This area of work is open to graduates of any discipline but an undergraduate degree in journalism, English or writing may improve your chances. However, some editors may be more interested in graduates with a specialist degree subject, such as economics or science.
Experience and personal qualities are also considered extremely important.
Entry without a degree, HND or foundation degree is possible but is becoming increasingly difficult. More than 60% of new entrants to the newspaper journalism industry are graduates.
Graduates can choose from several pre-entry routes into newspaper journalism. There are full-time, one-year postgraduate courses, which result in a postgraduate diploma or Masters degree. There are also fast-track, 18 to 20-week postgraduate courses. Students should check that their courses will be well regarded by potential employers.
Courses accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) are generally highly regarded and will usually include your preliminary NCTJ examinations. In 2010 the NCTJ replaced the old Certificate in Journalism with the new Diploma in Journalism, in order to better reflect the multimedia environment of modern journalism. The diploma includes mandatory modules on reporting, public affairs and government, essential media law, and shorthand. Students also need to take a minimum of two subsidiary modules in areas such as sports journalism and media law court reporting and provide a portfolio (logbook) of work. You must pass the Diploma in Journalism in order to sit the National Certificate Examination (NCE), which you would take once you have been in employment for 18 months.
The NCTJ also runs distance-learning courses in newspaper and magazine journalism. The Newspaper Society lists NCTJ-accredited courses and local newspaper web addresses on its website.
Entry with an HND or foundation degree is possible if you have relevant skills and experience. Some foundation degrees in journalism are recognised by the NCTJ, including the 17-week foundation course in journalism from Press Association Training .
Direct entry, whereby individuals are recruited by newspapers onto a two-year training contract, is possible but increasingly rare.
Entry with a postgraduate degree is possible, especially if it is NCTJ-accredited or includes relevant work experience. Postgraduate students from subjects not related to journalism will still have to gain experience and writing skills and may need to consider a relevant pre-entry course in journalism.
Potential candidates will need to show evidence of the following:
A 2011 NCTJ survey found that editors considered the 'traditional' skills of writing, finding news stories, interviewing and legal knowledge to be the most important; newer skills, such as web editing and using social media, were seen as useful but not vital.
Competition for the limited graduate trainee places with large newspaper groups and national newspapers is extremely fierce. Programmes vary from year to year and details may not be widely circulated, as editors rely on candidates to take the initiative to research opportunities. This is particularly true in times of recession and reduced staff numbers.
You will need a good record of relevant work experience, accompanied by a professional file of cuttings (samples of your published writing). Take every opportunity to write articles and reviews for local, free, national or specialist publications, especially if you get a byline (your name above the story). Get involved in student newspapers and try to build up a network of sources.
Join the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) as a student and keep an eye on publications such as MediaGuardian or Press Gazette for work experience opportunities. Contact local newspapers and ask for work experience. June and July are the busiest times, so be proactive and try approaching publications at other times of the year too. Do not despair at rejections; editors appreciate and respect persistence and the desire to succeed.
Initiatives such as the NUJ's George Viner Memorial Fund aim to support black and Asian students through training. The Journalism Diversity Fund supports the training of journalists from ethnically and socially diverse backgrounds onto NCTJ-accredited courses. The Society of Editors also has a campaign backed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The Guardian Media Group's The Scott Trust Bursary Scheme offers bursaries to ten postgraduate students each year.
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