If anyone tells you that media and comms degrees are nothing but a ‘doss’, then feel free to ignore them. Media and communication is all about how information is communicated to society as a whole and, now that we’re in the fast-moving, ever-changing digital age, it’s never been a more fascinating area.
If you’re studying on a journalism course, you can expect a mixture of theory and practical assessment (you’ll be expected to get stuck in and actually do journalism, rather than just learning about it). Other media and communication courses may be more theoretical in nature, involving the study of the media and how it has changed and advanced over the years, while bringing in questions of economics and social theory. In this way, you may well touch on aspects of history and sociology over the course of your degree.
Image via Wittylama, via Wikimedia Commons
Well, the good news is most unis won’t ask for anything too specific; if you have a couple of humanities or social sciences subjects up your sleeve it will probably work to your advantage (an A-level in the likes of media, English lit or sociology certainly won’t hurt, for instance) but you won’t be held back by your choice of A-levels. The entry requirements will vary between universities – the University of Leicester look for ABB for their Media & Communication BSc, for example, while De Montford’s Journalism and Media BA requires 260 UCAS points.
Most degrees in this field are the standard three years in length, and it’s unlikely that you’ll have the chance to do a sandwich year. What many courses will do is encourage you to apply for work experience placements and get involved with things like student media; when you finish your degree you’ll be entering a competitive job market, so the more experience you can get together during your course, the better.
In terms of assessment, you’ll probably find your degree is weighted more towards coursework and essays than exams. Journalism courses in particular will feature lots of practical assessment, where your marks will be based on pieces of actual journalism – whether it’s a radio bulletin or a magazine feature – that you’ve created.
There’s never been a more interesting time to study communication and media. The digital age has not only created new platforms and ways of communicating with people, but it’s also given rise to plenty of grey areas and ethical debates (that you’ll almost certainly cover in your course).
You’ll also learn some incredibly handy skills – being able to create your own blog, knowing your way around social media and – perhaps most importantly – knowing how to string together a sentence are all skills that will be highly valued by most employers in this day and age. There are also new jobs coming up all the time that value these skills (plenty of companies will now have someone whose sole job is to manager their social media accounts, for instance)…
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If you’re thinking that you’ll be able to breeze straight into a job with Channel 4 or the BBC after you graduate, then don’t get too excited. The media is notoriously competitive and hard to get into, and many graduates end up having to do weeks of unpaid work experience or internships before they’ve built up enough experience (or the right connections) to even find an entry level job.
That’s not to say it’s not possible – far from it – but it’s worth being realistic. If you want to go into the likes of TV or journalism, your best bet is to start applying for work experience placements from the start of your degree, so that you’re in the best possible position when you begin looking for jobs. You can also consider doing a postgraduate qualification to give you some extra training (and a much-needed edge over rival applicants).
On the other hand, there are also a range of other careers – from PR to marketing – that will value the skills you’ve learned on your course. Many media and communication graduates go into these types of roles, as well as into jobs in publishing, copywriting or production.
To find out more about what it’s like to study a media-based course we spoke to Dr John Jewell, Director of Undergraduate Studies for Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies...
What kind of skills will students learn on a course in your department?
The overall aim of Media, Journalism and Cultural Studies is to equip students to become well informed citizens in a media saturated society. While students will be able to take a number of more practical modules, the emphasis of the degree is academic and analytical. The degree begins from the assumption that in order to understand modern society, we need to understand the central role that media and the cultural industries play in that society.
Students will study the production, content and reception of media and the cultural industries, with particular emphasis on understanding the social production and circulation of meanings and ideas.
The BA also aims to equip students with an understanding of the historical and cultural basis of the study of the media and cultural industries and their roles in modern society. Students will develop skills in the close analysis of different media texts, including print, visual, audio and moving images.
What key modules can students expect to cover in their first year?
In year one students will study: the History of Mass Communication and Culture, Representations, Media Scholarship and Understanding Journalism. They are also required to study one subject outside the discipline. This is very popular and students study courses ranging from English literature to Japanese.
Each new student is integrated into the School via the ‘First Year Experience’ – a dedicated series of events designed to encourage academic and social development which serves to provide a platform upon which years two and three are built.
To support the degree, students have access to Learning Central, Cardiff University's Virtual Learning Environment. Learning Central allows you to integrate with your degree 365 days of the year, on campus or from home to access announcements, module information and learning materials such as handbooks, lecture handouts, slides, reading lists and web links, all within a secure environment.
What kind of careers do students typically go into after they graduate?
The School’s first-class reputation means that graduates are recognised as among the most successful in finding employment both in Britain and abroad in a range of work – teaching, public service, the civil service, university, charity and arts administration, and public relations for a range of industries.
Many graduates progress onto postgraduate Journalism and Communications Masters available at Cardiff and elsewhere, and from there to various jobs in the media.
Recent examples of entry level jobs include Content Author, Digital Media Executive, Social Media Policy Advisor, Research Intern, Editorial Intern, Reporter, PR Executive/Assistant, Policy Intern, Campaign Executive, Teaching Assistant and also Project Manager.
Having progressed from entry level jobs our alumni now hold numerous media and administration roles. Job examples include Production Journalist (Telegraph Media Group); Magazine Editor (The Independent); Senior Press Officer (Guardian News & Media); Fashion designer/Entrepreneur (N16 Vintage) and Digital Campaigns & Community Manager (Ruder Finn).
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