Sherpa
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look