From learning about cutting-edge reporting techniques to honing your writing skills for covering the biggest music or sporting events, journalism courses enable you to develop your identity in today's digital media world
Study a journalism degree
A degree in journalism will equip you with essential skills, while keeping you up to date with changes within the industry. Many journalism courses also provide an opportunity to complete work experience or a placement year around your studies.
The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) is a self-appointed body which accredits courses for the training of UK journalists, of which there are around 73,000.
While the NCTJ doesn't hold any statutory powers from central government, NCTJ accreditation is a widely-accepted seal of approval within the industry - in fact, 81% of qualified journalists are NCTJ-trained (Journalists At Work, NCTJ, 2018).
Full-time undergraduate journalism degrees are typically three years in length. They can take up to six years if studied part time. You'll study a mix of general journalism modules focusing on areas such as report writing and conducting interviews, as well as more specialised modules in areas such as technology and media law.
You'll build your portfolio throughout the course, comprised of reports, articles and evidence of your use of the appropriate technologies and software.
If you know the area of journalism you'd like to pursue, consider enrolling on a specialised course - for instance, BA Sports Journalism from the University of South Wales, BA Fashion Journalism course from University Arts London or BA Music Journalism from Birmingham City University.
You may want to start your journalism career by searching for an NCTJ-accredited undergraduate degree. These include BA Multimedia Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and BA Journalism at the University of Lincoln.
Masters in journalism
Due to the competitive nature of the industry, employers may look favourably on candidates with a Masters in journalism.
You won't need a specific journalism degree to be accepted onto a journalism Masters course, but you'll still need to demonstrate:
- excellent communication skills
- an awareness of current media technologies
- an approachable nature for interviews
- excellent timekeeping and commitment to meeting deadlines
- a mature and appropriate written voice
- the ambition to find fresh and interesting takes on events and stories.
Courses generally last one year if studied full time, and contain modules covering the following broad topics within journalism:
- Media law - including legal issues such as confidentiality, the right to privacy and the ins and outs of intellectual property.
- Digital journalism - in the digital age, writing for search engine optimisation (SEO) and adopting the appropriate style for online publications has never been so important.
- Traditional skills - such as shorthand, interviewing techniques and reinterpreting reports for different mediums.
However, individual institutions offer their own range of more specialised modules:
- Cardiff University's MA in News Journalism includes modules on 'News Reporting and Production' and 'Data Journalism'.
- The University of Kent's MA in Multimedia Journalism offers optional modules in 'Reporting Conflict' and 'Television Production'.
Because of this, it's important to do your research before applying for a Masters to make sure your studies - and the opportunities for work experience - reflect the area of journalism you'd like to work in.
Online journalism courses
You could also study an NCTJ course such as the Level 3 Diploma in Journalism, equivalent to obtaining 48 UCAS points (an A at A-level).
This isn't an essential qualification for getting into journalism, but would give you a good grounding and some experience to back up your studies. It also enables you to apply for roles as a trainee journalist.
While the diploma can be studied at an NCTJ-accredited centre, it can also be completed online over two years through the distance learning option.
To achieve the journalism qualification, you'll need to complete four subjects:
- journalism e-portfolio
- media law and regulation
- and journalism ethics and regulation.
In addition, you'll have to take at least four electives, which are available in areas such as TV journalism, radio journalism, video journalism for online, and photography for journalists.
The London School of Journalism is a provider of distance learning journalism courses. You can study courses in areas such as Internet Journalism, Novel Writing, and Freelance and Travel Writing. They can take anywhere from six to 18 months to complete, depending on the course.
Its Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism, typically completed within two years of enrolment through online lectures and tutorials, requires you to complete four compulsory modules: 'Journalism and Newswriting with Media Law', 'Freelance and Feature Writing', 'Freelance and Internet Journalism' and 'Subediting'.
Once you've completed your journalism training, you'll be well-placed to work across a range of formats. As well as traditional magazine or newspaper journalism, you could find employment in TV, radio or online journalism.
There are plenty of different genres of journalism to choose from. You could work in:
- Fashion journalism - researching trends and designers to create content for TV reports, fashion magazines and blogs. This might involve attending fashion shows to provide coverage of catwalks and events, or travelling to interview designers for features.
- Investigative journalism - this involves using legal documents, databases, government reports and on-the-record interviews to extensively investigate a (usually controversial) topic of interest. Successful investigative journalism requires meticulous attention to detail and a strategic approach to problem solving.
- Science journalism - sometimes referred to as science writers, it's a science journalist's job to report on scientific developments, discoveries and research in a way that's accessible to the general public. Science journalists typically have science-based qualifications, as they're required to have an understanding of scientific terminology and practices.
- Sports journalism - sports journalists write up summaries of sports fixtures and competitions, conduct and deliver interviews with sporting professionals and give game commentary in a mixture of print, TV and online formats. You could work for a large organisation such as Sky Sports or BBC Sport or work on a freelance basis.
- Tabloid journalism - this concerns the current affairs of reality TV, the royal family and other household names as well as soap opera storylines and horoscopes. Celebrity journalism is also associated with the tabloid press, which includes women's magazines and newspaper gossip columns.
With publications covering such a range of subject matter, any knowledge you've gained through an unrelated degree or qualification may give you an advantage when it comes to getting into journalism. For instance, an undergraduate degree in agriculture could be the key to you securing a journalism job at a farming magazine or website.
If you're willing to be proactive and put your work in front of potential employers, see our five tips for getting media work experience.