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.
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.
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Compare against all the unis listed above.