Case study

NCTJ diploma in journalism, News Associates — John Shammas

An NCTJ Diploma in Journalism at News Associates allowed John to pursue his dream career in reporting…

Why study for a professional qualification?

Even while studying politics and international relations at Aston University, I knew I wanted to become a journalist. Many people suggested I did a Masters degree, but I decided the best and quickest way of getting to where I wanted to be was to take an intensive course run by industry professionals as opposed to academics.

Research your dream job and ask yourself: is this course going to help me get there?

Why did you choose News Associates?

I chose News Associates in Manchester on the recommendation of a friend who had just graduated from their full-time, 20-week course. She found employment at a great newspaper immediately, and told me that the people who ran the programme would challenge me every day in order to hone my journalistic skills.

She added that it was like working in a full-time job: music to my ears after a slow-paced three years at university reading textbooks, writing essays and getting out of bed at 11am.

How did you fund your study?

Luckily, the £3,500 cost of the course was covered by receiving an 'advance' on my inheritance from my mum and dad. Others took out loans or self-financed by working part-time jobs, with the latter group unfortunately struggling to balance their work commitments with those of the course. They deserved a medal just for graduating.

What did the course involve?

The course itself was superb and brought together students from a range of demographic and educational backgrounds. Each morning we would drill exercises in shorthand and after that we would work on our law, reporting and sub-editing skills. On Fridays, we would all undertake independently-arranged placements at publications across the region, putting what we had learned during the week into practice.

It was initially scary to enter the newsroom, but it was always exhilarating. It also set us up perfectly for employment.

What did you do when you graduated?

I was offered a junior reporter position at the Harrow Observer within two weeks of my graduation in February 2013. Many others were also offered jobs soon after graduating; we were highly sought after, which really was testament to the course and the staff that ran it.

What skills did the course teach you that your degree did not?

My degree taught me that nothing I was going to achieve in life was going to come from the traditional classroom setting. University is great at developing expertise in a certain field, not to mention your social skills. However, I was unemployable when I graduated. My NCTJ Diploma in Journalism taught me the skill of managing an incredibly heavy workload in a high-pressure environment, not to mention the importance of contacts. The qualification was essential.

Advice for those thinking of a professional qualification?

Speak to those who have been there and done it. What jobs are they working in? Was it worthwhile? Most importantly of all, though, research your dream job and ask yourself: is this course going to help me get there?