Journalism courses

Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
January, 2024

From learning about the latest reporting techniques to honing your writing skills for covering the biggest music or sporting events, journalism courses enable you to develop your identity in the world of digital media

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 110,000, including newspaper and periodical editors (Statista, 2021).

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, four-fifths of qualified journalists are NCTJ-trained according to their most recent figures.

There are a number of ways you can become NCTJ-accredited and get into journalism.

Journalism degrees

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.

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 and Content Creation from University Arts London (UAL) or BA Music Journalism from the University of Chester.

You may want to start your journalism career by searching for an NCTJ-accredited course. These include the BA Multimedia Journalism at Bournemouth University (BU) and BA Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield.

Explore what you can do with your degree in journalism or media studies. You can also read about how to become a writer.

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 News Journalism includes modules on 'News Reporting and Production' and 'Data Journalism'.
  • The University of Kent's MA Multimedia Journalism offers optional modules on 'Reporting Conflict', 'Advanced Multimedia Storytelling' 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 5 Diploma in Journalism. This isn't an essential qualification for getting into journalism but it would give you a good grounding and some experience to back up your studies. It also enables you to apply for professional entry-level roles as a trainee journalist.

While the diploma can be studied at an NCTJ-accredited centre, it can also be completed online through the distance learning option. The total time it takes an average learner to complete the qualification is 820 hours.

To achieve the journalism qualification, you'll need to complete four essential subjects:

  • journalism
  • journalism e-portfolio
  • media law and regulation
  • journalism ethics and regulation.

The broadcast regulation module is compulsory for those studying TV, broadcast or radio journalism.

In addition to the four mandatory modules, you'll have to take at least four electives, which are available in areas such as TV journalism, radio journalism, videojournalism for digital platforms, and editing skills for journalists.

There's also the NCTJ Level 6 National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ), a professional senior qualification designed for trainee and apprentice journalists working across the media. Flexible pathways are available, with distance learning, apprenticeship and in-house company training schemes all possible routes to the NQJ.

The London School of Journalism (LSJ) is a provider of distance learning journalism courses. You can study courses in areas such as:

  • News Journalism
  • Internet Journalism
  • Novel Writing
  • Freelance and Travel Writing.

They can take up to two years to complete, depending on the course.

Its Postgraduate Journalism Diploma, 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
  • Subediting.

Read more about studying online courses and microcredentials.

Journalism jobs

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 genres of journalism to choose from. You could work in:

  • Fashion - 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 - 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 - 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 - you'll 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 - 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.

Find out more

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