Earlier today, Natalie, wrote about applications for journalism degrees dropping, and how it is not a surprise. Although she brings up some interesting points, some do still have a place. For some people, a degree could be the right path.
The price of a degree has tripled this year, meaning that you have to think extra hard about what to do with your money and future. Most journalism degrees now fall short of the high standard that the industry requires, but some do not. Even if it does fall short, a degree is not just about what you learn in the lecture theatre.
Up and down the country you can find journalism degrees but you should narrow your field before applying. A worthwhile degree would be a NCTJ accredited one. These provide a platform so that when you leave university, you already have the industry standard of qualification that will put you ahead of the rest. I’m currently on a course that is not accredited and I highly regret my choice.
A lot of wannabe hacks leave university and then have to go on to some form of postgrad in order to get their NCTJ certificates. This adds to the cost of your training significantly and can be avoided by just picking the right course. There are only 17 of these courses throughout the country though, meaning competition is tight.
Yes, an NCTJ diploma course can be a lot cheaper and only last a year, but a degree is what you make it, and can provide a variety of platforms for future life. Being a student gives you access to student media, a place where you can make mistakes and not be fired due to those mistakes. We learn from our mistakes, so making them in a secure location can be the difference between a long and short career.
Being on a degree also allows for a wealth of life experiences. You may be thinking all you do is get drunk for the first year (Sharon Marshall claims holding drink is essential for a journalist anyway), but that is not always true.
Over three years you will meet a wealth of different people from all kinds of backgrounds. It gives you a new perspective on life, and quite possibly, the industry. You can leave university with a book full of contacts and that always helps with sources or future jobs. The person you sit next to could be a future editor of a national newspaper. Who knows.
Studying for a degree will also put you at an advantage when applying for that all important work experience, which is crucial. To say you are studying a degree and to provide pieces you have had published in a student paper will automatically put you ahead of someone who is just looking to try the industry.
One thing that newsrooms hate is having to look after the work experience person for the whole week. Rather than add to their output, it slows them down. So If you can prove that they can just let you loose in the newsroom and you will produce valued content, they are going to be more welcoming to your request for a week amongst them.
So yes, some journalism degrees are pointless and a waste of money. But if you pick wisely, and push yourself during those very important three years, then it can be one of the best experiences of your life, while also providing a worthwhile platform into the industry.
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look