Journalism courses

Emma Knowles, Editor
January, 2019

Studying for a degree can equip you with the skills and experience you need to become a trailblazing journalist

Degrees in journalism

A degree will equip you with essential journalism skills as well as keep you informed of the growth and changes within the industry. Many courses also come with the 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. While the NCTJ does not hold any statutory powers from central government, NCTJ accreditation is a widely-accepted seal of approval within the industry - in fact, 73% of qualified journalists are NCTJ-trained.

Full-time journalism undergraduate 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, and 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 such as the BA Sports Journalism from the University of Brighton, or BA Fashion Journalism course at the University of Sunderland.

Start your journalism career by searching for an NCTJ-accredited undergraduate degree.

If you'd rather study a lower level qualification before taking on journalism at undergraduate level, the NCTJ offers a Level 3 Diploma in Journalism, equivalent to obtaining 48 UCAS points (an A at A-level). This isn't essential, but would give you a good grounding and some experience in journalism to back up your studies.

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 an undergraduate journalism degree to be accepted onto a journalism Masters course, but you'll need to demonstrate your proficiency in the following areas which are essential to entering the profession:

  • 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 are generally one year 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 News Journalism MA includes a 'News Reporting and Production' module.
  • The University of Kent's Multimedia Journalism MA offers modules in 'Reporting Conflict' and 'Propaganda - Media, Manipulation and Persuasion'.

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 you'll encounter while studying - reflect the area of journalism you'd like to work in.

Journalism jobs

Once you've qualified, 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 travelling to attend 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 known 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.
  • 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 wide range of subject matter, any knowledge you've gained through an unrelated degree or qualification may give you an advantage in journalism. For instance, an undergraduate degree in agriculture could be the key to you securing a journalism job at a farming magazine or website.

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